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Air Force Academy sex assault-mental health scandal hits the federal courts

Setting the record straight


Adam DeRito was labeled with a mental problem unbeknownst to him. - CRAIG LEMLEY
  • Craig Lemley
  • Adam DeRito was labeled with a mental problem unbeknownst to him.
An Air Force Academy cadet, who was disenrolled in 2010 and then had a mental diagnosis added to his record a year later, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Academy and the employee who added the diagnosis.

Adam DeRito is seeking to have the Academy: award him a bachelor’s degree, make him eligible for commissioning as an Army officer, pay him back pay for his year missed as an officer after his disenrollment, return money garnished for repayment of his tuition after his disenrollment, and pay legal expenses and unspecified monetary damages to be proven at trial.

The Academy said in an email, “We are prohibited from commenting on pending litigation.” The other defendant, Kristin Nicole Henley Price, who added a mental diagnosis to DeRito’s file, could not be reached for comment.

DeRito was one of several cadets featured in the Independent’s story, “The blame game”. The Independent investigation found that some cadets who reported sexual assaults were later assigned mental diagnoses, which were then used to try to drum them out of the Academy. DeRito also declined to comment, but did confirm he serves as a parachute rigger in the Colorado Army National Guard, and works as a wireline engineer.
DeRito entered the Academy in June 2006. Within two years, he’d received two official reprimands and on Sept. 14, 2008, DeRito “was pressured into, and reluctantly agreed to, becoming an informant for the USAFA Special Investigations Unit (“CI Assignment”) in order to mitigate his punishment for the Misconduct Allegations,” he says in the complaint, filed June 26 in U.S. District Court, Denver.

While serving as a confidential informant from September 2008 to May 2010, the lawsuit states, he reported incidents of rule-breaking, sexual assault and other violations committed by cadets, including athletes, and “others with high social and political standing within the Academy.”

In May 2009, DeRito filed a report with the Colorado State University police and the Academy saying he’d been sexually assaulted at a party in Fort Collins. “No one at the USAFA took any action to investigate the claims, no action was taken, and proper procedures were not followed by USAFA to investigate SPC DeRito’s report of sexual assault,” the complaint says. DeRito told the Indy last year he sought counseling after the assault.

In April 2010, after he assisted with a “large undercover operation” at the Academy, DeRito was given an Article 15 — nonjudicial punishment — for fraternization, a charge he denies. He previously noted the preparatory school student he was accused of fraternizing with was later accused of having an affair while she was a cadet and cadet candidate with a married enlisted non-commissioned officer, who was convicted at court-martial.

The Academy then used the Article 15 to make a case for his disenrollment. Having graduated the previous summer from Marine officer candidate school, he expected to be commissioned as a Marine upon his Academy graduation. Instead, he was given a general discharge and denied his degree by then Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, he’s previously said.

As the Indy reported, DeRito then earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in energy management from the University of Colorado Denver and began working in the oil and gas industry.
He also was handed a bill for $260,000 for his educational costs while at the Academy. The Academy often seeks repayment from cadets who are disenrolled in either their junior or senior year.

In 2015 he enlisted in the Colorado National Guard, 19th Special Forces Group (which he says found a workaround for the code he was given upon disenrollment). He completed Army basic training, airborne orientation and advanced training as a parachute rigger.

In early 2017, DeRito applied to enter training to become a helicopter pilot. But when he went to Fort Carson for his medical paperwork review, he was told the Academy had listed several psychological conditions on his record that would prevent him from flying for the rest of his life and bar him from any military service, he previously told the Indy.

The lawsuit alleges that it was determined that a falsified medical record was placed on his record one year after his disenrollment by Henley Price, who, according to the lawsuit “was not a licensed psychologist at the time.” Nor had she interviewed or even met with DeRito during his time at the Academy or after, the lawsuit says. The suit contends, “The fabrication of the Mental Health Diagnosis was done to harm SPC DeRito and prevent his further service in the Armed Forces.”

The lawsuit also notes that psychologist Troy Todd treated DeRito following the sexual assault. His report, written in April 2017 at DeRito’s request and recapped in the Indy’s 2017 story, noted DeRito’s records contained no mental diagnosis in 2010. On June 20, 2011, the record shows a “records review” led to the entry labeling him with “impulse control disorder” and “personality disorder NOS [not otherwise specified].”
In his report, Todd noted he couldn’t understand why there would be a records review after the student left the Academy.

DeRito sought to have the diagnoses removed, but his request was ignored.

“The Falsified Medical Records, the contents of which were created after SPC DeRito’s Disenrollment by an unlicensed psychologist, have prevented SPC DeRito from advancing his career as a Warrant officer,” the lawsuit states. “As such the false documentation has damaged, and continues to damage, SPC DeRito both financially and personally.”

Henley Price, according to the lawsuit, now is stationed at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas, but a Randolph spokesperson tells the Indy there is no record of her being on staff.

A scheduling conference in the case is slated for Aug. 22.

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