Fort Cavazos commander drops sexual misconduct charge against colonel
Stars and Stripes September 15, 2023
AUSTIN, Texas — A former Fort Cavazos brigade commander will no longer face a sexual misconduct charge in a court-martial for allegations that he groped and kissed the wife of another officer, base officials said.
Col. Jon Meredith still faces two counts of conduct unbecoming of an officer and has a court-martial scheduled for Sept. 25 at Fort Cavazos, said Lt. Col. Tania Donovan, spokeswoman for III Corps, which is based at the Texas installation.
Lt. Gen. Sean Bernabe, commander of III Armored Corps and Fort Cavazos, made the decision Monday to withdraw two counts of the charge abusive sexual contact, which was filed against Meredith earlier this year, Donovan said.
“The decision was based on an assessment of multiple factors including a careful consideration of the current evidence, the interests of justice, input from the alleged victim, and preservation of good order and discipline,” she said.
Sherry Bunn, Meredith’s defense attorney, said she was surprised by Bernabe’s decision because she had participated in a hearing last week for the charges against Meredith.
“It appears the government reassessed its case after the motions hearing on Friday afternoon [Sept. 8] where several issues were litigated before the court,” Bunn said. “Unfortunately, lawmakers’ continued insistence that every alleged victim is truthful and every case should be prosecuted to the fullest leads to prosecutors and commanders forcing charges that are unsupported and contradicted by the evidence in the case.”
Meredith, 47, is accused of going to the home of the victim, who is the civilian wife of an Army officer, on July 23, 2022, while the woman’s daughter and another person were present, according to a charge sheet detailing the allegations against the colonel.
Meredith knew the woman’s husband was away at a field training exercise and “did wrongfully grope [the woman’s] inner thigh and crotch, kiss her repeatedly on the mouth, and tell her he wanted to ‘[expletive] her,’” according to the document.
All names apart from Meredith’s are redacted from the document.
At the time of the incident, Meredith was commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team in the 1st Cavalry Division. He was removed from command in October and arraigned in military court in May.
The court-martial for the lesser charge of conduct unbecoming of an officer is expected to last five days in the Fifth Judicial Circuit at Fort Cavazos. Meredith has entered a plea of not guilty, according to online court records.
“Now, we are left with the charge of conduct unbecoming of an officer,” Bunn said. “Given this originated with allegations of a sexual offense, you have to wonder why this case is still at a general court-martial. It appears as if the intention is to make an example out of Jon Meredith rather than making the objective, albeit tough, assessment of how the remaining charge of conduct unbecoming is best addressed.”
Before removing the charge, Bernabe consulted and coordinated with the Army’s new Office of Special Trial Counsel, Donovan said.
This included an assessment by a “civilian expert who is a seasoned prosecutor with decades of experience prosecuting sexual assault in the civilian criminal justice system,” she said.
Mandated by Congress, each service branch has begun establishing an Office of Special Trial Counsel to manage prosecution of most felony-level offenses within the military that do not impact unit discipline, such as murder, sexual assault and kidnapping.
The offices should be fully operational by the end of the year.