Chaplain sentenced after harassing mistress
CAMP ZAMA, Japan — A married Army chaplain who was involved in an affair with an Arizona woman pleaded guilty Thursday to adultery, unbecoming conduct and four counts of cyberstalking at his court-martial.
Capt. Mike Myers was sentenced to six months in prison after entering his plea in the courtroom of this Army post near Tokyo.
The former chaplain for the 441st Military Intelligence Battalion, 500th Military Intelligence Brigade also will be dismissed from the Army and receive a reprimand stemming from his affair with Joanne Ruffner, a 34-year-old Arizona woman.
Navy Capt. Dennis Bengtson, the military judge, did not specify forfeiture of pay and allowances in his ruling. Prosecutors said a determination would be made on possible penalties in the near future.
A fifth Internet stalking charge was dropped because a witness could not travel to Japan for Thursday’s trial.
Myers, 45, sobbed uncontrollably and dropped his head on the defense table as the sentence was read. He’s expected to serve five months at the Yokosuka Naval Base detention center. The judge granted a 30-day credit for time served during his restriction to post last November following Article 15 nonjudicial punishment.
Capt. Lynne Williams, lead counsel for Myers, asked the judge to “temper justice with mercy.”
The 16-year Army veteran faced a maximum penalty of 22 years in prison.
“I wish he’d gotten more, but it’s closure,” said Ruffner, of Huachuca City, Ariz., after the court-martial. “I don’t have any regrets following through with it and going through the trial.”
Capt. William Carpenter, the lead prosecutor, would not discuss the sentence, details within a pretrial agreement or why the government pursued a deal. In his closing statement, he asked the judge for a three-year sentence, dismissal from the Army, and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
“Capt. Myers is not a victim. And if he is, he’s a victim of his own misdeeds,” Carpenter told the court.
According to testimony, Ruffner and Myers had gone so far as to make wedding plans until she discovered he actually was a married chaplain with two teenage children. The two met on a hiking trip in May 2004 when Myers was stationed in Arizona at Fort Huachuca.
Their platonic relationship, mostly carried out in e-mails and online chats, turned serious in June 2006 after he was assigned to Camp Zama and then deployed to Iraq soon after, according to testimony.
Myers frequently broke down as he spoke about the affair, which included sexual encounters during a three-night stay in a Kansas City, Mo., hotel room while he was on leave from Iraq in August 2006.
“After that, I felt so guilty and I still do since I never had an affair before,” Myers told the court.
He said he didn’t tell Ruffner he was married or was a chaplain.
After he returned to Japan last September and she verified his true identity, Myers sent an Oct. 26 e-mail to Ruffner under the alias “David Chalmers,” stating she would see compromising photos of herself on the Internet, he testified.
A short time later, Ruffner said she discovered several photos and profiles containing her information posted on adult-oriented Web sites. Sexually explicit photos of her also were sent to colleagues at the Realtor association she works for in Arizona.
Ruffner said she searched headers and traced IP addresses back to Japan.
“I did this with the intent,” Myers said, “to harass and cause her emotional distress by embarrassing her.
“… I was angry and I was hurt she had contacted my chain of command and threatened to call my children and tell them,” he explained. “I had already told my wife what happened. We worked things out and our relationship is really good again.”
Under cross-examination, Ruffner denied threatening to tell his family.
“I had no way of contacting them, and I wouldn’t,” she said.
Ruffner said she feared for her safety and felt “horrified” when her pictures wound up in e-mails sent to co-workers.
“Turning over those photos [to investigators] was difficult, but I don’t have any regrets,” she said.
In an unsworn statement before sentencing, Myers wept as he made an apology to God, the court, his wife and children, the chaplain corps and Ruffner.
“I realize I hurt a lot of people. As much as I’d like to, I can’t undo the harm or the hurt,” he said.
Lt. Col. John Haynicz, the 441st Military Intelligence Battalion commander, said the case made it difficult to get his soldiers to accept chaplain-sponsored events again.
“There’s a stigma and embarrassment that goes along with the unit,” he testified. “Chaplains are seen as the moral compass for the unit. It’s taken some time to overcome this.”