Airman details involvement in gang beating
Stars and Stripes May 23, 2008
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — A military judge on Thursday accepted the guilty plea of Airman Nicholas Sims, who admitted to charges of involuntary manslaughter, disobeying an order and distributing marijuana and Ecstasy.
Sims is the first airman to face legal punishment for his role in the 2005 gang-beating death of Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson.
The decision came a day after Sims pleaded guilty to the charges as part of a pre-trial agreement that limits his potential sentence. Neither the full details of Sims’ pre-trial agreement nor his sentence were announced as of press time Thursday.
The involuntary manslaughter charge stems from Johnson’s death. Johnson was beaten for six minutes by at least six members of the Gangster Disciples on the evening of July 3, 2005. Johnson was found dead in his Kaiserslautern barracks the next day.
With the pre-trial agreement, Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Bishop, commander of the 3rd Air Force and the convening authority in the case, agreed to a deal with the man prosecutors called the No. 2 ranking member of the gang in the Kaiserslautern area. The gang numbered around 30 to 40 members, and Sims participated in at least 15 gang-beating initiations, including Johnson’s, according to testimony.
The gang provoked several fights at area bars and clubs during Sims’ involvement, beginning in 2002.
Sims faced a maximum punishment of 42 years in confinement, a dishonorable discharge, a fine and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
During roughly four hours of questioning Wednesday from Judge (Col.) Gordon Hammock, Sims detailed his gang involvement and participation in Johnson’s initiation.
Hammock repeatedly sought to determine why things got so out of hand on July 3, 2005. Johnson’s initiation was the most violent of the roughly 15 to 20 "jump-ins" in which Sims said he had been involved in the Kaiserslautern area.
"I have no idea as to why it escalated to the point that it did," Sims said. "It just got out of control."
After the first punch from local Gangster Disciple "governor" and former Ramstein airman Rico Williams, Johnson fell to the ground unconscious, Sims said Johnson fell at least three times during the ensuing beating and was kicked by Williams while he was on the ground, Sims said.
Sims, who trained as a boxer in his youth in Queens, N.Y., was asked several questions by Hammock about the ferocity of Johnson’s beating. At one point Wednesday, the bailiff fetched a box of Kleenex for Sims.
"You’re a strong guy," Hammock said. "If you were on the receiving end of that (beating) how do you think you would have fared?"
Sims’ reply underscored the severity of what the 5-foot-3 Johnson went through.
"I don’t see how anybody could have made it out of that," Sims said.