Drug crimes may cost 'Rathaus Gang' figure his military career
June 9, 2006
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — In a final statement to Judge (Col.) Denise Lind, Pfc. Ryan Stewart asked to remain in the Army so he could help counsel soldiers to stay off drugs and not make the mistakes he made.
Instead, Lind apparently decided to make her own statement: Drug users and distributors don’t stay in at all.
In a judge-only proceeding after a plea agreement, Lind sentenced Stewart, 4th Regiment, 27th Field Artillery, to five months’ confinement, reduction in rank to E-1, or private, and a bad-conduct discharge.
Stewart, a peripheral figure in what has become known as “The Rathaus Gang” — a group of 16 1st Armored Division soldiers and Germans who created a mini-crime wave here last summer — Stewart pleaded guilty to:
smoking marijuana three times with other soldiers, including Rathaus Gang leaders Samuel Bell, Zachary Watson and Brett Brown, all of whom are in prison;snorting cocaine with another soldier in the parking lot of a Baumholder poolroom after a night of heavy drinking;wrongful distribution of psilocybin by twice connecting friends to Watson, who sold them the hallucinogenic mushroom;attempted distribution in a situation where he took two soldiers to buy psilocybin, but Watson had none to sell;one count of failure to report after he slept past an early-morning formation; anddisobeying a noncommissioned officer who ordered him not to leave H.D. Smith Barracks because he was facing charges. (Instead, he went shopping with a fellow soldier and was involved in a traffic accident.)Lind dismissed one count of failing to report for duty after confusion about the dates and circumstances, and Stewart was allowed to plead not guilty to a charge of possession of psilocybin under the plea agreement.
In a plea agreement, a defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence than he or she might have received if found guilty in a trial. Stewart could have received a maximum sentence of 37 years, two months, forfeiture of pay and allowances, reduction in rank to E-1 and a dishonorable discharge, said Capt. Tyson McDonald, the prosecutor.
Stewart’s sentence must be approved by the convening authority, Maj. Gen. Fred Robinson, 1st AD commanding general, who agreed to nine months’ confinement. Robinson cannot increase the judge’s sentence.
During much of the testimony Thursday at Baumholder’s courthouse, Stewart was portrayed as precisely the sort of young man the Army needs. Stewart, whose parents are, respectively, a computer engineer who works for the FBI and the National Security Agency and an assistant school guidance counselor, grew up in New York a devout Roman Catholic; he also was recognized for his volunteer work.
In telephone testimony from Fairport, N.Y., Stewart’s mother, Christine Ciminelli, called her son a “do-it-all kid,” a role model for other kids, asking Lind to allow Stewart to finish his enlistment.
But in asking Lind for a 13-month sentence and a bad-conduct discharge, McDonald called Stewart “a threat to the Army,” who spread drugs among his fellow soldiers, some of whom had the crucial job of repairing heavy tracked vehicles.
“While others were preparing to go to Iraq,” McDonald said, “he was snorting cocaine and distributing drugs.”