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Texas soldier admits to Gitmo sex harassment, denies rape

SAN ANTONIO — A soldier stationed in San Antonio admitted Thursday that he sexually harassed and had sex with three women he supervised in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but denied the most serious charge of raping one of them.

As his court-martial began at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Army 1st Sgt. Richard A. Smith, 45, pleaded guilty to several specifications in charges outlining misconduct with the three women — a sergeant, a corporal and a specialist — all junior soldiers under his command while they served as guards at the Gitmo prison.

Smith, who is from Orlando, Fla., and has been married since 2001, admitted rubbing the corporal's thigh and biting her neck, and having affairs with the sergeant and specialist — who is married to someone else — at separate times between 2012 and 2013.

He also admitted lying to investigators looking into the incidents.

With the guilty pleas alone, Smith faces up to 15 years in a military prison, a dishonorable discharge and a demotion from his E8 position to an E1 classification, along with a reduction in his $5,536-a-month pay, prosecutors told the judge, Army Maj. Bret Batdorff.

Smith pleaded not guilty to a charge that he had nonconsensual sex with the sergeant. While the woman acknowledged they dated, she claims the incident happened as she sought a way to end their relationship.

If convicted of rape, it could land Smith in prison for up to life.

U.S. Southern Command in Miami oversees the Guantanamo Bay prison that has held terror suspects since 2002. But Army South, which moved to the old Brooke Army Medical Center building at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston 10 years ago, supports the Miami command.

Army South, which Smith's unit is part of, acts as the convening authority for Army personnel at the prison.

The Army's prosecutors, Capt. Callie Woolam and Capt. Kristine Knodel, painted Smith as a predator who zoomed in on women half his age.

The victims were in their early to mid-20s when the incidents reportedly happened at or near the Gitmo prison, the prosecutors said.

“He has a strong affinity for younger, vulnerable women,” Woolam said in opening statements. “The accused is like a wolf who used the Army as a preying ground.”

Smith and his lawyers, Army Capt. Thomas Silberman and Capt. David Thompson, acknowledge he had inappropriate relationships with the women, but they downplayed details of what took place and largely attacked the credibility of the sergeant Smith dated.

“These relationships aren't so one-sided,” Silberman said in opening statements.

The sergeant testified that she began dating Smith before the two deployed to Guantanamo Bay. The two had sex while at Fort Bliss, and again while at Guantanamo Bay.

As she was about to return stateside because of seizures related to her medical condition, the sergeant said she met with Smith at a hotel on Jan. 24, 2013, on the island, where Smith forced himself on her sexually.

The sergeant, under cross-examination, acknowledged bringing an overnight bag to the hotel.

“Bringing a night bag doesn't mean I want to have sex,” the sergeant retorted.

She also said she didn't tell Smith “no” but did say she was “not in the mood” and sighed in irritation to signal she did not want to have sex with him.

But Silberman argued that the sergeant had medical issues and other matters that complicated her confusion about being in a relationship with Smith.

Silberman also said the sergeant — after the alleged rape — continued to write to him expressing that she loved him, and later sent him a teddy bear and a card.

The defense also said the sergeant waited six months to report the incident, and did so only because she was mad upon learning that Smith also had sex with the specialist.

In explaining his actions to the judge regarding the corporal, Smith said he rubbed the woman's thigh three times, but that he had no sexual intent.

The corporal said it happened multiple times — “nine, 15 to 20 times.” She said she believed Smith had sexual intent, and that she pulled away and would tell him to stop each time.
 

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