Local News

Air Force Charges Turn Woman From Rape Victim to Defendant

Posted August 6, 2007
Updated August 9, 2007

— An Air Force enlisted woman who claimed to be the victim in a rape case at Pope Air Force Base but then opted not to testify at a court martial, has become a defendant accused of committing indecent acts with the men involved.

Airman 1st Class Cassandra M. Hernandez, now 20, also is being charged with dereliction of duty for drinking alcohol when she was less than 21 years old.

Hernandez said she was gang-raped at a party on May 13, 2006. The Air Force charged Airman Russell J. Basile in the incident.

Later, however, Hernandez said she felt pressured by the Air Force judicial process and intimidated by Basile’s defense attorney, an Air Force lawyer, who she said interviewed her without her victim’s advocate present.

“I just wanted to go to work and not have this hanging over my head. I just wanted to be normal,” Hernandez said Wednesday.

Capts. Christopher Eason and Omar Ashmawy, who are representing Hernandez, say the Air Force failed to follow its own procedures and is persecuting her.

“I don't know why people made the decision they made,” Ashmawy said. “I know policies were not followed, policies laid out by the Department of Defense. And I know this is the wrong thing to do to Airman Hernandez.”

A Pope spokesperson provided a media backgrounder addressing the status of the case and a summary of information related to the case.

"It's unusual that we would involve ourselves with the media,” Ashmawy said, “but this is a very unusual situation."

Hernandez faces a special court martial and is due in court on Sept. 24.

In February, Lt. Col. David Knight, the commander of her unit, the 43rd Operations Support Squadron, signed papers charging Hernandez with committing an indecent act by having sexual relations with Airman 1st Class Jerrell W. Apache while Basile and Airman Rotez J. Butler Butler watched.

In written statements to her attorneys, the three accused airmen call the sex consensual. One said Hernandez wore "skin tight" clothes, danced in a "promiscuous way" and later stripped naked.

Hernandez said that is not how it happened.

“What those guys did was wrong. There's nothing worse than being raped and people not believing you,” she said.

A book author and researcher on rape issues who is helping Eason and Ashmawy, John Foubert, said that charging a rape victim with having consensual sex “when the evidence clearly points the other way is an insult to every American and every individual who has worn the uniform.”

Hernandez, who is from Texas, has written to Gov. Mike Easley, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the North Carolina and Texas congressional delegations to ask for support.

In her memo to Perry, Hernandez said, “Under enormous stress and after consultation with the legal office, I made the decision not to testify — the pressure of the judicial process was too much for me, and I felt like no one was looking out for my interests.”


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  • Angry Grrl Aug 11, 2007

    Look, I'm sorry for you if can't see the truth that NO ONE ASKS TO BE RAPED. Period. If she's covered in a burqa or dancing naked down the street, no matter. Frankly, your attitude is part of the problem here, not provocative clothing.

    Utah State University Sexual Assault and Anti Violence Information

    Myth: Rape victims provoke the attach by wearing provocative clothing

    - A Federal Commission on Crime of Violence Study found that only
    4.4% of all reported rapes involved provocative behavior on the part of the victim. In murder cases 22% involved such behavior (as simple as a glance).

    - Most convicted rapists do not remember what their victims were wearing.

    - Victims range in age from days old to those in their nineties,
    hardly provocative dressers.

    Utah State University

  • findoutthefacts Aug 10, 2007

    What clothing differences are there between the 1950's and today? - womens clothing has gotten a lot skimpier and you all know it. And you wear sexier clothing and think that morality and morality based crimes are gonna go down. WAKE UP!

    Everyone who keeps saying that "Any woman can wear whatever they want cause this is America and I have that right." DREAM ON!

    This is America and we have free speech right? No we don't - you can't say ANYTHING you want because it will be offensive, sexist or racist to someone. Find another excuse besides "I can do what I want" - if you believe that with all your heart, you are a complete idiot. There is a certain amount of commons sense that has to be used.

