Hohenfels soldier sentenced in stabbing
VILSECK, Germany — A Hohenfels-based soldier was sentenced to 8½ years in prison Thursday in a knife attack on a German family last summer.
Defense attorneys argued unsuccessfully that their client, Pfc. Jacob Racine, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, which led to the unprovoked attack on the family on June 14, 2009, in Parsberg, a small town near Hohenfels.
On the night of the incident, Racine, 25, scaled several levels of scaffolding outside the apartment of Roswitha Graf, entered the home through an open balcony door, and stabbed Graf 30 times with a kitchen knife, according to court testimony.
Graf’s daughter, Tatjana Just, tried to come to her aid upon hearing her screams, and Racine turned the knife on her. Just’s husband — a German soldier — was able to stop the attack, and Racine fled the scene, according to the victims’ testimony.
Racine, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, was originally charged with one count of attempted premeditated murder, along with several lesser charges, according to the official Army charge sheet. But after the three-day trial before a military judge, Racine was convicted of aggravated assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm.
"Your honor, this was a violent attack and it was a calculated attack," prosecuting attorney Capt. Jacob Bashore said in his closing arguments. "Your honor, he knew what he did was wrong."
But the defense argued that Racine thought he was in a war zone, and that he attacked the German family as he sought shelter in their apartment.
"He was afraid because in his mind at the moment of the offense, he was in an enemy zone," defense attorney Capt. Benjamin Wright said in his closing arguments. "In short, he was out of his mind."
Paul Montalbano, a psychologist from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, testified for the defense that Racine suffered from PTSD and was an alcoholic.
"We did a lot of psychological tests (on Racine)," Montalbano testified. "I think he has chronic PTSD."
The defense also argued that Racine’s change in behavior when he returned from his 2005 deployment in Baghdad was proof of his "broken" mental state.
Racine’s mother, Rose, and sister, Talia, told the court that Racine was a changed man. His mother said that he would hide behind clothes racks when they went shopping. When he was about to return to duty, she testified, he addressed them like they were in the Army, even going as far as to put them in a line.
On the night of the attack, Racine did shots, bought two beers at a time and was banging his head against a post, witnesses testified.
Montalbano called the combination of Racine’s PTSD with the mixture of Red Bull and alcohol he drank at the QBAR in Parsberg before the attack a "pretty combustible mixture."
But Montalbano’s testimony was rebutted by Dr. (Lt. Col.) Marshal Smith, a psychiatrist who is chief of outpatient behavioral health at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Smith and another Army doctor examined Racine.
"We felt that he was responsible and competent to stand trial," Smith testified. He said he did not believe Racine had PTSD.
The prosecution also pointed to DNA evidence on a bloody undershirt and pants worn by Racine on the night of the attack. A DNA expert testified that the chance the DNA on the clothes and knife wasn’t Racine’s was 1 in 4.5 trillion.
In addition to the charge of aggravated assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm, Maj. Charles Kuhfahl, the military judge, also found Racine guilty of aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon, and unlawful entry.
Kuhfahl acquitted Racine of the more serious charge of attempted premeditated murder, as well as one count of housebreaking.
Along with the prison sentence, he was reduced in rank to E-1, will be dishonorably discharged from the Army and will forfeit all pay and allowances.
Racine did not take the stand during the court-martial, but he did make an unsworn statement following the victims’ testimony during the sentencing phase.
"There are no words to describe how sorry I am," Racine said, looking at his victims as they broke down in tears. "Every day, I think about this. I can remember hitting [Graf] with my fists, or what I thought were my fists.
"How could I have done this?" a teary-eyed Racine said. "I am still ashamed. I don’t want you to ever forgive me for what I’ve done to you. I don’t deserve it."