Ex-Joint Chiefs vice chair awaits word on whether he will face jury in sex assault suit

Retired air force general and onetime vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Hyten, who notoriously once referred to former President Donald Trump as an “idiot,” is awaiting a ruling from a federal appeals court as to whether a former aide’s sexual assault lawsuit against him will move forward, as the Washington Times reports.

Hyten, who served just one tour in the Joint Chiefs, retired from the Air Force back in November and is waiting to learn whether a jury will hear allegations that he committed sexual assault against former aide and then-Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser.

The claims lodged by Spletstoser first emerged in July 2019, just prior to Hyten’s confirmation hearing for the number-two post in the U.S. military, and the allegations were centered around what the Army colonel described as inappropriate touching in a hotel room during a professional conference that took place in California two years prior, according to the Air Force Times.

Notably, Hyten denied the allegations of misconduct, and a subsequent investigation conducted by the Air Force found there to be no substantiation of Spletstoser’s claims, paving the way for the general’s Senate confirmation to the Joint Chiefs role, to which he was nominated by Trump.

Ultimately, Spletstoser filed a civil suit against Hyten in which shes seeks at least $100,000 in damages for economic, emotional, and physical harms alleged, litigation a federal district court in California determined back in October of 2020 could proceed.

That ruling prompted an appeal from Hyten, and last week, a Justice Department attorney defending Hyten urged a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel to dismiss Spletstoser’s claims under a legal theory referred to as the Feres doctrine.

According to that line of argument, because the conduct of which Spletstoser complained happened in the course of a work trip at a time when official matters were being discussed, the Feres doctrine prevents servicemembers from suing the government for harm sustained while in the military, unless medical malpractice was involved.

Spletstoser’s lawyer, however, asserted that the Feres doctrine should not apply in this case, because the injurious conduct was too far removed from typical military activities to fall under the umbrella of harm typically sustained in the service.

Hyten previously gained mild notoriety for referring to Trump as an “idiot” who lacked a basic understanding of national security,” and whether he will now be forced to face a jury over yet another set of embarrassing revelations is something that remains to be seen.