Hearing on gang initiation beating ends
RAMSTEIN, Germany — An Article 32 hearing ended Wednesday for the Ramstein Air Base airman accused of beating a soldier during a July 2005 initiation into the Gangster Disciples.
A recommendation now will be made as to whether Airman Nicholas A. Sims should face a court-martial for his alleged involvement in the gang and Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson’s fatal beating. Sims has been charged with manslaughter, assault and failure to obey an order. He also could face the additional charge of murder.
Testimony from the hearing provided new insights into the local Gangster Disciples group, led by former Ramstein Air Base airman Rico Williams. The new information came during the Monday testimony of Air Force Staff Sgt. Themitrios Saroglou, who described several gang initiations, including Johnson’s and his own.
Saroglou’s knowledge of the gang comes from the years he served at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center between December 2002 and November 2006. Saroglou could not remember specifically when he was beaten into the gang, but he did serve as the group’s treasurer.
Although Williams said he was trying to build a “money-making organization” and not a gang, he would order gang members and potential gang members to attack people, Saroglou said. Williams’ money-making plan involved gang members using their Veterans Affairs loans to buy an apartment complex in Germany, which they would then rent to U.S. servicemembers, Saroglou said. However, the group never attempted the business venture.
Williams’ right- and left-hand men were Sims and former Ramstein airman Jerome Jones, Saroglou said. Jones, an Air Force staff sergeant, is currently assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas.
Jones’ alleged involvement in Johnson’s beating has been investigated, and the results of that probe are being reviewed, according to an e-mail last week from Tech. Sgt. Katherine Garcia, Little Rock Air Force Base spokeswoman.
Several of the gang members had tattoos with Gangster Disciples symbols such as a heart with wings and a six-pointed star, Saroglou said. After Johnson’s death following his initiation ceremony, Williams ordered the men to get their tattoos covered up so they couldn’t be recognized, Saroglou testified.
On his right wrist and forearm, Sims had a tattoo of a six-pointed star and a heart with wings, an Asian symbol for family, Saroglou said. When Sims had his gang tattoo covered up with another tattoo, he had tears in his eyes — not from the pain — but because of the sentimental value of his gang tattoo, Saroglou said.
Also, after Johnson’s death, Saroglou met up with Sims and Jones near an off-base movie theater, Saroglou said. The two told Saroglou that Williams needed money, and they had both helped him out financially, Saroglou testified.
Sims and Jones also told Saroglou to put out the word that if anybody talked to the authorities about what happened to Johnson, “they can cancel Christmas,” Saroglou said. If the gang couldn’t get to the person who talked, then their family “can cancel Christmas,” Saroglou said.
When asked to clarify what was meant by “they can cancel Christmas,” Saroglou said it meant that whoever talked would be killed. Furthermore, Williams had collected information from the gang members as to where their immediate family members lived.
“Say, for instance, me testifying today (Monday), if a person can’t get to me, my family would be the next in line they would try to kill,” Saroglou said.