Retired Major General: Sexual Assault Allegations Against Hyten Lack Merit

Accuser's former boss says she should be court-martialed

Kathryn Spletstoser (2nd L), confers with a colleague as U.S. Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee / Getty Images
August 8, 2019

Heidi Brown, a retired U.S. Army major general, argued sexual assault allegations Gen. John Hyten lack merit in a piece for the Wall Street Journal published Thursday.

"Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser's accusations are graphic and nauseating. But they are discredited by evidence," Brown writes in the Journal. "I have reviewed the written record of the case, including a redacted report from the Army Inspector General Office, and spoken with people involved. I served at Stratcom headquarters in Omaha, Neb., with both Gen. Hyten and Col. Spletstoser, including at the time of one of the claimed assaults. While she confided in me over various issues, she never brought up an assault by Gen. Hyten."

In 2018, Spletstoser was relieved of her position after being accused of "toxic leadership," which included "intimidating, abusive and threatening behavior toward subordinates." Hyten had approved an investigation which corroborated the claims against Spletstoser.

On the day she was relieved, police were sent to her home. She reportedly threatened that Hyten had "24 hours to rectify the situation, or [she] was going to kill [herself]." She was brought to a clinic.

In June 2018, Spletstoser began accusing superiors of various misdeeds, none of which included sexual misconduct and none of which were verified by the Army's Inspector General Office. Hyten and his staff were cleared of all charges by March 2019.

Spletstoser did not level the sexual assault charge until days after Hyten was nominated to the Joint Chiefs. According to Brown, Spletstoser had previously accused a superior of sexual misconduct.

"In 2009, after a commander gave her a modest rating on an Officer Evaluation Report, Col. Spletstoser appealed it and accused the commander of sexually harassing her throughout her tour of duty in Iraq," Brown writes. "The Army Board for the Correction of Military Records wrote that 'applicant’s scorched earth attack on the OER, much of which is patently specious, undermines her overall credibility. Tellingly, applicant has proffered not a single statement from a third party supporting her version of events.'"

As for the allegation against Hyten, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations interviewed dozens of witnesses in several countries, but did not find evidence to substantiate Spletstoser's claims. On the contrary, they found "a host of verifiable contradictions of her account."

She claimed that damning evidence of Gen. Hyten’s misconduct would be proved by email correspondence. Investigators reviewed 195,000 unique emails preserved by Stratcom servers, and turned up nothing. She claimed Gen. Hyten called her frequently after her dismissal. A review of phone records Col. Spletstoser provided found no calls between the two after her firing. She said she did not want to travel with Gen. Hyten due to his unwanted sexual advances. But multiple witnesses claimed she became livid after Gen. Hyten told her she was prohibited from traveling with his detail until her toxic-leadership investigation was resolved. Her screams from his office were loud enough to alarm Gen. Hyten’s personal security detail, who rushed to the office.

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted last month to advance Hyten's confirmation to the Senate floor. Sen. Martha McSally (R., Ariz.), who was raped by a superior while serving as an Air Force pilot, came to Hyten's defense.

"Sexual assault happens in the military. It just didn’t happen in this case," McSally said.

Brown said the Senate should confirm Hyten, and the Army should investigate Spletstoser for perjury.

"For the good of the country, for the good of actual sexual assault survivors, and for the good of due process and other values we hold dear, the Senate should confirm Gen. Hyten as vice chairman," Spletstoser said. "For the same reasons, the Army should investigate Col. Spletstoser for perjury under the Uniform Code of Military Justice."

Published under: Air Force , Sexual Assault