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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Although a key witness in the Sgt. Juwan Johnson beating death is so fearful of reprisals that she is going into the witness-protection program, none of the soldiers charged in the case are being held in pre-trial confinement.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the soldiers charged — Pvt. Terrance Norman, Sgt. Rodney Howell and Spc. Bobby Morrissette — have much freedom, said Maj. Al Hing, a spokesman for the Kaiserslautern-based 21st Theater Support Command. They are restricted, Hing said, but he would not go into any details.

Commanders have the option of restricting accused soldiers to their living quarters or limiting their privileges in what could be compared to “house arrest.” Unless a defendant is considered a danger to others or a flight risk, an accused soldier is not put in pre-trial confinement, Hing said.

Pfc. Latisha Ellis testified Tuesday that she attended a gang-initiation ceremony in which eight servicemembers beat Johnson at an outdoor pavilion near Hohenecken on July 3, 2005. Johnson later died from the injuries.

She said Norman, Howell and Morrissette were part of that group. She also testified that two airman and three other soldiers took part in the “jumping in” ceremony for a gang called the Gangster Disciples. To date, only Norman, Howell and Morrissette have been charged in the death.

Ellis, a key witness, will go into the witness-protection program as part of a plea deal that also gives her testimonial immunity. She said she has received two threats since the Johnson death. Hing said he would not comment on whether she is being protected by the Army.

On Wednesday, some people in the community said the case and the fact that a key witness requested to be put in the witness-protection program did not make them feel they are at risk.

Heidi White, whose husband is in the Air Force, said she feels safe.

“It doesn’t really affect me,” she said. “We’re kind of isolated. We don’t go out late at night or go downtown to the bars or anything like that.”

Ernest Ugwuegbulam — an American civilian who works for the Air Force and lives in Hohenecken — said he isn’t worried about his safety even though the beating took place not too far from his home. But his wife, Brilliance, feels differently.

“Of course, I’m scared,” she said. “I have my children walk outside there at night.”

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