Beating witness pleads guilty for false statement
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — A key witness in the beating death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson will be entered into the witness protection program.
Pfc. Latisha Ellis — who testified earlier Tuesday at an Article 32 hearing for two soldiers charged in Johnson’s death — pleaded guilty at her own summary court-martial in the afternoon to giving false official statements.
She agreed to plead guilty to the charge after agreeing to testify against those accused of being involved in the July 3, 2005, gang initiation beating into the Gangster Disciples. She was sentenced to reduction to the lowest pay grade and hard labor without confinement for 30 days.
Before striking a deal with the government, she faced more serious charges, including murder. With her pretrial agreement in hand, she agrees to be a key witness against other soldiers and airmen suspected of taking part in the fatal beating. In turn, she receives testimonial immunity and will be entered in the witness protection program at the end of the investigation and subsequent trials.
Her court-martial came soon after delivering revealing testimony in the Article 32 hearing for Pvt. Terence A. Norman and Sgt. Rodney H. Howell, both charged with involuntary manslaughter in addition to other criminal charges.
Ellis, a 22-year-old single mother, admitted that she gave the false statement verbally and in writing to an Army Criminal Investigation Command special agent on Aug. 19, 2005, at Fort Riley, Kans.
When asked during a 4- to 5-hour interview how Johnson was killed, Ellis said, “I don’t know. It didn’t say in the newspaper.”
But Ellis did know.
She witnessed the beating at a pavilion area near the city of Hohenecken, Germany, but said she did not throw any punches.
Since Johnson’s death, Ellis said she languished knowing what she knew. She said in an unsworn statement that she had panic attacks, insomnia and “bad dreams.”
She also received threats on her life. She said she didn’t come forward because “somebody could come after me.”