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Saturday, July 12, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Air Force Officer Resigns To Avoid Court-Martial

AP

WASHINGTON - An Air Force officer accused of having a relationship with an enlisted woman he later married is being allowed to resign rather than face a court-martial, the service said yesterday.

It was the second time in recent months that the Air Force has allowed an individual to leave rather face a court-martial on charges that put the service under scrutiny for its approach to relations between members of the enlisted ranks and the officer corps.

Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall made the decision on 2nd Lt. William Kite, security-police supervisor at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. He will receive a general discharge under honorable conditions, an Air Force statement said.

No explanation of the Kite decision was given in the brief statement.

Kite had faced the possibility of a court-martial for two counts of fraternizing with an enlisted person and denying his relationship with her. He is now married to the woman, who has left the Air Force.

Kite's attorney, Capt. Joseph Cazenavette, had appealed to Widnall earlier to dismiss the charges against his client, but she had declined.

Neither the attorney nor Kite was available for comment.

The Air Force has made headlines recently for its enforcement in certain cases of the policy that bars relationships between enlisted personnel and officers.

The Kite case received special attention following the moves by the Air Force to court-martial 1st Lt. Kelly Flinn, the service's first female B-52 pilot, on charges of adultery, lying and disobeying an order.

Flinn also was given a general discharge, averting her court-martial, in May.

The Army bars such relationships when the two are in the same chain of command, and Defense Secretary William Cohen has called for a review of how all the services deal with the issue of fraternization.

The announcement said that Kite's discharge will be effective no later than Oct. 1.

Kite's wife is due to deliver their first child in several months, and the move allows the couple to retain medical benefits until the baby is born.

A general discharge with honorable conditions is considered one step below an honorable discharge.

There is a third level of discharge, and that is under "other than honorable conditions," which is normally considered by the public to be a dishonorable discharge.

Because of the Kite's decision to request a resignation in lieu of court-martial, however, he will not be eligible for veteran's benefits, Air Force officials said.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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