Soldier found guilty of being drunk on duty
April 4, 2008
WIESBADEN, Germany — Hours after his unit left Wiesbaden Army Airfield for a 15-month tour in Iraq, a military policeman facing court-martial was found guilty Thursday of being drunk on duty.
Pvt. Eric C. Samaniego, a 19-year-old member of the 212th Military Police Company, also faced charges of aggravated sexual assault and a related burglary charge, but was found not guilty on both counts.
“The case before you is truly a tragedy,” Capt. Jocelyn Stewart, Samaniego’s lead defense counsel, said in her closing argument. Regardless of the outcome, she said, Samaniego’s accuser would leave the courtroom believing she’d been the victim of sexual assault.
The accuser, a woman in Samaniego’s unit, testified that on the night of Oct. 5, she drank way past her limit, starting in her barracks room, and continuing at a club in nearby Mainz. Samaniego was at the club when she arrived. He bought her a drink and asked her twice to dance. She declined both times, and asked a mutual friend to tell Samaniego to leave her alone because he was annoying her.
Samaniego took the stand Wednesday and admitted that he’d had a crush on her, and had asked her out in the past. He also acknowledged that she’d made clear to him that their relationship was platonic.
But early the next morning, after the soldiers had returned about an hour apart to their barracks on Wiesbaden Army Airfield, they had sex.
His accuser said that after she’d returned from the club, she’d showered, changed her clothes and gone to bed. She remembered her roommate saying that she’d be spending the night elsewhere.
The next thing she remembered, she said, “(Samaniego) was having sex with me.”
Asked by Capt. Stephanie Cooper, the lead prosecutor, if the sex was consensual, she replied, “No.”
Stewart said the defense had no reason to doubt the sincerity of the accuser’s reckoning. Stewart said the woman had suffered an alcohol-induced blackout, and didn’t have all the facts.
But the accuser denied she’d blacked out, and accused Samaniego of breaking in to her room.
Samaniego admitted to having sex with the woman, and said she’d let him in to her room, kissed him back when he kissed her, and was actively engaged as they progressed on to sex.
Then, all of a sudden, she told him to stop. Both Samaniego and his accuser testified that she was confused at that point. His accuser testified she didn’t let him in, kiss him or consent to sex.
The encounter concerned Samaniego. The next day he told a friend that he wasn’t afraid that he’d raped the woman, “but I was worried that she thought that I had,” he testified.
Later that month, Samaniego went to the Army Substance Abuse Program for help with his drinking, but on Nov. 14 he got drunk, and showed up for the next morning’s formation intoxicated.
He later joined Alcoholics Anonymous, and said he hasn’t had alcohol since that night.
“I want to make a career out of the Army,” he told the panel during sentencing.
The panel sentenced him to 15 days’ restriction to post, 15 days’ hard labor without confinement and forfeiture of a half-month’s pay for one month.
On the drunk on duty charge, he faced up to nine months’ confinement, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, reduction to E-1 and a bad-conduct discharge.
Samaniego doesn’t know if he will deploy to Iraq.