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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — On a Thursday in September, Pfc. Jimmy L. Palmer and Spc. Scott L. Huffman left the Post Exchange store here with shopping carts filled with electronic goods, camera equipment and movies without paying a penny, they admitted in separate courts-martial this week.

The soldiers with 275th Signal Company, 41st, Signal Battalion were in uniform when they each stole about $2,000 in merchandise on Sept. 8, Palmer and Huffman admitted in court Thursday.

Both used the same technique: They pushed their loaded carts past the checkout counters, walked out the front door and got in taxis that just happened to be waiting outside the store, Huffman said under oath.

Palmer, without Huffman, returned three other times during the next week and followed the same pattern, according to court information and lawyers in the case. All told, Palmer admitted he walked off with about $8,000 of merchandise.

In separate trials, both soldiers received 18 months’ confinement, reductions to the Army’s lowest pay grade — E-1 — and bad conduct discharges. Palmer had faced 35 years in confinement and Huffman had faced 17 years. They also faced dishonorable discharges.

Col. Patrick J. Parrish, the chief judge for the 6th Judicial Circuit, had sentenced Palmer to 24 months, but a plea agreement reduced the time to 18 months.

In both cases, Parrish allowed the soldiers’ pay to continue as long as possible, though a final decision will be made by Lt. Gen. Charles C. Campbell in the matter, lawyers said. Both soldiers have wives; Palmer also has a child.

The soldiers previously had been caught and received nonjudicial punishment for shoplifting from the store, according to Capt. David L. Croswell of the judge advocate’s office.

But on Sept. 8, Palmer and Huffman talked during their weekly sergeants’ training about a plan to steal from the Post Exchange, Huffman told the judge. At about 12:30 p.m., they walked into the store together, got carts and split up, he said.

Huffman went for two projection-screen televisions, a digital camera and video recorder, and a laptop computer valued at more than $2,000, according to his testimony.

Palmer ended up with six Playstations, 25 movies, a projection-screen television and a laptop, according to court documents.

“You walk in, just put what you want in the cart, and walk out?” Parrish asked Huffman during his general court-martial Thursday afternoon.

“Yes sir,” Huffman replied.

“Did it work?” Parrish asked.

“Yes sir,” Huffman said.

“For a while,” Parrish said.

“Yes sir,” Huffman agreed.

It worked previously for Palmer, according to court information.

On the fourth time, however, an Army and Air Force Exchange Service worker recognized Palmer and called the military’s Criminal Investigation Division.

They were waiting for Palmer when he tried to leave with another cart full of stolen goods, Croswell said.

In the end, Palmer pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit larceny, four instances of larceny and impeding an investigation.

In his own court-martial, Huffman pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit larceny and one charge of larceny. He also pleaded guilty to violating curfew and disobeying an order to remain on Yongsan in a separate, Sept. 4 incident.

Both men apologized in court to their unit, their command and their families.

Palmer, who said his reliance on over-the-counter cough medicine was a catalyst for his actions, broke down in tears while making a statement to the court during sentencing.

“This was not the person I was raised to be by my parents,” Palmer told the judge as he asked that his pay continue as long as possible to help care for his young daughter. “Not only did I suffer, my family did, too.”

Huffman told the judge he originally agreed to the shoplifting because he “saw it as a challenge.” Later, he said, he felt remorse.

A third soldier who accompanied Palmer on one of his trips to the Post Exchange was punished in an Article 15 hearing, Croswell said. That soldier admitted to planning to steal with Palmer but then abandoned the plan out of fear once at the store, Croswell said.


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