Kunsan warrant officer gets two years, reprimand
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — An Army warrant officer accused of fraternizing with junior enlisted soldiers, and cursing at and assaulting two of them, was sentenced here Wednesday to two years in prison and a reprimand.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles L. Watkins, 37, a soldier for 18 years, was convicted on charges of assault consummated by battery, provoking speech toward a junior enlisted soldier and fraternization. But the jury acquitted him of violating a lawful general order and second counts of provoking speech toward a junior enlisted soldier and assault consummated by battery.
The trial was before Army Col. Patrick J. Parrish, chief judge for the 6th Judicial Circuit in Seoul.
Watkins was a Patriot maintenance technician at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, with Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.
He’d asked the Army to let him resign in lieu of court-martial but the Army has yet to issue a decision in the matter and his case went to trial. Watkins will remain in confinement at the U.S. military’s lockup at Camp Humphreys until a decision is made.
If the Army does not grant his request, he’d return to duty after completing his prison sentence.
The charges stemmed from a March 4 drinking episode at clubs near Kunsan Air Base.
During the evening, Watkins told a private first class, “You look like you want to fight.” That became the basis for the provoking-speech charge. About 45 minutes later, in a fight at another location, Watkins punched a soldier, injuring his eye. That led to the assault charge.
He also helped junior enlisted soldiers get an off-post hotel room after curfew and spent less than an hour with them there, which led to the fraternization charge.
A jury of an Army lieutenant colonel, major and five captains handed up its sentence Wednesday afternoon.
The trial began Monday; the jury reached a verdict Tuesday.
“I sincerely apologize for my misconduct,” Watkins told the jury Wednesday in an unsworn statement before he was sentenced. “I’ve disappointed many, many people. The unit has suffered, the Warrant Officer Corps has been embarrassed and I have shamed myself.”
Watkins’ statement was marked by repeated silences of 10 or more seconds as he appeared to fight back emotion.
He told of two marriages that ended in divorce, the birth of two daughters, a love for animals and of how he began his Army career as an enlisted soldier, later entering the warrant officer program.
Several witnesses testified that his job performance in the field of Patriot missile maintenance had been exceptionally good.
“Now that the court-martial has unavoidably taken place,” he said, “I respectfully request that you give me a second chance to show my family, my unit, the Warrant Officer Corps and the Army that my misconduct will not be repeated, and that I can continue to provide valuable service.”
Prosecuting Watkins were Capt. Claudine Andola, 35th ADA Brigade command judge advocate, and Capt Yong J. Lee of the Area III Legal Center at Camp Humphreys.
Watkins’ defense attorneys were Capt. James Culp and Capt. Corey Marks, both of the Trial Defense Service in Seoul.