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Drill Sergeant Guilty of Sexual Assault; Could Face 25 Years in Prison

By    |   Thursday, 25 September 2014 06:52 AM

A drill sergeant was found guilty this week in military court of sexually assaulting and harassing eight female soldiers.

Army Staff Sgt. Angel M. Sanchez, 30, was accused of using his supervisory position with the 14th Military Police Brigade at Fort Leonard Wood to isolate his victims and win their trust with favors, including cake and ice cream, The Associated Press reported. One woman testified that failing to cooperate would have jeopardized her military status.

The women said the incidents took place in the bathroom of the female barracks as well as in an office shared by drill sergeants.

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Sanchez, a married father of two, was found guilty of three criminal charges including four counts of sexual assault and six counts of abusive sexual contact, as well as several lesser charges of maltreatment.

The Philadelphia native didn't testify during the three-day court-martial but apologized to his victims, many of whom were in the courtroom, after the verdict.

"I hope someday you'll be able to forgive me," he said. "I let a lot of people down."

Military prosecutors recommended a 25-year sentence; Sanchez's lawyers asked for an eight-year sentence.

At the outset of the military trial, Sanchez pleaded guilty to three charges of disobeying orders by having sexual contact with three female trainees. Several additional accusations against Sanchez were dismissed after a pretrial hearing in the spring.

Sanchez was found not guilty of nine counts, including an allegation of rape brought by a medic in Afghanistan while he was stationed there in 2011 and 2012.

Sanchez also served one tour in Iraq, where he earned a Bronze Star and two other combat medals before arriving at the Missouri post in August 2013.

Several of his victims testified about how the assaults left them filled with fear, self-doubt, and a lingering mistrust of the institution they pledged to faithfully serve.

"I no longer wanted to be part of the Army," one female soldier said. "I didn't trust any of my superiors, or even my male peers."

Sanchez's attorney Ernesto Gapasin questioned the accusers' credibility, noting that some of the initial accusers were either facing disciplinary action of their own or forced separation from the military at the time complaints against Sanchez were raised.

"The government wants to focus on this overwhelming control Sgt. Sanchez had over his accusers," Gapasin said before the verdict was announced. "What this case is really about is consent and conjecture."

The charges against Sanchez were filed in May, days before a Pentagon study on sex assault in the military found that more than 5,000 reports of sexual abuse had been filed in the previous fiscal year, a 50 percent increase from the previous 12 months.

Pressure from Congress led to several reforms in how the military justice system handles sex assault complaints. Accusers are now assigned lawyers to guide them through the legal process, and the statute of limitations has been eliminated. Anyone convicted of a sexual assault in the military faces a required minimum sentence of a dishonorable discharge.

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A drill sergeant was found guilty this week in military court of sexually assaulting and harassing eight female soldiers.
drill, sergeant, guilty, sexual assault
Thursday, 25 September 2014 06:52 AM
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