Army exonerates deceased four-star general in decades-old groping case
2024/02/17

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WASHINGTON — The Army has exonerated a deceased four-star general who had been reprimanded for allegedly groping the wife of a subordinate officer in a decades-old case that tested the boundaries of memory and the military's attempts to hold senior officers to account for sexual harassment and assault.

In 2019, retired General Leon Salomon over allegations that he grabbed the breasts of Camilla Vance Shadley and made crude remarks to her twin sister during a party at his house on a fall afternoon in 1994. At the time, Salomon was the Army's top officer for logistics.

Vance Shadley, the daughter of the former secretary of the Army and State, Cyrus Vance, and her sister, gave statements to Army investigators about the alleged incident in 2019.

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The Army reconsidered his punishment based on a petition filed on Salomon's behalf, said Cynthia Smith, an Army spokeswoman.

"In balancing all available information, and given the passage of time and scarcity of evidence, an all-civilian board determined that removal of the formal reprimand and its allied documents was consistent with regulatory standards," Smith said.

Prep for the polls:

On Feb. 10, three members of an Army board charged with correcting military records unanimously approved the request to remove the reprimand in part because "there was insufficient probable cause that supported the allegations.

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" Salomon died last year at the age of 87. Two of the board members were women, according to a Defense Department official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the deliberations.

Salomon's family, in a statment to USA TODAY, expressed relief with the Army's decision.

"We are relieved the Army has conducted a thorough review of the evidence and found the accusation to be, as we always knew, without merit or basis in fact," the family's statement said.

The Pentagon for years has struggled to combat sexual assault and harassment in its ranks. In 2022, a survey found about 35,900 troops had been the victims of sexual assault – crimes that range from groping to rape – in 2021, the most recent year for such data.

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Pentagon officials branded the finding as "tragic." The report also showed that troops' trust in the Pentagon to protect them from sexual assault had plummeted. Asked if they trusted the military system to ensure their safety following a sexual assault, 40% of women said they did in 2021, down from 69% in 2018.

In 2019, an Army Criminal Investigation Division official interviewed Salomon and found probable cause that he had groped Vance. The statute of limitations had passed for criminal charges. But the Army issued Salomon a letter of reprimand and placed it in his official after he declined to rebut it, according to Army documents.

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The board based its decision to rescind the reprimand based on documents, affidavits and photographs of the party submitted on Salomon's behalf, according to Army records.

Exonerating Salomon was the right decision, said Greg Rinckey, a former Army lawyer and founding partner of the Tully Rinckey law firm.

"This was the correct decision as this allegation was made 25 years after the alleged incident took place," Rinckey said. "It was virtually impossible for Gen. Salomon to mount a defense as witnesses and memories fade over time. This was clearly a violation of due process rights."

Vance Shadley could not be reached for comment.

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