    And anyway with regards to this story, there was probably not a victim here. This girl was about to get in trouble for being somewhere she was not supposed to be and doing what she was not asupposed to do so she tried to pull the "rape" card to get out of it!

  • findoutthefacts Aug 10, 2007

    NC Teacher - yes, to a small degree, it is a woman's responsibility for getting a man's mind going. You know good and well who women are trying to attract with the clothing choices they wear. It sure as hell isn't to impress the mosquitos and you know it.

    If I were to be driving down the road without a seatbelt and someone hit me causing me to fly out of the car and die, everyone would agree that the person causing the wreck would be the responsible party. However, everyone would still say "But he shoulda been wearing his seatbelt"!

    Same principle here - there is a certain amount of accountability each person has and a certain amount of common sense that has to be used as I said before - SOCIETY IS GETTING WORSE.

    I technically COULD cover my yard in $100 bills cause I have that right, but is anyone gonna be shocked when some of them get stolen??? Commons sense, all you idiots.....

  • NCTeacher Aug 10, 2007

    Find out the facts-

    So it is the woman's responsibility for "getting a man's mind going"? What about his responsobility to keep his pants on and not force someone to have sex with him? I get ideas in my head constantly and not all of them are good. It is MY responsibility as an adult not to act on the bad ones.

  • Angry Grrl Aug 9, 2007

    Nice round of "blame the victim" going on here. Nobody -- but nobody -- asks to be raped, whether they're wearing a thong and a bikini top or are covered head-to-toe in a burqa (and if you think a burqa is any protection, I have some Muslim rape victims to show you...).

    I agree it's time for the smart ones to stand up and teach the young ones -- males, that is. And what needs to be taught is respect, and that NO means NO, and that if you have some "urge" that you can't control, well by golly, that's why the good Lord gave you a hand.

  • findoutthefacts Aug 8, 2007

    So there are a lot of blind rapists?

    Something in what they SEE attracts them to who they pick and in their mind, they think that a girl who like to "show it off" likes to do other stuff too. It's a very incorrect misconception they have and its not always the case in every rape situation, but advertising the goods does have a lot to do with getting their mind going.

  • rsink420 Aug 8, 2007

    As a Sexual Assault/Rape Advocate, please understand that no one asks or INVITES someone to rape them. There is no justification or excuse that could ever deem it acceptable. What someone chooses to wear or how they carry themselves does not play into why someone is raped. There are plenty of men out there who can "control" themselves if that is your basis of belief. It's not about SEX. It's about control, it's about power, and it's about taking that person's power away from them. Please inform yourself of the true reasons behind rape before you tell someone what they can wear or how they can choose to live their life to prevent this from happening to them.

  • findoutthefacts Aug 8, 2007

    I would still like to reiterate what I said in my first post that I do not condone rape in any form or fashion. But here's where the girl may have gone wrong (and I am not blaming her) - SOCIETY IS GETTING WORSE AS A WHOLE! The same way you have to be a defensive driver on the roads and constantly look out for the "idiots", you have to be the same way with life.

    No one wants to be raped, so make sure you don't give people any reason to want to. Guys are sexually attracted by sight. Don't wear things that stir up those "idiots". If you gotta wear those "tight" clothes, then do it around the house. If that's not satisfying to you, then realize why - you want others to see you wearing those tight clothes.

  • findoutthefacts Aug 8, 2007

    "one thing a lot of yall need to realize...a woman can say no in mid session and guess what...its a no...you got to stop..simple as that..." - strolling bones

    And one thing that women in those situations have to remember that anything that happened before she said no does not constitute rape. Which is why I stated before, at that point, it becomes a mistake.

    Then we come to the "he said/she said" portion of the debate.

  • iamforjustice Aug 8, 2007

    Well I don't care what any of you say about my comments, they are my opinions and you all feel that if someone does not agree with you then their comments are unwarranted. You people are idiots. She was just as wrong as they were. Stop trying to baby her up. She is a grown woman and new the consequences of her actions. She was not walking from church at night and got grabbed and raped. Just like that girl went to the room of Mike Tyson and set him up.