Soldier convicted of drunken and reckless driving in autobahn crash
WüRZBURG, Germany — In the pre-dawn hours of June 17, Pvt. Jeffrey Stewart and three of his friends piled into his car after a night of clubbing in Wiesbaden for the journey home to their base in Kitzingen.
Spc. Arthur Chapman had been chosen as the designated driver, but he said he was too tired. Stewart insisted he was fine to drive, and his friends reluctantly agreed to let him as long as he would pull over if he got sleepy. Minutes later, though, the BMW slammed into two parked cars and a light pole as it exited the A671 autobahn in Wiesbaden.
Sgt. Twannia Mason-Sherman, a back seat passenger, lay badly injured in the wreckage because of a near-fatal head injury for which she is still being treated in the States.
On Wednesday, a court-martial panel in Würzburg found Stewart, 22, of the 701st Main Support Battalion, guilty of drunken and reckless driving involving personal injury.
“It’s not rocket science to figure out how this accident happened,” said Capt. Joe Grey, one of two Army prosecutors in the case. “This is a common-sense case that no amount of lawyer confabulating can confuse.”
A jury panel of three officers and three senior noncommissioned officers agreed with the prosecutors. He was to be sentenced later Wednesday.
Chapman testified that Stewart had slept all day that Saturday and fixed himself a drink when he got up about 6 p.m. The two met Mason-Sherman and another female soldier later that evening to travel to a disco in Wiesbaden.
The group apparently left the club sometime after 3 a.m. Chapman said he and the others got anxious after Stewart weaved and swerved several times. They shouted at him to pull over and give up his keys.
He finally agreed, Chapman said, but he turned too sharply as the car pulled off the autobahn. German police testified the car skidded about 130 meters before coming to rest in the middle of the road at 3:45 a.m.
German police testified Stewart smelled of alcohol but was quiet and cooperative as they took him to the police station. The police gave him a blood-alcohol test, but the military judge, Lt. Col. Robin Hall, granted a motion by the defense attorneys to prevent the test result from being presented at the court-martial.
About 7:30 a.m., a Wiesbaden military police officer took Stewart to the base. Spc. James Ward, an MP, testified that the soldier failed a field sobriety test, but acknowledged that he had failed to complete a required form recording the results. Spc. Jerry Harris, another MP, said he gave Stewart two Breathalyzer tests about 4½ hours after the crash that showed his blood alcohol level to be between .051 and .055, below the Army’s legal limit.