YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Military judge Col. David Brash ruled in favor of the prosecution Wednesday morning on two of three motions to suppress evidence in the upcoming court-martial of Chief Master Sgt. Winfred B. Harrison Jr.

Harrison, 44, a member of Yokota's 374th Civil Engineer Squadron, is charged with being absent without leave, obstructing justice and two counts each of cruelty and maltreatment, assault and indecent acts.

A 26-year veteran of the Air Force, Harrison was originally scheduled to face court-martial Monday for alleged mistreatment of subordinates. But several pretrial motions, including Tuesday’s defense motion to suppress three pieces of evidence, have temporarily delayed the start.

Brash ruled Wednesday he will not allow a statement Harrison made to Yokota’s Office of Special Investigations in April 2001 as evidence.

Harrison testified Tuesday that his supervisors told him it was necessary to submit to a polygraph test to begin processing his retirement.

Investigators, allegedly unaware of the deal Harrison had with his commander, decided not to give Harrison a polygraph and instead took both written and oral statements from the chief.

In his ruling, Brash said prosecutors failed to show those statements were voluntary, which is required by law.

Although Brash excluded those statements, he ruled written statements Harrison made in response to letters of reprimand he received in July 2001 and August 2002 could be included in court-martial proceedings.

After taking the stand Tuesday, Harrison offered new details in support of the motion to suppress evidence.

The Air Force as far back as the spring of 2001 made plans to allow Harrison to quietly retire after he was investigated for an alleged “inappropriate relationship” with an airman he supervised, witnesses said.

Shortly after Harrison made a statement about the allegations to Yokota’s Office of Special Investigations in March 2001, Lt. Col. John Ahern, then his commander, “told me that I should retire,” he said.

Harrison agreed — retirement benefits were important to him because he was the sole provider for his family, he said.

A letter of reprimand from Ahern dated July 2001 said Harrison would submit retirement papers by the end of the year, Harrison said. But the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks derailed those plans as Air Force civil engineering fields were put on stop-loss until July 2002.

“I could not get out of the Air Force,” Harrison said.

In later testimony Tuesday, Lt. Col. Judith Bittick, also a former 374th Civil Engineering Squadron commander, said it was possible to seek a stop-loss waiver, but that was never pursued.

Harrison was a key player in Yokota’s $66 million runway replacement project in the fall of 2001. That also factored into Harrison’s retirement, she said.

Harrison remained in the Air Force and, subsequently, another subordinate alleged mistreatment.

Between September 2001 and August 2002, Harrison allegedly restricted that airman to quarters, assaulted him by grabbing his neck and forcing him into a chair, and committed an indecent sex act on him, court records show.

Some of the allegations surfaced while Harrison was deployed to Oman with the airman in the summer of 2002, records show. Harrison received another letter of reprimand and was sent back to Yokota early.

The second letter of reprimand also mentioned his retirement, and Harrison testified he was lead to believe if he responded to the letter in writing he would be allowed to retire.

Harrison was indirectly coerced, the defense argued in its motion to suppress evidence.

“The chief thought he was at no risk by providing these statements,” said Capt. Christopher Thomas, area defense counsel at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.

Brash disagreed.

The alleged victims testified Tuesday about their conversations and encounters with Harrison, both on and off duty.

One of the airmen said that while he and Harrison were on temporary duty in South Korea, Harrison made him report to the chief’s billeting room in uniform, stand at attention and write an essay about what he did that day for his country, the Air Force and his fellow man.

Prosecutors argued their testimony should be allowed during the general court-martial because it shows Harrison intended to establish a relationship extending beyond superior-subordinate.

Brash agreed.

Earlier Tuesday, Brash rejected a defense motion to remove prosecutor Capt. Matthew Jarreau from the case for alleged prosecutorial misconduct.

Defense attorneys claimed Jarreau, in a pretrial interview, should not have asked Capt. Michael Carrasco — a former defense attorney for Harrison — about the source of documents that purportedly granted Harrison leave during 11 days in August 2002.

Harrison is charged with being absent without leave during that time.

The question prompted Carrasco to reveal privileged information between attorney and client, the defense said.

Capt. Jamie Key, circuit defense counsel from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., argued that not only was the line of questioning inappropriate, but that the appearance of impropriety could jeopardize the integrity of the attorney-client relationship.

Brash found no wrongdoing.

The court finds it’s incumbent upon defense counsel, not the prosecutor, to assert the attorney-client privilege, Brash said.

Charging documents released

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Charging documents released Tuesday by the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate suggest Chief Master Sgt. Winfred B. Harrison Jr. used his authority to mistreat two subordinate airmen.

Harrison, 44, a member of the 374th Civil Engineering Squadron, is charged with obstructing justice, being absent without leave and two counts each of cruelty and maltreatment, assault and indecent acts.

Charging documents allege Harrison coerced a subordinate airman to strip and bathe in front of him, and get into bed with him naked between July 1999 and March 2001 at Kwang Ju Air Base, South Korea, and at Yokota.

Harrison also is accused of blindfolding, handcuffing and stripping the same airman, as well as confining the alleged victim to quarters for extended periods of time, charging documents say.

He is also accused of mistreating a second airman between September 2001 and August 2002 by restricting him to quarters and verbally abusing the victim at Camp Justice, Oman, charging documents say.

The allegations are violations of Uniform Code of Military Justice Articles 93, 128 and 134, covering the counts of cruelty and maltreatment, assault and indecent acts, charging documents say.

Charging documents also say Harrison tried to cover up being absent by forging orders for temporary leave. That alleged action prompted the charges of being absent without leave and obstructing justice.

— Stars and Stripes

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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