Army colonel sentenced to dismissal after conviction for attempted sexual assault
Stars and Stripes January 8, 2023
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — An officer was sentenced Sunday to dismissal from the Army but no time in prison after being found guilty of attempting to sexually assault a teenage family member while visiting Disneyland Paris three years ago.
Lt. Col. Andrew J. Dial had faced three charges related to sexual assault, all of which he pleaded not guilty to during a nearly weeklong court-martial on Kleber Kaserne in Kaiserslautern.
A jury of eight high-ranking officers found Dial not guilty of indecent conduct and three counts of abusive sexual contact, while convicting him Saturday on the attempted sexual assault charge.
A dismissal, pending any reviews, is the mandatory minimum punishment for attempted sexual assault.
The prosecution had called for up to a five-year prison sentence. It was denied by Army Judge Col. Charles Pritchard, whom Dial elected to determine his punishment instead of the jury.
Pritchard described the verdicts as “inconsistent” after the jury announced them Saturday.
He questioned how there could be evidence to support a guilty verdict of attempted sexual assault if the accused also had been found not guilty of touching the family member’s breasts and genital area without consent.
Pritchard considered a motion of his own that would have rendered a not guilty verdict, but upon deliberation allowed sentencing to continue.
The sentence comes a year after the trial was originally scheduled to begin. It was delayed when Pritchard ruled a unanimous jury verdict would be required to convict Dial.
Pritchard’s ruling was later rejected by the Army’s top appeals court.
A split verdict has long been sufficient in military courts but was effectively ruled unconstitutional in civilian criminal courts in a 2020 Supreme Court case.
It wasn’t specified Saturday whether the jury’s verdict was split or unanimous.
The incident occurred in December 2019, when Dial and various family members were visiting the theme park and nearby lodging resort, prosecutors said.
Dial testified that he bought the underage family member several alcoholic drinks at the resort’s bar, which caused her to become intoxicated. He allowed his daughters, then aged 14 and 18, to get intoxicated at the same time, he said.
When explaining why he gave the teenagers alcohol, Dial said he considered it “an opportunity for a bonding experience, the same as we do in the military,” referencing events like “right-arm nights,” when bosses and their subordinates drink together to promote camaraderie.
After the girls went to sleep that night, Dial entered the bedroom shared by his youngest daughter and the family member seven times over several hours, “to make sure they were OK,” he said.
But the family member testified that during the successive visits, Dial touched her breasts and genital area and penetrated her with his finger at least once.
“I was confused and terrified,” the family member told the court, adding that she was awake every time Dial entered the room, despite pretending to be asleep out of fear.
She eventually woke up Dial’s youngest daughter to explain what had happened, she said.
Dial’s daughter testified to seeing her father enter the room and lift the blankets covering the family member after their discussion.
“There was a light coming from under the cover,” Dial’s daughter said, adding that she believed it was caused by her father’s mobile phone but couldn’t see what was happening underneath the blanket. “I then asked: ‘Dad, what are you doing?’ ”
Dial’s daughter later told her mother — who is an Army officer and now Dial’s ex-wife — what she experienced. The mother reported the allegations to the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division.
Prosecutors accused Dial of getting the family member drunk on purpose to take advantage of her. The defense countered that the family member invented the story in an attempt to break up Dial’s marriage.
“This is a question about whether or not a crime was committed, an evil touching was committed, out of the blue, without any precedent for no known reason in a way that would be discovered in so many ways,” defense lawyer Patrick McClain said in his closing arguments, in which he also extolled Dial’s “sober, hardworking” character and decades of military service.
The family member and Dial’s youngest daughter each broke down in tears while reading statements during the sentencing portion of the trial, explaining how the incident continues to affect them.
Also during the sentencing phase, Dial said dismissal from the military and any prison time would have a profound, negative impact on his family’s life.
Dial graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2001 and went on to become an OH-58D Kiowa reconnaissance helicopter pilot, completing combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the time of the incident, he was assigned to NATO Allied Joint Force Command in Brunssum, Netherlands.
Pritchard ruled in January 2022 that a unanimous guilty verdict would be required to convict Dial, as a split verdict would violate his constitutional rights. That was after Dial’s defense team asserted that Congress has consistently narrowed the gap between the military and civilian legal systems, bringing the former more in line with the latter.
However, in June, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals said it was not persuaded by Pritchard’s argument.
“Rather, we adhere to the well-established view that ‘the military is a specialized society separate from civilian society’ which has, by necessity, developed laws and traditions of its own during its long history,” the court said.