Gay Air Force Lt. Joshua Seefried received a promotion last week to the rank of captain nearly four months after he was acquitted of charges stemming from a 2012 incident in which a fellow gay service member accused him of sexual assault.
The promotion, which is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2014, when Seefried would have been eligible for the promotion had he not had charges pending against him, clears the way for his honorable discharge from the Air Force scheduled for Jan. 3, according to sources familiar with his case.
The Aug. 25 acquittal followed a four-day court martial proceeding at Joint Base Andrews in Camp Springs, Md., which began more than two years after military prosecutors charged Seefried with wrongful and abusive sexual contact and forcible sodomy. The charges were based on allegations by a gay U.S. Marine.
The Marine, who was honorably discharged from the service last year, acknowledged during four and a half hours of testimony that multiple witnesses saw him and Seefried hugging, kissing and fondling one another in a hot tub in a spa at a New York hotel, where Seefried had been staying in May 2012.
The judge in the court martial trial, Air Force Lt. Col Andrew Kalavanos, announced his not-guilty verdict one hour after the opposing lawyers delivered their closing arguments, indicating he quickly determined the charges against Seefried didn’t have sufficient weight to result in a conviction.
Air Force officials within Seefried’s command quickly determined he was eligible for the promotion and recommended that he receive it. But Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who must give final approval for all officer promotions, sat on the recommendation for as long as two months, sources familiar with the case said.
The delay forced Seefried to ask for a delay in his discharge because retroactive promotions – and the back pay that comes with them – cannot be granted after a service member is discharged, according to longstanding military rules.
James’s delay in approving the promotion came about a year after she rejected an agreement by Air Force officials and prosecutors to a request by Seefried that he be allowed to resign from the Air Force in exchange for dropping the charges against him based on his lawyers’ belief that he would likely be acquitted in a court martial.
Gay activist Lane Hudson, a friend of Seefried’s, said at the time of the acquittal in August that the protracted case had taken a “huge toll” on Seefried professionally and personally.
“It’s just a shame it had to come to this point because there was no evidence to substantiate the charges,” Hudson said.
A spokesperson for the Air Force Secretary’s office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.