Major guilty of drunk and disorderly conduct, cleared of sexual assault, after officers party
By LEO SHANE III | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 27, 2012
WASHINGTON — An Army major who said he was forced to drink excessively during a hazing party was sentenced Wednesday to 30 days in confinement for drunk and disorderly conduct, but cleared of sexually assaulting a colleague.
Maj. Christopher Garbarino, a 36-year-old soldier with three Bronze Stars, will forfeit his pay for the next six months and receive a letter of reprimand, according to officials at Fort Carson, Colo. But he will be allowed to continue his military career.
Garbarino had been accused of rowdy and embarrassing behavior during the off-duty party in March, including allegations that he groped a female colleague and fought with other officers.
Garbarino’s attorneys argued that his battalion commander pressured him to binge drink, as part of a fraternity-style initiation designed to build camaraderie.
The party took place in March, with soldiers from Fort Carson’s 4th Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery Regiment. In pre-trial testimony to investigators, battalion commander Lt. Col. David Chiarenza acknowledged he had founded a “Straight Arrows Association” to socially welcome new officers and give the others a chance to interact in a relaxed atmosphere.
Officers in the battalion told court officials that attendance and consumption at parties was an unofficial requirement. A flyer sent around for the March event called for each company to supply at least two bottles of liquor and said the party would last “until liver failure.” Organizers used a log book to track attendance.
Garbarino’s attorney said he was pressured to drink “grog” — a mixture of vodka, rum, whiskey, Diet Coke and hot sauce — and was so drunk he blacked out near the end of the party. He has little memory of any of the events of the evening.
The 15-year soldier could have faced dismissal from the service and up to five years in prison for the sexual assault charges. The six-month salary forfeiture will cost him almost $28,000 in pre-tax pay.
No charges have been brought against the organizers of the party. A base spokeswoman would not say whether any investigation into Chiarenza or other senior leaders is underway.