I-Team: Nellis Airmen Facing Sexual Assault Charges - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Nellis Airmen Facing Sexual Assault Charges

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Robert Stone sitting on Saddam Hussein's throne during a deployment to Iraq. Robert Stone sitting on Saddam Hussein's throne during a deployment to Iraq.
Robert Stone in court. Robert Stone in court.

LAS VEGAS -- For the first time in years, Nellis Air Force Base is preparing to court martial an officer on charges related to sexual assault.  

The Air Force major stationed at Nellis was scheduled for a court martial Monday in a sexual assault case, but the proceedings have been postponed indefinitely.

The case is among the latest in a worldwide explosion of sexual assault cases involving members of the U.S. military.

The secretary of defense has called for massive reforms in how the military handles sexual crimes, and the commander of Nellis recently announced a no-tolerance policy and greater transparency.

In another case, a scandalous incident involving a master sergeant at Nellis is putting the new policy to the test.

Base personnel denied knowing anything about the charges.

The U.S. Air Force, like other branches of the military, has seen a huge increase in reports of sexual assaults within its ranks -- a 33 percent jump in just one year. The commander of Nellis announced in May that he is going to change all of this, yet there hasn't been a single sexual assault conviction at Nellis in the past five years.

That brings us to a disturbing case involving a master sergeant in the Air Force Reserve who held high security clearances at Nellis while also working as a federal air marshal. Robert Stone's case has dragged on for more than three years in civilian courts.

As far as we can tell, Nellis could not care less.

So little was said about the charges against Stone during his most recent court appearance that it might as well have been for a parking ticket, though Judge Abbi Silver's protective order dropped a big hint.

"He should not have any unsupervised time with any children, that shouldn't be a problem, right?" Silver said.

Four times in the past three years, Stone has been scheduled for a jury trial. All four were canceled. The criminal complaint gives only barebones details about the two felony counts: sexual assault of a minor under 16 and open and gross lewdness, but an affidavit filed by a North Las Vegas detective fills in the sordid blanks.

In a 2007 photo, Stone is sitting in one of Saddam Hussein's thrones taken during Stone's first deployment to Iraq. Sources said Stone was assigned to interrogate high security prisoners at a place called Camp Cropper. Prior to Iraq, Stone had a high security clearance and worked in a once-classified Nellis facility known as the petting zoo, where captured foreign weaponry was analyzed. After returning from Iraq to Nellis, friends said, Stone's life began to unravel. His ex-wife told police that she suspected Stone of molesting his two youngest daughters, though her suspicions could not be proven. In 2009, an acquaintance of Stone's contacted his Nellis commander to report that stone was deteriorating -- depressed, drinking heavily, running up debts. No action was taken.

In early 2010, Stone returned to Iraq. When he returned to Nellis eight months later, his superiors in the federal air marshals detected something was wrong and fired him, though he continued to work at Nellis.

In October 2010, Stone was living in a North Las Vegas condo with a teenage girl who was a blood relative. There was only one bed. The girl told her counselor at Las Vegas Academy that Stone had repeatedly given her drugs that made her blackout, and that during those weekly episodes, Stone had engaged in various sex acts with her. The school called police.

"They are heart-wrenching cases, because you are dealing with a child who oftentimes has been betrayed by someone extremely close to them, someone you should be able to trust," North Las Vegas Police spokesman Tim Bedwell said.

The victim said during one of the episodes, Stone made a video recording of the act, then later showed it to her. During their investigation, police seized Stone's computer to look for the video, but found the hard drive had been wiped clean.

"Forensically, when we analyze computers, we can look at whether we went in there intentionally to eliminate things," Bedwell said. "That is evidence in and of itself."

Nellis has dropped a cone of silence around Stone. The base would not tell the I-Team if Stone still has his rank or security clearance, whether the Air Force has disciplined him in the three years since the charges were filed, or even his whereabouts. A spokesman said the Air Force doesn't know where Stone is.

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus thinks the military has been far too tolerant for far too long.

"Over the years, there has been a culture of denial, or just looking the other way, and now that the spotlight has been shown on it, we see just how bad the problem is," Titus said.

In the police interview, Stone denied any improprieties with the teenager, just as he earlier denied doing anything wrong with his young daughters. For the past six weeks, the I-Team has asked Nellis about Stone, but the base would not answer even basic questions.

On Friday afternoon, after seeing a promotional piece for this report, Nellis called to say Stone is no longer stationed at Nellis and they don't know when he left.

Nellis will not reveal how many cases of sexual assault have been reported at the base in recent years, only that no one has been court martialed for it.

Titus supports legislation to help the military change its culture of tolerance for sexual assaults. The I-Team will have more information about that in the days ahead.

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