Air Force to discharge officer for defacing cars

By Robert Weller
TThe Associated Press | Publish Date: 12/17/2005

DENVER - The Air Force Reserve is discharging a lieutenant colonel accused of causing thousands of dollars in damage by defacing cars bearing pro-Bush bumper stickers, his lawyer and military officials confirmed Friday.

Lt. Col. Alexis Fecteau, a pilot with 500 combat hours in the first Persian Gulf war and the Balkans, is charged with felony criminal mischief. He is accused of using paint stripper and grease to write "F--- Bush" in 18-inch-high letters on cars at Denver International Airport that had bumper stickers supporting President Bush and conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.

Jim Miller, a spokesman for the Air Force Reserve Command at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., said the command plans to begin the process of discharging Fecteau.

Fecteau's lawyer, Patrick Mulligan, disclosed that his client had undergone an Article 15, a military procedure used to punish service members for minor offenses that cannot result in jail time.

"Almost any human would regard it as punishment if they were told their career was terminated, they were demoted and their retirements benefits dramatically cut."

The Air Force Reserve did not return a call seeking comment on the Article 15, which wasn't disclosed by military officials.

Mullligan gave a hint of what his defense might be, noting that post traumatic stress disorder could appear years after extremely stressful experiences, like flying in combat. "There are millions of Americans who object to the war ... most of those millions of Americans didn't have, in addition, some of the combat experiences that Lt. Col. Fecteau and others had."

Larry Whittemore of Pueblo, who said his Ford Expedition suffered nearly $2,500 damage in the spree, welcomed the news that Fecteau faces discharge. "I don't think he is fit to be in the Air Force. This guy's charter is to protect and defend the Constitution and the people of the United States," said Whittemore.

Fecteau is charged with 13 counts of criminal mischief, five of them felonies because the damage to five vehicles was estimated at more than $500 each.

"If this had been an enlisted man he would have been court-martialed. No doubt about it. That's what is driving this train," said military analyst David Sheldon of Washington, D.C.

Police said the vehicles were damaged between January and July and that a "bait car" rigged with a video camera recorded Fecteau damaging a vehicle at the airport.

A spokeswoman for the Denver district attorney said the Air Force had asked to take jurisdiction in the case but prosecutors refused. "Our reply was 'no,'" spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough said. "If there were Air Force repercussions that would be fine; it didn't affect our filing."

Lt. Matthew Fuller, another spokesman at Robins, meanwhile, denied the Air Force wanted to take over the case.

An arrest warrant alleges that Fecteau admitted to investigators he had vandalized cars beginning around the time of the 2004 election. Much of the damage was minor, involving painting over bumper stickers.

After the charges became public, Fecteau was removed as director of operations for reserve forces at the National Security Space Institute in Colorado Springs.