Vandenberg SFB commander sued for denying retired veteran access over molestation conviction

(Tribune News Service) — A retired Air Force veteran in Santa Barbara County has filed a lawsuit against Vandenberg Space Force Base, accusing its commander of denying him access to the installation last year over a 30-year-old child molestation conviction, according to federal court documents.

In a lawsuit filed May 12 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, 75-year-old plaintiff Joseph Simonson accused Col. Robert A. Long, commanding officer of Vandenberg SFB, for denying access over the 1992 conviction.

Additionally, Simonson said Long denied access to “constitutionally” protected retirement benefits by preventing physical access to the base and without providing notice, according to the filing.

Simonson seeks a judgment giving him access to the base, attorneys’ fees and “other relief the court deems just and proper,” the lawsuit states.

Defendants in the lawsuit include Long, who is the current commanding officer of Space Launch Delta 30, which controls the base, and at least 10 unidentified John Does.

A spokeswoman for Space Launch Delta 30 did not comment on the lawsuit and referred to Vandenberg personnel at the main gate, who stated that expired retiree cards are usually the only reason why those veterans are denied access. An individual’s ban is base-specific, meaning that the retiree could access another installation, according to base personnel.

The complaint stems from an incident at the base in October 2021, when Vandenberg personnel informed Simonson that he was no longer permitted to enter the base for any purpose, even for medical treatment for a recent diabetes diagnosis, according to court records.

Documents show Simonson attempted to enter the base for a medical appointment but was denied by Vandenberg security forces personnel, who told him that he was not allowed on base due to his “presence on California’s sex offender registry” for the conviction he received four years after retiring from the military.

Simonson said that he is a Vietnam War-era Air Force officer who retired at the rank of major and that his conviction had nothing to do with his military service.

In addition, Simonson said he had base access for nearly 30 years without incident after his conviction and even worked there as a defense contractor from 2005 until he retired in 2014, while holding a “secret” security clearance during that time, court records show.

Records also show that since retiring, Simonson had relied on access to Vandenberg Space Force Base, where he routinely purchased gasoline, clothing, groceries and obtained prescription drugs.

“Because many of these benefits are available only on military bases, retired service members must have physical access to those bases in order to obtain and exercise these benefits,” according to Janice Bellucci, his attorney. “This is particularly true of medical and dental care, for which ‘direct care’ is provided only at on-base military treatment facilities.”

“As for many years, [Simonson’s] access to Vandenberg SFB also became [his] most meaningful social outlet in retirement,” according to Bellucci.

Defendants have 60 days to respond to the lawsuit, according to records.



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Go get ’em Janice!

I think they pissed off the wrong veteran (i.e. Janice!!) 👍🏻

Wow. This is BIG, in that it shows, once again, how the registry IS, in fact, punishment. The timing is just right too, to use as yet another shining example to SCOTUS, for the up-coming 2023 encounter. Thank you Janice and Chance. And good luck on this most important case!!

I was denied access at Nellis AFB and was told I was only allowed to go on for Medical reasons. I am a 20 year retired Navy veteran. I hope that this will be able to go all the way up and have them discontinue this abuse of my rights. Thank you Janice for doing this and I hope that this makes waves throughout the military community.

After graduating high school, I learned of classmates who were killed, maimed, and injured in Afghanistan and Iraq. It was always my intent to faithfully ‘serve’ this country, right up to when I was arrested (and even had unrealistic hopes of serving thereafter). Many of my extended family members faithfully serve/served.

But after thinking about it more, especially with all the social unrests going on in this country, incompetent leadership in both parties, inflation, high gas prices, unemployment, outrageous cost of living, unattainable housing, unemployment, falling cryptocurrency and stock market prices, a “Federal Reserve” intent in crashing the markets, and obviously tampered inflation and unemployment statistics (in addition to a student loan crisis that continues to build year-after-year), why would anyone want to serve this Crap Country?

How did our “government” help my former classmates killed, maimed, and injured in Afghanistan and Iraq? And for the ones who survived, how many of them suffer from PTSD, only to be left to deal with the consequences of irrational military action, under the false auspices of “weapons of mass destruction,” by themselves?

Eventually, I–along with many of you–did serve, but we did so by being on the “sex offender” registry, labeled as a “Registered Sex Offender,” perhaps for many more decades and/or life, in contributing to America’s–“The Land of The Free’s”–jail and prison population (which trumps China’s and Russia’s). We are tools, used to legitimize the Prison Industrial System, keeping jobs for police, law enforcement, and prison guards, as well as their unions, so that they can feed themselves, and their families, and so that they can buy themselves the necessities and luxuries of life. We are pawns, used by powerful politicians, so that they can get elected/reelected, for the passage of sex offender legislation that continuously change, mostly for the worst, but sometimes for the ostensible “better,” often for a more complex and discombobulated set of sex offender laws.

Currently, we are all part of the one million people required to register as “registered sex offenders.”

And seeing how it made no difference for someone who served, even for a Major, who served 20 years active duty for the U.S. Air Force, then several decades more as a defense contractor, who kept a security clearance even after his conviction, only recently to have his benefits shut off by our same “government” that “cares,” loyalty to the United States of America means ZERO.

If this country won’t stand up for a 20 year veteran’s constitutional rights, what chance do regular American citizens have?

You’d think “our government” would stand up for all of our Constitutional rights, but that certainly is not the case.

America, in my opinion, is a big scam.

This is big stuff this suit. UCMJ aside, our soldiers need this one. One truth about war is soldiers inevitably become expendable! Naturally, this holds true for culture wars as well.

Well, I have to actually agree with the military. We are living in a different world. Who knows if this isn’t a new government requirement? Not all bases are created equally. What if their top secret planes? Ammunition? Guns? Would we allow a convicted ex police officer back into the police department? We have to set guidelines somewhere. Now, this might be a great guy and serving his country is respectful, but how do we know he is rehabilitated? We have VA Hospitals located off secure military bases? Long Beach VA? I have a great deal of respect for those who served, but we do have to respect the military as well and respect the base commander for insuring those who visit pose no harm to those presently serving! So, here is my question? How do we determine if an individual currently registering poses no threat to a secure military bases? 10 years crime free? Is this individual a repeat offender? Has he been convicted of other crimes? Did he fulfill the requirements of his parole or probation? Let’s be serious. I would like to hear some intelligent concise answers?

I am not a veteran (missed VN by 6 months) but was refused entrance to Luke AFB when they ran my DL. Currently, and at the time, I pass a background check and was working as a contractor for (large) company when this happened. Was a bit embarrassing when it happened; and I needed to tell my employer they needed to send someone else to the AFB for the job.

So even if you can get hired, having a crime that is very old, the Registry will get you or the government scan of license will. I’ve even been in county and state prison systems to work on jobs and they either simply _hold_ your license or they just look at it for ID.