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Witnesses Detail Maltreatment By Former Lackland Instructor

Eileen Pace
TPR News
Administrative building at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, where legal proceedings are held.

A military judge late Friday handed down a sentence for a former military training instructor who pled guilty to charges of maltraining and cruel and oppressive treatment of her basic trainees.

Judge Donald Eller sentenced Staff Sgt. Annamarie Ellis to eight months in confinement, a reduction in rank to Airman basic and a bad conduct discharge. 

Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland spokeswoman Lt. Samantha Degnan said the offenses occurred over a 22-month period from 2009 to 2010 and involve the whole flights, instead of individuals.

The charges against Ellis are violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. She pled guilty to obstructing justice by lying to investigators about how a recruit got a black eye and forbidding others in the flight to admit knowledge of the incident.

In one of the charges, Ellis is accused of maltreating trainees in four flights and subjecting them to cruel and oppressive treatment. She pled guilty to charges of threatening to cut off the genitals of one trainee and of withholding letters and cards that came to trainees through the U.S. Mail.

More witnesses are expected to testify Wednesday in the punishment phase of the court martial. Ellis also faces a dishonorable discharge, loss of pay and retirement, and a potential fine.

Sentencing testimony:

As the judge weighs testimony in the trial, a string of witnesses today told stories of cruelty and maltreatment by Ellis, who was their basic training instructor.

One witness told the court he entered the Air Force expecting a professional learning environment, but that he did not get what he expected. He said upon arrival at basic, Ellis told the recruits they had brought too much gear and took away all but one outfit, sending the rest of their belongings to the trash.

One of the trainees in a female flight testified that Ellis often forced the whole group to do physical training while naked in the shower stalls. She told the court of several shower incidents where Ellis was involved -- including a time when Ellis woke her in the early morning hours and forced her to stand naked under a cold shower while she shouted obscenities at her.

The woman said she did not feel safe in filing a complaint because the only comment box was in full view of all the military training instructors in the chow hall. Since then, as a result of multiple case of MTI sexual misconduct, the Air Force said it has increased the number of comment boxes and placed them more strategically in basic training areas.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.