01/21/07 — Airman gets time in jail in rape case

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Airman gets time in jail in rape case

By Lee Williams
Published in News on January 21, 2007 2:00 AM

A U.S. Air Force aircraft mechanic was sentenced to serve more than seven years in prison this week for allegedly raping his wife before and after he was deployed to Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Howard Sandres, 34, was convicted by a jury Wednesday on one count of second-degree rape and one count of second-degree sexual offense. The jury found him not guilty on a second count of second-degree sexual offense, officials said.

Superior Court Judge Paul Gessner sentenced Sandres to serve a minimum of 66 months and a maximum of 89 months behind bars.

Sandres, who was attached to the 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, told the court he will appeal the decision.

Wayne County Assistant District Attorney Terry Yeh applauded the jury's decision and added she hopes the verdict will send a message to others who wrongly believe they have a right to have sex with their wife -- even if she says no.

"There's a misconception that there's no such thing as a husband raping a wife, but a wife can (be raped) and it's against the law and the jury was very smart and they followed the law," Ms. Yeh said.

Sandres took the stand during his trial and told the court he and his wife physically struggled and then had sex, but he never admitted he raped her, Ms. Yeh said. The 28-year-old victim was also an airman, she added.

Ms. Yeh said Sandres' wife told the court she was sexually assaulted before and after he was deployed to Iraq.

Ms. Yeh said Sandres and his wife were separating and he was in the process of moving out when the last sexual assault allegedly occurred.

"He said he was going to get one more thing before he left," Ms. Yeh said. "He admitted it to some friends after the fact."

Capt. Tana Stevenson, public affairs chief for Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, said the military will investigate the incident. Sandres could face additional repercussions.

"The Air Force takes criminal misconduct very seriously," Ms. Stevenson said. "We hold our airmen to a very high standard and work closely with local authorities in all cases involving our airmen. The Air Force will review the facts of the civilian conviction and determine the appropriate course of action in accordance with military standards and procedures."