Okinawa airman sentenced to two years for beating wife
May 26, 2006
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — An airman was sentenced to two years in prison and given a bad-conduct discharge here Wednesday on convictions of unlawfully confining and beating his 20-year-old wife, repeatedly disobeying orders and lying.
But Col. Steven Hatfield, the Air Force judge in the case, found Airman 1st Class Ryan D. Kowalewski not guilty of adultery.
Kowalewski showed no emotion as he stood at attention listening to the sentence. But an hour earlier he’d broken into tears as he apologized for his “lack of respect” to his wife, who’d testified she suffered nine months of physical and emotional abuse during their yearlong marriage.
“I really do love Megan,” he sobbed. In the rear of the spectator section, sitting next to her mother, his wife, Megan Strickler, also wept.
The two-day trial showed a hurried marriage that soured at once. They met the day before Thanksgiving, 2004, in Texas. She followed him to Okinawa, where they married the next February.
The honeymoon was brief. In April, according to testimony, Kowalewski, jealous and manipulative, began a reign of terror.
“He had picked her because he knew he could control her,” said Capt. Anthony Archibeque, one of three prosecutors in the case.
“He bit her, pushed her to the floor, placed a pillow over her face and punched her. He placed his fingers in her mouth and whipped her from side to side like a dog.” According to the evidence, Kowalewski also once urinated on her.
He pleaded guilty to most of the charges against him, admitting he and his wife had a stormy relationship that at times veered into violence. He admitted to failing to attend alcohol abuse counseling, driving with a suspended license, sending offensive e-mails on a government computer, breaking restriction and lying at a previous Article 15 hearing.
He also admitted he left the base against orders to buy alcohol and ignored orders not to contact his wife and witnesses in the case.
But in the trial’s sentencing phase, prosecutors stressed the assault and confinement charges.
Kowalewski’s wife testified on Tuesday that her husband locked her in her bedroom on Feb. 8 and threatened to commit suicide.
She said she saw him through a crack in the door as he made motions with a knife to cut his wrists. Later, he let her out and forced her to write in a notebook that he’d never harmed her, she said, adding that he then cut his arm and shook blood over the page, saying, “Now this is all on you.”
“He asserted complete control and dominance over his wife,” Archibeque said, asking that Kowalewski be sentenced to five years in prison and given a dishonorable discharge.
“Life in prison is not appropriate,” he said. “But 60 months is appropriate to show him that he doesn’t have control of people … It will send a clear and powerful message that beating your wife is a serious problem.”
Capt. Jonathan Wasden, one of two defense lawyers, called the government’s case “vaudeville,” arguing that Kowalewski’s wife had to share some of the blame.
“She’s not the wilting flower the government would have you believe,” Wasden said, asking the judge to give Kowalewski just a punitive discharge so he could return home to Ohio to help care for his mother, who recently was diagnosed with cancer.