U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (KKTV/The Gazette) - UPDATE 1/11/18:
A former Air Force Academy cadet has been convicted for taking pictures of women while they were using the restroom. The former cadet will be disenrolled from the Academy receiving an "other than honorable conditions" characterization of his service. That is the worst possible administrative characterization according to the Academy.
Former Cadet 4th Class Sammy Tawakkol pleaded guilty to charges of violating articles 80, 90 and 120c of the Uniform Code of MIlitary Justice on Thursday. Tawakkol spent three and a half months in the Teller County Jail and received an additional six months of intensive mental health treatment. His actions will also trigger a sex offender registry notification requirement in accordance with DoD and Air Force guidance. Whether the conviction will require Tawakkol to register as a sex offender is determined by the state in which he lives in.
“I want to thank those brave victims of this disgusting act who came forward to ensure this didn’t happen to anyone else and also to encourage those who see something to say something—there’s no place for this kind of behavior at the Academy or in the Air Force,” Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria stated in a release sent out Thursday.
As part of a pre-trial agreement and after consultation with victims, it was determined that no additional jail time would be imposed on Tawakkol as a result of the special court martial in exchange for his waiving any right to a future hearing to contest his service characterization. The conviction will remain on Tawakkol’s record for the rest of his life. At the court-martial, the military judge sentenced Tawakkol to a reprimand, restriction for two months, and forfeiture of two-thirds pay for six months. It was decided Tawakkol will return to Texas without pay pending the Superintendent’s final decision on how the adjudged sentence should be carried out.
ORIGINAL STORY (3/23/17 The Gazette):
An Air Force Academy cadet suspected of taking pictures of women using restrooms on the Colorado Springs campus and at a Texas college was jailed Thursday in Teller County, jail records there show.
Freshman Cadet Sammy Tawakkol is being held in pretrial confinement at the Divide lockup as officials at the academy probe the case.
"The Air Force Academy is investigating an incident ... where an individual was taking photos of women in a campus bathroom," Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said in a Thursday email. "Investigators have identified a suspect and appropriate steps are being taken."
The 20-year-old has also faced charges in College Station, Texas after authorities say he was caught taking pictures of women in a restroom at Texas A&M University during the World Cube Association event there last week.
The association for fans of the 1980s puzzle game released a statement saying the group's disciplinary committee "has decided to impose a complete ban on him attending WCA competitions until we have the results of the charges."
While the academy wouldn't talk about Tawakkol by name on Thursday, several sources at the school have confirmed his ties to the alleged incidents there.
The academy is making a clear distinction between the Tawakkol case and incidents that have made headlines for the Pentagon in recent days involving Marines circulating photos of naked female comrades in a Facebook group.
"Victims were not readily identifiable in the photos that were taken, and there is no evidence that any of these photos have been distributed beyond the cell phone of the individual who took them," Herritage wrote.
Three cadets who contacted The Gazette said more than a dozen pictures of disrobed classmates were found on Tawakkol's phone. The cadets asked for anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the case.
The academy said it had no current charges issued for Tawakkol, which indicates that they're still investigating.
"This alleged misconduct represents a severe, unacceptable deviation from our core values," Herritage wrote. "The Academy is committed to fostering a culture and climate of respect, and in instances such as this we ensure victims receive the attentive, compassionate care they deserve and perpetrators are held accountable after receiving the appropriate due process."
In Texas, television station KBTX obtained a police report on the alleged Texas A&M incident.
"According to a probable cause statement obtained by KBTX, Tawakkol admitted to being in the women's restroom and using his phone to take a 49 second video of the woman urinating," the station reported on its website. "Tawakkol said he deleted the video after leaving the restroom because he knew what he did was wrong, according to the police report."
It's unclear when Tawakkol could return to the Air Force Academy.
"We have taken administrative steps to ensure the suspect does not have access to public facilities out of concern for public safety," Herritage said.