Travis Burns
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Major Travis Burns, a pilot with the 58th Special Operations Wing, gives an overview of the controls of the CV-22 in 2016.

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An Air Force special operations pilot denies charges that he raped a woman and a young girl and is “eager” to clear his name at trial, his attorney said Monday at a military court proceeding.

Allegations against Maj. Travis J. Burns grew out of “an extremely vicious custody battle” and are without merit, said his attorney, Benjamin Beliles.

“He’s never been in trouble with the law his entire life,” Beliles said, saying the charges had tarnished Burns’ “sterling” military career.

Burns, who is based at the Air Force Academy, is charged with offenses that could lead to a lengthy sentence in a military prison. He remains on normal duty, his attorney said, barred from contacting either accuser. He is assigned to Cadet Squadron 23 at the academy, serving as chief of plans and programs, military records show.

A girl under the age of 12 told authorities he abused her repeatedly in 2017 and 2018 in Colorado Springs. A woman said she was raped in December 2013 near Clovis, N.M. Their names are being withheld by The Gazette to protect their privacy.

A hearings officer will review the evidence and recommend whether prosecutors have established enough proof for a court-martial. The officer could also recommend that charges be dismissed or addressed through disciplinary action.

The decision on whether to try Burns ultimately falls the academy’s superintendent, Lt. Gen. Jay B. Silveria.

During a brief Article 32 hearing Monday, military prosecutors entered numerous items of evidence, including investigative reports and a recorded phone call between Burns and the stepfather of a girl who accused him of sexual abuse. None of those materials were made public, however, and no testimony was heard.

During arguments in court, a military prosecutor said both victims provided consistent accounts of crimes against them, and that investigators found an item the girl said was used in the abuse.

“It’s clear that this offense was committed,” said prosecutor John Ippolito.

Beliles said the accusations of child sex assault were previously investigated by Colorado Springs police, who he said found no probable cause for arrest. A police representative couldn’t immediately be reached to discuss the case.

Burns’ attorney said the allegations originated with a custody battle waged partly in Texas with Burns’ ex-wife. Beliles claimed the woman lodged a rape allegation only after learning that police wouldn’t take action in alleged crimes against the girl.

Reporter

I cover legal affairs for The Gazette, with an emphasis on the criminal courts. Tips to lance.benzel@gazette.com

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