Army Sex Offenders Elude Jail

Article excerpt

The Army gave hundreds of soldiers charged with rape, child molestation and other serious sex offenses a leniency unheard of in civilian courts, a Dayton Daily News examination found.

For example, at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., two years ago, Spc. Eric D. Galloway went to a special court-martial, the Army's version of a misdemeanor court, after he was charged with pulling up the shirt of one of his recruits late one night and touching her breasts with his mouth and hands.

Galloway got a bad conduct discharge from the Army and no prison time. In the three other cases at Fort Leonard Wood, soldiers were convicted of having sex with underage girls, two of them 14 and the other 15. In each of the cases, the soldiers were discharged but spent no time in jail. The armed forces' maximum punishment for the crime last year was increased from 15 to 20 years in prison. A Dayton Daily News analysis of a once-secret Army computer database found that since 1990 the Army prosecuted 1,392 soldiers for rape and oth er sexual assaults. Of the 870 convicted, 160 - one in five - got 90 days or less. Ninety-three got no jail time at all. All the crimes studied by the newspaper are felonies in civilian courts, but the Army sent one in every eight defendants to a special court-martial. The maximum punishment there is six months. Fort Leonard Wood is one of the installations that the Army is investigating as part of what is fast becoming its worst sex scandal. The Army disclosed last fall that drill instructors at Fort Leonard Wood and Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., were involved in sexual harassment and assault of female recruits. The Army refused to discuss the newspaper's findings. The Dayton Daily News examined hundreds of pages of criminal files and nearly 100,000 computer records from the Army's data base of courts-martial. The examination found that, even as Tailhook and other sex scandals put pressure on the armed services to get tougher on offenders, the Army handed out leniency to a growing percentage of its soldiers accused of sexual assault. From 1991 to 1994, 10 percent of the cases went to special courts-martial, and 13 percent of the guilty got 90 days or less. In 1995-96, 16 percent went to misdemeanor court, and 21 percent got 90 days or less. Maintain Discipline The criminal justice system that the Army uses to convict soldiers and maintain discipline is far different from its civilian counterpart. …