Jury finds Osan airman guilty of rape
January 13, 2008
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — A court-martial panel found a 23-year-old airman guilty Friday of raping a female airman because he encouraged another airman to have sex with her — not because he raped her himself.
It took the seven-member jury 20 hours over two days to find Senior Airman Gabriel R. Contreras guilty of rape, conspiracy to commit an indecent act and housebreaking in the Feb. 10 incident. The panel found him not guilty of a charge of indecent assault. Contreras pleaded guilty to committing an indecent act when the trial began Tuesday.
The panel started sentencing deliberations Friday evening, but broke for the night and was to resume early Saturday.
Prosecutors asked the panel to sentence Contreras, a member of Osan’s 51st Munitions Squadron, to a reduction in rank to E-1, a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and five years in prison.
“The accused is not only a rapist, but he is the worst kind of rapist,” said prosecutor Capt. Erin Lai. “He didn’t jump out of the bushes. He had his fun … and invited a total stranger in. If not for him, [the woman] would not have been raped,” Lai said.
Although Contreras’ attorneys said he had consensual sex with the woman earlier that evening, he was charged with rape because he encouraged another airman to come into the room for a possible sexual threesome.
That airman, Senior Airman Joshua L. Amundson, will be tried in a separate court-martial.
Defense attorney Capt. Justin Oliver told the panel that Contreras’ conviction is such a harsh punishment that he shouldn’t get a dishonorable discharge.
“He will always be a rapist for the sexual act that Airman Amundson committed,” Oliver said.
Contreras, who did not testify during either the trial or sentencing portions of the court-martial, pleaded guilty to committing an indecent act because he touched the woman’s genitals as Amundson looked on, a crime under U.S. military law.
Attorneys on both sides said it was the longest deliberation they had seen in a court-martial. Throughout both days of deliberations, the panel asked the judge questions, recalled witnesses and listened to recordings of testimony.
They also asked to bring Contreras to the stand so they could ask him questions, prompting his attorney to seek a mistrial.
The attorney said the panel didn’t understand Contreras’ constitutional right not to testify, and asked the judge a second time to declare a mistrial before court adjourned Friday. The judge denied both requests.