In testimony at a sexual assault hearing this week, a military police officer said that after having several drinks he found himself in his hotel bed with a man kissing him.

The Netherlands-based military police officer testified at an Article 32 hearing that he told the man to stop, that he was married, loved his wife and didn’t want to proceed. But Sgt. William Chamberlain told him to “shut up” and performed oral sex on him.

Chamberlain, a 26-year-old sergeant assigned to HHC, U.S. Army Garrison Heidelberg, and the driver for the IMA-Europe’s command sergeant major, is accused of forcible sodomy in the case. According to the MP’s testimony, the incident happened Jan. 23 at a hotel in Vaihingen, where the two soldiers met while attending an anti-terrorism evasive driving class.

Chamberlain’s Article 32 hearing was Monday. After a request from Chamberlain’s defense, joined by military prosecutors, the investigating officer presiding in the hearing closed it to the public, saying that the MP might be too embarrassed or intimidated to testify publicly.

But on Wednesday, V Corps legal authorities played a tape of the MP’s testimony for Stars and Stripes, saying it was questionable whether the hearing officer, a captain without legal training, had followed proper procedures in closing the hearing.

Court hearings are presumed to be public; closure is rare, and requires extraordinary circumstances and considered, written justification.

Subsequently, the U.S. Army Europe Judge Advocate’s Office sent an e-mail to subordinate commands reminding them of the high constitutional bar to closing court hearings.

“Basically, it said, ‘Don’t close them,’” said Lt. Col. Peter Grayson, V Corps chief of administrative law. The e-mail also contained “a slew of references” to appellate court cases upholding the public’s interest in open courts, Grayson said.

On tape, the MP, a 22-year-old Army specialist, freely described what he said was his first temporary duty, getting very drunk early in the day, and, because he was so drunk, he said, feeling immobilized, unsure how some things had occurred, and sure that he’d become unconscious from time to time. He described feeling “very lazy” and said at times he wasn’t sure whether he was awake or dreaming.

Once when he came to, he said, and felt Chamberlain beside him, “It was all clear to me. I was panicking. I said, ‘Go to the other [expletive] bed, sergeant.’

“He said, ‘Don’t call me sergeant,’ but he did go to the other bed,” the MP said.

The MP said he threw up several times then crept out of the room and called his unit to report he’d been assaulted. Chamberlain was arrested after being roused from a bed in the MP’s room, where the two had gone initially to smoke a cigarette, the MP said.

Chamberlain did not speak during the hearing. One of his attorneys, however, pointed out that when blood-alcohol levels were measured, Chamberlain’s was far higher than the MP’s and so the MP could have given consent. “How drunk was he?” Gary Myers said rhetorically, referring to the MP. “Probably not as drunk as he says.”

The investigating officer’s recommendation on whether there’s enough evidence to proceed to court-martial or otherwise dispose of the case is expected within the next week or so. The recommendation will go to Col. Willie Gaddis, U.S. Army Garrison Heidelberg commander, who can dismiss the case, or refer it to V Corps commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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