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BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Sgt. Patrick McCree could have lost his seven-year Army career Thursday after pleading guilty in a court-martial to an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate soldier.

Instead, the 1st Armored Division soldier lost his stripes — reduced to private first class — but will not have to do jail time or be given a dishonorable discharge as recommended by prosecutors.

In a plea bargain, McCree, of the 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, pled guilty Thursday in Baumholder to a reduced charge of inappropriate relations with a female subordinate after initially being charged with rape. According to testimony, McCree, of Gulf Port, Miss., had sex with the woman one morning last September in the dry-rations storage room of the 2nd Brigade dining facility, telling her it would hasten her promotion.

In a passionate closing argument, Maj. Daniel Froehlich told the judge, Col. James Pohl, that the sex was consensual, and that McCree should never have been given a court-martial, but rather a letter of reprimand from his battalion commander. There was no harm to society, no impact on the unit, “and no evidence of impact” on the victim, who was dating a staff sergeant at the time, Froehlich said.

He called the prosecution request that McCree serve 30 days in confinement, be reduced to E-1, then be given a dishonorable discharge “like hitting a bug on a Ming vase with a sledgehammer. There would be far more harm than good.”

“Let this soldier get back to work,” Froehlich said.

The winning tactic may have been the defense’s parade of McCree’s comrades and senior noncommissioned officers through the sentencing phase. All called McCree a fine soldier, adding that he didn’t have so much as a negative counseling note on his record.

His having sex with the woman “was a case of, he woke up one day with, well, a case of the dumb-ass, and it came back to bite him,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ray A. Fleming, of the 2nd Brigade, McCree’s former supervisor.

Asked by Capt. Tyson McDonald, the prosecutor, if what McCree did was becoming of an NCO, Spc. Joey Hill replied, “The best of men have fallen, sir.”

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