Army chaplain gets five years for sex assaults
BAMBERG, Germany — A Bamberg Army chaplain received a five-year prison sentence Tuesday for sodomizing three soldiers and committing several other offenses stemming from two encounters over a 13-month period.
Earlier in the day, Chaplain (Capt.) Gregory A. Arflack pleaded guilty to forcible sodomy, indecent acts, fraternization and conduct unbecoming an officer. The crimes touched the lives of six servicemembers, three of whom were sodomized and physically assaulted.
“To these [six] soldiers, I’m so sorry,” Arflack said as he choked back tears during the sentencing phase of the general court-martial. “You placed your trust in me, and I failed you.”
After hearing the evidence, Col. R. Peter Masterton, the military judge, settled on a 20-year prison sentence. But a pre-trial agreement between the defense and prosecution superseded his ruling, leaving Arflack with a five-year sentence.
According to Army regulations, Arflack, a Roman Catholic priest, will be eligible for parole in 20 months, said Maj. Jeffrey C. Hagler, a deputy staff judge advocate for the 1st Infantry Division. However, Hagler added that eligibility doesn’t necessarily mean Arflack will be released at that time.
In addition to the jail term, Arflack received a dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances. He will serve his sentence at the U.S. Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
“He took advantage of his position [as an officer and a chaplain] for his own selfish gain,” said Capt. Steve Janko, a prosecutor.
Three of the six servicemembers were Marines that Arflack met in June 2004 while serving as the rest-and-relaxation chaplain in Doha, Qatar. The Marines were in Qatar for a four-day break from Iraq.
Arflack, who went out on the town with the trio, was charged with fraternization for that encounter. Prosecutors said the 44-year-old priest bought the enlisted Marines drinks, made sexual comments about himself and them, and proposed sexual acts.
One of the Marines testified over the telephone during sentencing that the experience greatly affected him. An active Catholic since he was a boy, the Marine said his trust in the church and in military chaplains was shattered.
“What do you tell somebody when something like that happens?” he said.
The three Army soldiers, who range in age from 18 to 20, had a much different encounter.
On the night of July 29 this year, Arflack met two of the three soldiers for dinner at a Greek restaurant in Bamberg, where all are based. Arflack had counseled one of the two on a few occasions, and the charge, in turn, had introduced a buddy of his to the congenial chaplain. The chaplain bought them several alcoholic drinks and later drove them to a nightclub in town where they met the third soldier.
Again, Arflack bought rounds of drinks and before long the three were intoxicated.
The soldier being counseled by Arflack was later accosted in a public bathroom by the chaplain. The 19-year-old was kissed, bit and groped, and Arflack briefly performed oral sex on him. The teen managed to push the chaplain away and soon left the scene.
Later, Arflack drove the two other soldiers to his apartment. As they slumped on a couch and nearly passed out, he sodomized them, Arflack testified.
Today, the three are suffering mightily, they testified. One can’t sleep or concentrate, a second is drinking heavily and banging his head against walls, while a third has turned a lighter on himself, burning parts of an arm, substituting one pain for another. None of the three are themselves at work, a supervisor testified.
“I don’t understand how a person of the cloth could do that,” one of the victims said during sentencing.
Maj. Jeffrey Lippert, Arflack’s lead defense attorney, characterized his client as someone well thought of in the community, but also as an individual suffering from emotional and mental illness, including a bipolar disorder.
Lippert asked: “Why on God’s green earth would a chaplain do something so stupid, so dangerous?”