Germersheim DLA employee faces prison sentence in sexual-abuse case
By GEOFF ZIEZULEWICZ | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 9, 2006
WIESBADEN, Germany — A 40-year-old Defense Department civilian employee is facing up to five years in German prison for molesting two minor girls and is expected to be sentenced next week in a Wiesbaden courtroom.
James Shank, a Defense Logistics Agency employee who works at Germersheim Army Depot, faces 34 counts of sexual abuse against minors, according to officials at the 1st Armored Division’s Staff Judge Advocate Office.
Shank already has confessed to the crimes during his trial at the Landgericht Wiesbaden, a state-level German court, according to Beate Korz, an international law paralegal at the SJA. Each count is for a separate instance of sexual abuse, Korz wrote in an e-mail this week. The trial has been spread out over three weeks, with the final court date slated for Tuesday.
He will have an opportunity to address the court before sentencing Tuesday, Korz wrote.
The division’s SJA representatives have attended the trial because an American trial observer is allowed to attend as part of the status of forces agreement, said Maj. Patrick Vergona.
Per policy laid out in the SOFA, Shank’s attorney was partially paid for by U.S. Army Europe, said Vergona, the trial observer.
Shank’s defense asked the judges last week for a sentence of 3½ years, with the prosecution asking for five years, Korz said.
According to the German penal code, the judges can reduce a sentence if the accused confesses, Korz wrote.
But regardless of sentencing recommendations from the attorneys, she added, the judges will have the final say on how many years Shank serves.
“The judges can sentence him to more than five years if they wish,” Korz wrote in an e-mail. “Although it is the exception that the judge exceeds the amount requested by the prosecutor.”
The children were about 9 and 10 years old when the molestations began around 2000, their mother said.
In November, the abuse came to light.
“[The older victim] went to a friend and told him, and him and his dad took [the victim] to the police,” the mother said. It is Stars and Stripes policy not to identify victims in sexual abuse cases.
Shank will be subject to sexual offender registration whenever he returns to the States, Vergona said.
The mother and father of the victims said they felt like a five-year sentence was not a sufficient punishment.
The father of the victims said he had conflicting feelings about the whole situation.
“The uncertainty of it all, what will happen to him and what will happen to my [children],” he said last week. “I think they’re young and in time they’ll overcome this. Right now, I’m concerned about what’s going to happen to him.”