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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — A U.S. soldier found guilty of using a government vehicle to get a late-night snack was demoted Friday in a special court-martial here, according to the U.S. 8th Army’s Public Affairs Office.

Spc. Derek A. Jones was demoted to the rank of private, E-2, and was sentenced by a jury to 26 days of hard labor and 26 days of on-base confinement. As such, Jones can go to his duty station, place of worship and mess hall alone but must arrange for an escort to go anywhere else, according to a public affairs spokesman.

Jones, 22, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 516th Personnel Services Battalion, had faced up to a year of confinement and a bad-conduct discharge.

On Thursday, the jury of four soldiers and five officers found him guilty of wrongful appropriation of government property; breaking off-base curfew; driving a privately owned car on base without the owner’s permission and driving that car without the proper license.

The charge involving the government vehicle stemmed from a decision Jones made on July 3 to get in a 1994 GMC Jimmy with two other soldiers. Earlier that evening, the driver, Pvt. Keith F. Clarke, had broken into an office, taken keys and driven off in the vehicle without permission, prosecutors contended at Clarke’s court-martial. Clarke was convicted in October of larceny and other charges relating to the theft.

Jones didn’t know the vehicle was stolen, his lawyer, Capt. Seth Cohen, convinced the jury. Jones also was acquitted of a conspiracy charge alleging he had planned to misuse the truck and to damage it later that night in a wreck.

On Thursday, before the jury decided his sentence, Jones asked the panel to consider keeping him in the Army to help him support his two young sons.

Jones joined the Illinois National Guard in 2002 but as his family expanded, he wanted to ensure he provided a steady paycheck and a good example for his children, he told the jury. So he signed up for active duty in 2004 and took a post in South Korea so he could maintain his Guard rank of specialist.

Leaving his kids behind proved harder than expected and he grew depressed as he began an overseas custody battle for the boys with their mother, he told the court.

He said Thursday he still wanted to make good on that pledge to his family.

“I want a second chance to serve,” Jones said, reading from a prepared statement. “I acted dumb on more than one occasion.… I am not proud of my misconduct but I am very proud of my (overall) conduct in the Army.”


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