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RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The court-martial for the first airman charged in the 2005 beating death of Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson is scheduled for May 19.

On Thursday, Airman Nicholas A. Sims of Ramstein Air Base’s 86th Maintenance Squadron, was arraigned on charges of involuntary manslaughter, failure to obey an order and wrongful distribution of marijuana and Ecstasy. If convicted, Sims could be sentenced to a maximum of 42 years behind bars.

Johnson, a soldier in Kaiserslautern’s 66th Transportation Company, was found dead in his barracks room July 4, 2005. He was beaten — allegedly by nine current or former servicemembers including Sims — for six minutes on the evening of July 3, 2005, during an initiation ceremony into the Gangster Disciples, according to previous testimony.

Sims has been in pretrial confinement since Dec. 13. He appeared in court Thursday without the shackles he wore at his December Article 32 hearing.

At his arraignment, Sims deferred on entering a plea on his charges. He also deferred on deciding if his trial will be determined by a jury or by a judge alone.

Last summer, two soldiers were convicted for their roles in Johnson’s death, while a third was acquitted on the charges in October.

A second airman — Air Force Staff Sgt. Jerome Jones — has an Article 32 hearing scheduled for June 18. However, Jones, currently assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas, may be granted immunity in the Sims case, according to Judge (Col.) Gordon Hammock.

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