Air Force captain says airman assaulted her after surgery
An Air Force captain Monday accused an enlistee of groping her while she was coming out of anesthesia at a San Antonio military hospital — a claim that two other women have made as well.
The woman said a medical technician at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center grabbed her breasts after an outpatient procedure. Not long after that, she said, Airman 1st Class Michael Lightsey assaulted her sexually with his fingers, prompting her to twist away from him on the gurney.
At one point, she wanted to scream.
“I was very upset and shocked and angered,” said the captain, a 14-year veteran who was a day patient at Wilford Hall. “I was thinking I didn’t know what to do, but I didn’t want him to do it again.”
Lightsey is accused of improperly touching three patients in June 2013 while with the 59th Medical Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. A medical technician, he faces four specifications of causing bodily harm for what the Air Force called “self-sexual gratification stemming from incidents that occurred in the summer of 2013.”
Lightsey could be given 28 years in prison by the military judge, Lt. Col. Marvin Tubbs II, who will decide the case.
Prosecutors say Lightsey abused the women by groping their breasts and in some cases forcing them to make contact with his private parts. The captain was the only one of the women who testified Monday.
A pair of defense attorneys led by a civilian, Jeffery King, countered that the captain didn’t positively identify their client as the perpetrator. They suggested that she hallucinated the experience and noted that she was unable to positively identify Lightsey as her attacker.
So far, no one has confirmed her account, and much of the battle Monday centered on efforts to either debunk the captain’s testimony or show that she recalled events well enough to be a reliable witness — despite having been under general anesthesia.
The woman gave a detailed account, saying a medical technician on her left side grazed his hand over one breast, making “a dragging motion” after she was wheeled into a recovery room adjacent to a Wilford Hall OR.
She said he then grabbed the breast and pinched it.
“I was in shock,” she said. “How could this happen here?”
Maintaining her composure, the captain went on to testify that the man did the same thing to her other breast. She said that while being rolled along a hallway from the recovery area, where patients are constantly monitored, to another room, the medical technician penetrated her with two fingers.
A surveillance video briefly captured Lightsey rolling a patient down the hallway after her release from the recovery room, a distance that can take more than two minutes to travel. Capt. Maria Jean-Drummond, a registered nurse who was at the hospital that day, identified him on the video.
But Jean-Drummond offered testimony that the defense pointed to in raising doubt about the alleged victim’s account. While she accused Lightsey of pretending to adjust a blanket when he placed his hand underneath it in the hallway, King and the other defense attorney, Capt. Steven Vallarelli, repeatedly argued that it might have been necessary.
King, in cross-examining the woman, countered her claim that she “sensed that everything was fine with the blanket,” finally getting her to concede that it was possible it might have needed to be adjusted. He also asked her if that might be true of the IV as well, but the prosecution objected.
Jean-Drummond and Alton Tatum, another registered nurse who was in the hospital that day, said it would be important to relocate an IV line if it was hanging off the gurney in a way that could prove harmful as the patient was moved from one part of the facility to another.
Trying to show that the woman’s memory was faulty, King said she incorrectly saw Lightsey’s rank before his name tag.
She recalled seeing “A1C,” when he wore a rank insignia instead.
The defense also said her recollection of the assailant as a man about 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 145 pounds was faulty. Lightsey is far taller and heavier.
Tatum sat with the captain in the recovery room monitoring her vital signs after surgery and said he saw nothing improper occur and resisted the notion that he might have been too distracted to notice Lightsey groping the woman.
While her pupil reaction was listed as “sluggish” right after she came out of anesthesia, she was given an 8 out of a possible 10 on a scale used to assess patients after surgery. She was released from the recovery room after getting a final score of 9.
Tatum said he would not have released a recovery room patient who was hallucinating, and Jean-Drummond agreed, saying medical personnel would have identified the problem and kept her there.