Spouse banned after admitting to on-base house thefts at Misawa
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — The Air Force spouse who admitted to a string of on-base house thefts earlier this year has been barred from all U.S. military bases in Japan and returned to the States, according to base officials.
Officials, however, declined to release the civilian’s name or age, citing Privacy Act rules.
Along with the base ban, the man was ordered to pay restitution to the victims for their stolen property and issue a written apology to the community, Lt. Col. Randon Draper, 35th Fighter Wing staff judge advocate, said in a written response to Stars and Stripes.
In addition, the man’s Army and Air Force Exchange Service privileges were suspended, and he was ordered not to contact the victims or their family members.
The man appeared before a civilian advisory board Nov. 8, officials said. He returned to the States on Nov. 20.
Since the U.S. military doesn’t have criminal jurisdiction over civilians, the board is a means through which the base can hold non-military members accountable for illegal acts.
A senior-ranking officer on base appointed by the wing commander presided over the hearing, officials said.
The hearing officer ordered the restitution, the written apology and suspension of AAFES privileges, and prohibited him from contacting the victims. He also recommended immediate debarment, which only the wing commander can order, according to Draper.
35th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy concurred and issued debarment, Draper noted.
As for the written apology to the base community, Maj. Kristine Autorino, 35th Fighter Wing deputy staff judge advocate, said it has been written but was not made public.
“If the member consents to it being made public, it will be published,” she said.
Base officials would not say how much the dependent must pay in restitution.
“The issue of restitution is being coordinated with the victims,” Autorino said in a written statement. “Some items were recovered and were returned to the victims. Some restitution payments have been made, others are still to be paid.”
After the suspect was apprehended in late October, base officials noted that more than $3,000 in property was stolen.
Some community members interviewed Tuesday said they think the apology should be made public and that more information should have been put out to the base about how the case was ultimately resolved.
“You’re the first one that I talked to who told me he was sent back [to the States],” Air Force spouse Misti Harrelson told a Stripes reporter. “There’s so many rumors going around, you don’t know what to believe.”
Harrelson lives off base but said she still takes extra precaution to safeguard her belongings when coming on base.
“It only takes one person to spoil it for everyone,” she said.
Base spokeswoman Capt. Teresa Sullivan said wing leadership felt the most appropriate way to let the community know about the outcome of the case was to tell supervisors and for supervisors to tell airmen — who could tell their families — as necessary.
“It could be that some people didn’t receive the information but if they ask their sponsors to ask their supervisors they could find out,” she said in a written response.
Stephanie Perry, an Air Force spouse who lives on main base, said she heard through the grapevine that the dependent had been returned to the States.
“I feel the guy probably knew, ‘What’s the worst that can happen if I get caught?’”
Draper said the man’s debarment is entered into the Air Force Security Forces records, which is accessible worldwide by Air Force Security Forces personnel. It is also entered into the U.S. Forces Japan system for all services in Japan.
But, he added, unless the U.S. Attorney’s Office chooses to prosecute and he is convicted in a criminal court, “the findings that he committed these offenses are administrative in nature and do not appear as convictions on his record.”
Draper noted the man was administratively found to have committed “housebreaking” — which is equivalent to trespassing and larceny.
When asked what effect, if any, the case could have on the man’s active-duty spouse, Draper wrote: “While active-duty members bear responsibility for their dependents, they are not punished for their actions.”
Base officials would not release the name or unit of the man’s active-duty wife or say whether she would be allowed to return to the States early or be reassigned.
The man admitted to five of the eight house thefts at Misawa, which occurred in main base housing between Sept. 4 and Sept. 21.
Even though the dependent is no longer on base, Perry said she still takes care to lock up. “It was a reality check that things can happen anywhere,” she said.