U.S. Army staff sergeant Randall S. Hughes violently raped the wife of a young soldier at a Super Bowl party in 2017, dragging her by the hair into the home and raping her after the other guests had gone home.
The victim, Leah Ramirez, cowered in the bathroom after the vicious attack until Hughes left the house.
She reported the attack the next day to Army officials at Texas’ Fort Bliss, but Hughes wasn’t charged at the time and would go on to rape a series of other women—including his own teenage daughter—before he was ultimately convicted of multiple charges including two counts of rape and sentenced to 13 years behind bars, according to a new report from Army Times.
Ramirez told the outlet that after she made the report, Army CID agents conducted a year long investigation and determined the allegations were credible, but rather than charging Hughes they placed a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand in his personnel file.
“I was told CID had enough evidence to believe it happened, and Fort Bliss still didn’t do anything,” she said, adding she was told “this is how it is.”
In a statement to Oxygen.com, Matthew Leonard, an Army spokesperson said that while they were prevented from releasing certain details of the case due to the Privacy Act, the incident in 2017 was thoroughly investigated.
“The chain of command in 2017 thoroughly reviewed the law enforcement investigation concerning the single allegation of sexual assault reported against Staff Sgt. Hughes,” Leonard said. “Based on the information known at this time, and with legal advice, the Command made the best decision it could. It’s important to note that a probable cause finding is not a final determination that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute.”
Just a few months after Ramirez's attack, Hughes was accused of raping his then-girlfriend at Fort Bliss before he was transferred to Fort Dix, New Jersey—where he continued to abuse women. This time his focus was on his own daughter.
The 14-year-old had moved in with Hughes in an attempt to get a new start—but the decision would soon come with devastating consequences. On March 25, 2020 authorities said Hughes gave his daughter sleeping medication and then raped her while they were living at Fort Dix.
Hughes daughter, Lesley Madsen, is now 17 years old and made the decision—with the approval of her mother—to speak publicly about the abuse.
“I’m not ashamed of what he did to me,” she told Army Times. “I want people to know I’m a minor and I want them to know that I’m a daughter.”
After the attack, Madsen reported the abuse to her mom and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Command (CID), which helped launch another investigation into Hughes' activities.
“I got really lucky and I had a team [of CID agents] who cared a lot…because they found everybody else and they started adding it all up,” she said. “It was just insane, because none of us even expected the extent of what he did.”
Leonard told Oxygen.com that investigators tracked down new evidence and victims and that information gathered during the investigation allowed them to go back and conduct a new assessment of the incident in 2017.
“The bravery of the victims coming forward, along with the work of CID investigators, prosecution team members, and the chain of command, led to Hughes’ prosecution and conviction for multiple sex-related and other offenses, and his sentence of nearly 14 years of confinement,” he said.
Investigators determined that Hughes had been attacking women for more than a decade, involving at least five different women.
Hughes later pleaded guilty to two counts of rape, two counts of sexual assault consummated by battery, one count of sexual abuse of a child, one count of assault consummated by battery on a child, one count of indecent language and one count of adultery as part of a plea agreement that focused on the most recent incidents.
He was sentenced to 13 years behind bars and given a dishonorable discharge, the outlet reports.
“Our hearts go out to the victims, and we are thankful there was enough evidence to prosecute Hughes, convict him of serious offenses, and sentence him to a lengthy period of confinement,” Leonard said.
While Hughes will now serve jail time, Ramirez has criticized the Army’s lack of prosecution in her case, saying it could have prevented the attacks on other victims.
“This is somebody who was supposed to protect my husband—our leadership,” she said. “And in all honesty, we do believe there are other victims.”
The military’s handling of sexual assault claims has recently come under fire—with some on Capitol Hill pushing for commanders to be stripped of their authority over sexual assault cases in favor of allowing civilian prosecutors to handle the cases, according to Army Times.
Ret. Col. Don Christensen, a former chief prosecutor for the Air Force and current president of Protect Our Defenders, has also spoken out about what he believes is a continuing problem within the military.
“Despite the persistent myth that suspected military sex offenders are prosecuted at a high rate, the reality is the chain of command rarely ever sends a suspect to court,” he said, according to the outlet. “Right now, I’d say the military is uniquely bad at evaluating the strength of an allegation. In the vast majority of cases, leadership decides to do nothing.”
However, Leonard referred Oxygen.com to an October 2020 report from The Defensive Advisory Committee on the Investigation, Prosecution and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces which found that there was “not a systemic problem with the initial disposition authority’s decision either to prefer a penetrative sexual offense charge or to take no action against the subject for that offense.
Authorities found that those decisions were considered reasonable at least 94% of the time.
“The Army continues to make every effort to achieve its goal of a culture of trust dignity and respect that results in health command climates and cohesive teams; and a culture in which sexual offenses are rare,” Leonard said in his statement.
Hughes is expected to serve out his sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
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