Former Ramstein airman gets two years in gang-related beating death
January 25, 2009
A military jury in Arkansas sentenced Air Force Staff Sgt. Jerome Jones to two years of confinement for his role in the 2005 beating death of a Kaiserslautern, Germany-based soldier and his involvement in a local gang, an Air Force official said.
The five-member jury delivered its verdict and sentence Friday at Little Rock Air Force Base, where Jones is currently stationed. The punishment is the lightest a military jury has handed down in the gang-beating case that has implicated nearly a dozen current or past U.S. troops.
The jury found Jones, who was stationed at Ramstein Air Base when the fatal beating of Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson occurred, guilty of five of the six charges he faced. In addition to jail time, he was reduced to the lowest pay grade and given a dishonorable discharge, according to an e-mail from Air Force Tech. Sgt. Katherine Garcia, 19th Airlift Wing spokeswoman.
Jones was found guilty of aggravated assault, conspiracy, intimidating a potential witness, using marijuana and being a member of Gangster Disciples. He was found not guilty of hindering the apprehension of the gang’s leader, former Ramstein airman Rico Williams, by raising funds to help Williams hide.
Jones’ court-martial began about two weeks ago. Garcia relayed the jury’s findings via phone Friday.
Jones faced a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the gang-initiation beating of Johnson. However, the jury found Jones guilty of committing aggravated assault instead of the more serious charge, Garcia said. Following the verdict, the maximum amount of time Jones could have been sentenced to confinement was capped at 17½ years, according to Garcia’s e-mail.
Jones is one of 11 former or current U.S. servicemembers who were either present for or participated in a beating-in initiation ceremony for Johnson. Prior to Jones’ court-martial, two soldiers and one airman had been convicted and sentenced to confinement in the case, and one soldier was acquitted.
Johnson was beaten for six minutes during an initiation into the Gangster Disciples on July 3, 2005. He was found dead in his Kaiserslautern barracks room the next day. His cause of death was ruled as multiple blunt-force trauma.
In testimony at previous courts-martial in Germany, witnesses testified that Jones was a high-ranking member of the Kaiserslautern-area Gangster Disciples. The gang numbered around 30 to 40 members and provoked several fights at area bars and clubs earlier this decade, according to previous testimony.
Jones was found guilty of intimidating potential witnesses and gang members after Johnson’s death by saying “make sure that you put the word out that everybody better shut up, don’t be talking and anybody that talks can cancel Christmas.”