Ansbach GI gets 90 days for touching young child
WüRZBURG, Germany — An Ansbach soldier was convicted Friday of one count of indecent acts upon a child and sentenced to 90 days of confinement in a court-martial that began Wednesday.
Staff Sgt. Zosimo Rey V. Melendez, 29, Company A, 601st Aviation Support Battalion, also was sentenced to reduction in rank to private, a bad conduct discharge and forfeiture of all pay.
Melendez was charged with five counts of indecent acts upon a child, but was acquitted of four of the counts. The incidents for which he was convicted occurred between March and October 2003 in Ansbach. The four counts he was acquitted of had allegedly occurred between November 2000 to October 2003 both in the States and in Germany.
The conviction came from an incident in which Melendez touched a 5- or 6-year-old girl on three occasions while playing with the girl and other children in the basement of the on-post housing building where Melendez and the victim’s family lived, according to testimony from the victim, who is now 8.
Defense attorney David Court asked the victim and alleged victims — all of whom testified — how long they had worked with government counsel Capt. Evah Pottmeyer before the trial, later saying that some of the language they used in their accounts may have come from the adults to whom they talked to about it.
The government’s case rested entirely upon the testimony of a Criminal Investigation Command agent who investigated some of the alleged incidents in 2003 and the testimony of the victim and alleged victims.
The defense called witnesses who spoke to the character of Melendez as both a soldier and father of three.
Two of the witnesses testified that they still let Melendez play with their children. After Melendez had been convicted, the same two witnesses said they still would feel comfortable leaving their children alone with Melendez.
The panel of six, comprised of one officer and five enlisted soldiers, deliberated for about two hours before reaching its verdict.
On Friday, the courtroom was packed with family members and friends of Melendez — including his three young children — and families of the victim and alleged victims.
Those in the gallery remained silent when the verdict was read just moments after the military judge, Col. Patrick Reinert, warned that if they were not silent, he would clear the courtroom.
During sentencing, the victim’s mother said her daughter’s behavior changed drastically after the incidents took place.
“In the beginning, she was like a 2-year-old, throwing tantrums,” she said. “She would wake up in the night crying. I felt like I was at fault. I learned that no matter where you live, your children are not safe.”
In an unsworn statement, Melendez thanked his family and friends for their support and neither acknowledged nor denied his guilt, saying only that he was glad to see the victim was “jolly” again.