Soldier charged in beating death of sergeant at Kleber Kaserne
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — A Kaiserslautern soldier has been charged in the beating death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson following a 17-month investigation and the offer of a hefty reward for information.
The soldier, who is not being held in pretrial confinement, was charged with murder on Oct. 18.
Johnson, 25, a soldier with the 66th Transportation Company, was found dead July 4, 2005, in his Kleber Kaserne barracks room after investigators said he was beaten on the back in a gang initiation ceremony.
A public Article 32 hearing is scheduled for Tuesday to determine whether enough evidence exists against the accused soldier to proceed to a court-martial.
At the request of the Army, Stars and Stripes agreed not to publish the names of the accused soldier and the military lawyers who are involved for fear of their safety and to refrain from jeopardizing the integrity of the investigation.
“We would use every effort to mitigate unnecessary risk against all persons involved. This happens to be one of those methods to reduce unnecessary risk,” said Maj. Allen Hing, 21st Theater Support Command public affairs officer.
“While this Article 32 hearing represents an aspect of the investigation, it does not conclude the investigation as a whole,” Hing said. The hearing is similar to the convening of a grand jury.
Johnson’s death became a high-profile case after American Forces Network radio and television ran numerous ads offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals involved.
As many as eight servicemembers are suspects, according to Army documents previously provided to Stripes by Stephanie Cockrell, Johnson’s mother.
The accused is the only one charged so far in Johnson’s death.
“I want to say I feel relieved but apprehensive,” said Cockrell, who lives in Baltimore. “After so long and so little word about what’s really going on, it’s difficult to get too excited.”
Cockrell wants someone prosecuted so she can learn what really happened to her son.
The accused solider was charged Oct. 18 with murder for violating Article 118 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He also has been accused of violating Army regulations pertaining to gang activity, recruitment into extremist organizations and hazing.
The soldier also is being charged with indecent acts and indecent language arising out of a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl in October 2005.
He faces a maximum sentence of life without parole.
Johnson is believed to have been trying to join a violent Chicago-based gang known as the Disciples, according to a Chicago Sun-Times article published earlier this year. He was slain just weeks before he was to leave the Army.
Cockrell questions why her son would join a gang when he was scheduled to leave the Army in a few weeks.
Johnson died of multiple blunt force injuries, and he was not under the effect of drugs or alcohol at the time of death, according to his autopsy report.
Johnson’s son, Juwan Johnson Jr., was born after his father’s death and celebrates his first birthday today.