Soldier who cited alcohol, drug problems in refusal to go to Iraq is sentenced
August 19, 2004
WüRZBURG, Germany — A Kitzingen-based soldier who refused to go to Iraq because of his alcohol and drug problems will serve 15 months in jail, a military judge ruled Wednesday.
Pvt. Octavious Newton, 20, of the 12th Chemical Company, pleaded guilty to charges of failing to show up for duty, missing a troop movement and using marijuana. Judge (Col.) James Pohl, also handed him a bad-conduct discharge.
“I didn’t want to deploy,” Newton told the court. “I told my chain of command I’d been drinking.”
Newton said he grew up in a rough neighborhood in Atlanta.
As a teenager, he discovered the Army’s Youth Challenge Program, which helps troubled youths earn a high school diploma and trains them for the military with drills and physical training.
Newton arrived in Kitzingen, his first duty post, in late 2002.
His friend, Staff Sgt. Octavious Rogers, described him as a “good, quiet, soft-spoken” soldier who did his job well.
Newton earned an Army Achievement Medal for his work at a training exercise in Grafenwöhr.
But, Newton said, he was struggling with alcohol and drug addiction.
Last year he was demoted for three alcohol-related infractions, and in September he sought help from the Army’s substance abuse counseling program.
He was put on medication, he said, that made it difficult to sleep and gave him vivid nightmares.
Newton, his counselors and his superiors agreed he would attend a six-week treatment program at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, if he followed certain conditions.
But he violated a restriction Feb. 7, just days before his unit’s scheduled deployment to Iraq.
Nine days later, when his company commander ordered him to go, Newton refused.
Left with the rear detachment to face disciplinary action, he twice failed urinalysis tests after smoking marijuana.
“Pvt. Newton has a serious problem, and he needs help,” his attorney, Capt. Debra Quanbeck, told the court, asking that he be discharged and sent home.
“He’s 20 years old. He’s got his whole life in front of him.”
The prosecutor, Capt. Sara Holland, asked that Newton be jailed for longer than his unit’s scheduled one-year deployment.
“He refused. He could have gone. He had no reason not to,” Holland said.
“Plenty of people in his unit didn’t refuse. They did what they were supposed to.”