Female soldier testifies about recruitment in Fort Hood prostitution ring case
By ESTHER ROBARDS-FORBES | Austin American-Statesman | Published: June 3, 2014
AUSTIN, Texas — Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen knew the female soldier, then a 20-year-old private second class, had been sexually assaulted while training at a different Army post. As a low-level coordinator in Fort Hood’s sexual assault and harassment program — and one of her commanders — it was McQueen’s job to prevent this type of thing from happening again.
Instead, the woman testified Tuesday, McQueen and another female soldier invited her to a home for drinks last year and tried to recruit her into a prostitution ring at Fort Hood, telling her that she could make “$400 to $500 a night.” When the other soldier left the room, the woman said, McQueen kissed and touched her until she pushed him away.
“I was getting really nervous, getting really angry, but knowing that I can’t fight a sergeant,” said the woman, testifying in a case that has focused national attention on the issue of military sexual assault.
An Article 32 hearing — the military court equivalent of a grand jury proceeding, in which evidence is presented to determine whether a case will go to trial — began Tuesday for McQueen. Prosecutors said McQueen ran a prostitution ring at Fort Hood for a month or two that took advantage of cash-strapped female soldiers and connected them with higher-ranking officers.
He faces charges of pandering, conspiracy, maltreatment of a subordinate, abusive sexual contact, adultery and detrimental conduct.
The charges against McQueen and another sergeant convicted last year in the Fort Hood case helped spur a push to revamp the military’s rules on prosecuting sexual assault cases. Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate considered — then blocked — a bill that would have taken the prosecution of sexual assault cases out of the military chain of command.
One Pentagon study showed that almost 90 percent of military sexual assaults aren’t reported. Another Pentagon report released last month showed that of the assaults that were reported last year, less than 10 percent went to trial.
The woman who testified Tuesday said she refused to join the prostitution ring and tried to forget that the incident had ever happened.
“I tried to block it out,” she said.
Another woman — a private first class who had tried to recruit that female soldier with McQueen — told the court that McQueen drew her into the prostitution ring after she told him that she was having financial difficulties. Her husband had left her and her 3-year-old son and had cleaned out their bank account. She was 20 when McQueen approached her in February 2013, she said.
McQueen told her there were other ways to make money and arranged to meet her at her on-base home that night, she said. He told her that he could connect her with higher-ranking officers who were willing to pay to have sex with her.
McQueen then asked her to “act out what (she) would do,” and he had sex with her, she said. He took a picture of her while she was undressed. The woman told the court that McQueen would show the picture to other service members to see if they were interested in paying her for sex.
The private told the court that she met with Master Sgt. Brad Grimes at a La Quinta Inn in Killeen in 2013. Grimes was found guilty in a December court-martial of conspiring to patronize a prostitute and solicitation to commit adultery. He was demoted to sergeant first class and received a letter of reprimand.
Three noncommissioned officers in McQueen’s battalion testified that he approached them and mentioned that he knew a woman who would have sex for money. Two of them said McQueen showed them pictures of the woman, sometimes in provocative poses.
“He said that he had a female that was willing to do anything I wanted for $75,” a master sergeant told the court. The man said he was concerned by the exchange and told a superior officer.
McQueen’s hearing is expected to continue Wednesday. The investigating officer in the case will recommend whether the case should proceed to a full court-martial.