Soldier is found guilty in Baumholder crime spree
By STEVE MRAZ | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 7, 2006
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Selling drugs and making bank
It sure beats driving a (expletive)-up tank
Doing shrooms and robbing cabbies,
trashing (expletive) and smoking fatties
Rap lyrics penned by Spc. Samuel Bell in the midst of a summer 2005 crime spree in Baumholder served as a stark confession Wednesday during his court-martial.
A five-member panel of officers and enlisted soldiers found Bell guilty on five of the six charges he faced for his role in the drug-laced crime spree that saw a German cab driver beaten and the Baumholder Rathaus torched, causing about $1 million in damages.
He was found guilty of:
- Accessory after the fact in helping Pfc. Zachery Watson flee the Rathaus on or about Aug. 11.
- Conspiracy to commit robbery of a taxi drive on or about July 27.
- Absence without leave from July 30 to Aug. 11.
- Wrongful use, possession, etc., of Ecstasy and narcotic mushrooms from June 1 to Aug. 11.
- Robbery of a local-national taxi driver by force and violence on or about July 27.
He was sentenced late Wednesday night to seven years’ confinement, a dishonorable discharge, reduction to private and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
The panel acquitted Bell of making a false official statement when he told officials on or about Aug. 12 that he did not know who hit the taxi driver.
Bell also pleaded guilty to some of the drug charges.
The 23-year-old claimed that he only used or distributed mushrooms one or two times, but the panel found him guilty of using and distributing mushrooms on several occasions.
Bell became the sixth of at least nine soldiers tied to the crime spree to be sentenced. Watson, a fellow soldier of Bell’s in the 40th Engineer (Combat) Battalion, was sentenced in February to 15 years’ confinement.
During Bell’s unsworn statement, he apologized to everyone in the courtroom and his unit.
Bell made a point to mention Helmut Jung, the German cab driver who was beaten, choked and robbed.
Jung testified that he has trouble sleeping and misses work because of the incident.
“I will pray for [Jung] and his family every day so they may overcome what has happened,” Bell said.
Bell also told the courtroom that as a combat engineer he built and destroyed obstacles.
It was a turn of phrase that played right into the sentencing argument of government co-counsel Capt. Laura Calese.
“[Bell] built criminals, and he destroyed himself as a soldier and other soldiers,” she said.
Calese, who recommended a sentence to include 12 years’ confinement, argued that Bell was aware of his choices “to engage in a myriad of criminal conduct.”
Bell showed his true intentions in his song, Calese said during her closing argument as she repeated the lyrics.
She also noted that Bell went to Holland on drug runs while other soldiers were preparing to deploy.
“He chose to hang out and give people illegal drugs before an entire unit was set to go downrange,” she said.
Bell’s defense counsel painted him as someone whose life was thrown off-kilter last summer.
Bell found out he was a new father, his parents were getting a divorce and he was no longer with his girlfriend.
Also, Bell’s uncle and grandfather had died in recent years.
“It doesn’t excuse any of the misconduct, but it helps you understand,” said Capt. James Ford, defense co-counsel.
Ford urged the panel to consider Bell’s service and life beyond the crime spree last summer.
Bell did his job during a 15-month deployment to Iraq.
Also, Bell re-enlisted, wanting to be with his unit as it was set to go to Iraq again.
“This is not the Pablo Escobar of Baumholder,” Ford said. “… Ten weeks last summer is not Specialist Bell.”