A McChord Air Force Base commander was sentenced to 11 months in prison and a dismissal from the service after he was found to have had inappropriate sexual contact with a male staff sergeant during a deployment to Turkey.
Lt. Col. Steven J. DiMatteo of the 10th Airlift Squadron, 62nd Operations Group was convicted of wrongful sexual contact in a court-martial earlier this month at McChord for touching the victim’s penis without his permission. A jury also found DiMatteo guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer, dereliction of duty and obstructing justice.
His attorney said Thursday that the 18-year Air Force veteran will appeal.
DiMatteo led the 10th Airlift Squadron – one of 17 such units in McChord’s 62nd Airlift Wing – from May 2007 to March 2008. He commanded about 140 airmen.
His squadron was on deployment to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey when prosecutors said DiMatteo touched a staff sergeant’s penis on Feb. 17, 2008.
The conduct unbecoming conviction stemmed from DiMatteo allegedly exposing himself to the staff sergeant in DiMatteo’s private quarters the same day. The dereliction of duty conviction resulted from DiMatteo reportedly telling the man to call him “Stevie D.” The obstructing justice conviction came from DiMatteo allegedly threatening a witness to keep silent about the incident or risk ruining the witness’s career.
The staff sergeant, whose identity was not released, has since left the Air Force. He had begun the process of leaving the service prior to his deployment.
A jury acquitted DiMatteo on three other counts stemming from the Incirlik incident: assault consummated by a battery, and another count each of wrongful sexual contact and conduct unbecoming an officer.
The sentence has yet to be approved by the convening authority, Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott of the 18th Air Force. DiMatteo’s civilian attorney plans to appeal.
“The allegations in this case were based on the credibility of the accuser and were, at best, dubious,” attorney Richard V. Stevens said in an e-mail Thursday to The News Tribune. “Lt. Col. DiMatteo was found not guilty of the majority of what the accuser claimed to have occurred. Therefore, the accuser’s credibility was clearly an issue for the jury as well. Given that, we will most definitely be appealing the convictions in the case, since they were also based on the accuser’s credibility.”
DiMatteo is being held in confinement at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor but soon will be transferred to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar to serve the remainder of his sentence.
“This conviction underscores the fact that the Air Force takes seriously inappropriate relationships between officers and enlisted members and allegations of sexual assault,” Col. Jeffrey Stephenson, 62nd Airlift Wing commander, said in a statement issued Wednesday. “This case was thoroughly investigated and fairly prosecuted, affording the full range of rights under the law to both the accused and victim. We strongly believe all airmen deserve to work, live and socialize in a community that promotes trust, dignity and mutual respect.”
A voicemail left at DiMatteo’s Gig Harbor home seeking comment Wednesday was unreturned.
According to a 2007 profile in DiMatteo’s hometown paper, the Valley Independent of Pennsylvania, he is married with three children. He graduated from Penn State, where he enrolled in Reserve Officer Training Corps, with a degree in civil engineering in 1990.
He attended navigator training at Mather Air Force Base, Calif., and served three years as a C-141B Starlifter special operations instructor navigator.
DiMatteo later attended pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, and served as a C-17 Globemaster III pilot at Charleston (S.C.) Air Force Base and McChord.
He attended two military colleges before being named deputy branch chief for contingency response in Stuttgart, Germany. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in September 2006. He has been involved in military operations in Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
During the 10th Airlift Squadron’s deployment to Turkey, his unit was responsible for flying personnel and cargo around the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
“Any given day, I have people going in and out of Iraq,” he told the Valley Independent during a 2007 deployment from McChord.
Scott Fontaine: 253-320-4758