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Soldier who had served as sexual assault response representative sentenced for rape

By SILAS ALLEN | The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City | Published: May 10, 2017

FORT SILL, Okla. (Tribune News Service) — A soldier pleaded guilty Tuesday to raping a young girl several times over the course of a year and a half during which he served as his unit's sexual assault response representative.

Staff Sgt. Casey R. West pleaded guilty to 13 specifications of rape and sexual assault against a child. As a part of a plea agreement, he will serve 15 years in prison, be reduced to the lowest rank and be dishonorably discharged.

During a court-martial Tuesday, West acknowledged that he had used his authority to coerce the girl into sex. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, such coercion constitutes rape.

West testified that he had asked the girl for oral sex and other sexual favors on many occasions beginning in September 2014, while West was stationed at Fort Hood and the girl was 12 years old. The rapes continued until last June, while he was stationed at Fort Sill.

Last year, West served as the U.S. Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program's representative to the 30th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. In that capacity, West's duties included giving lectures to other soldiers about sexual assault and sexual harassment and working with the post's sexual assault response coordinator to help victims of reported sexual assaults.

In a Fort Sill news release published last year, West discussed the importance of sexual assault victims reporting the crimes.

"The more people who speak out about it, the more it gets out in the Army that it's OK to speak out and say 'Hey, this is what happened to me,' and they can hold accountable the individuals who did it," he said.

During Tuesday's court-martial, a visibly emotional West gave an unsworn statement in which he recounted being sexually abused as a boy. Blinking away tears, his lower lip trembling, West said he was sexually abused when he was in third or fourth grade. The abuse continued until he was 15, he said.

But prosecutor Capt. Chrissy Schwennsen called the rapes "the ultimate betrayal of trust," and urged the court to consider a 20-year sentence. Unlike civilian courts, military judges still render sentences in courts-martial in which a defendant has entered into a plea agreement. Judges don't know the details of plea agreements at the time of sentencing, and defendants are given the lesser of the two punishments.

Schwennsen said the assaults were especially egregious because West served as the face of sexual assault prevention for his unit. That West had experienced similar abuse as a boy meant that he knew firsthand the emotional impact the assaults would have on his victim, Schwennsen said.

"Staff Sgt. West knew," she said. "He knew what he was doing was wrong."

The court sentenced West to 56 years in prison, a reduction to the lowest rank and a dishonorable discharge. The shorter sentence in West's plea agreement supersedes the judge's sentence, meaning West will serve 15 years in prison.

©2017 The Oklahoman
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