Soldier sentenced for desertion, indecent act
September 4, 2008
WIESBADEN, Germany — Just about every interested party took a hit in this sordid episode of lust, liquor and lawlessness.
"This case is saturated with unknowns," Army Capt. Andres Vazquez said in his opening remarks as the lead defense counsel for Pfc. Valdez R. Dear.
What is known is that Dear, a 22-year-old truck driver, was sentenced by a military panel Wednesday morning to 27 months in jail for desertion, fleeing apprehension and committing an indecent act.
According to testimony, the incident began in the early hours of June 30, 2007, in the parking lot of the Euro Palace, a popular nightclub in Mainz-Kastel. Dear was in the back seat of his car having sex with a 19-year-old female soldier.
Army prosecutors charged Dear with rape because the woman said the sex was not consensual, that she had way too much to drink and couldn’t even remember how she got from the bar to the back seat.
"The accused took advantage of a drunken girl," Capt. Erin Joyce, one of two prosecutors, said in the two-day court-martial.
It is Stripes’ policy not to name alleged victims in sexual assault cases.
Dear also was charged with desertion because he slipped away from authorities in October 2007, remaining at-large until June of this year. And even when he was caught — in of all places back at the Euro Palace — he tried to bolt.
Dear, who was assigned to a Wiesbaden area installation, first told Army investigators back in July 2007 that he didn’t have sex with his accuser. Then, in two subsequent statements, he said he did, though he maintained it was consensual.
Defense attorneys took issue with the statements at the trial, saying they were coerced. They also argued the investigation was fragmented, that it was passed around between agents. Evidence that could have been collected — stains in the car, a parking lot video, and so forth — wasn’t, for one reason or another.
When the alleged victim took the stand, she didn’t do herself any favors.
"It was dark," she testified. "I really didn’t see anything."
Diminutive in stature and a professed loner, she admitted to having a shot of tequila, a little champagne and at least seven mixed drinks. A female soldier and friend of both, testified the normally shy soldier became "loud" and "obnoxious" as the night wore on.
Saying she must have blacked out for a spell, the victim told the jury that when she came to in the car, she tried to push Dear away — and, with some effort, finally succeeded.
As she and a couple of other soldiers headed back to post from the club in a different car, the alleged victim cried in the arms of another female soldier.
The soldier behind the wheel jacked up the volume of his car stereo to drown out her sobs, according to testimony.
Dear, who earlier pleaded guilty to the charges of desertion and fleeing apprehension, also received a bad-conduct discharge, loss of pay and a demotion to the lowest enlisted grade.
The panel found him guilty of the lesser charge of committing an indecent act in public.
"We don’t know," Vazquez said, "what really happened in the car."