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RAMSTEIN, Germany — Airman Nicholas A. Sims delivered his “trademark” kidney punches to the lower backs of Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson and other Kaiserslautern-area troops during initiation ceremonies into the Gangster Disciples, an eyewitness to the beatings testified Monday.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Themitrios Saroglou gave the testimony during Sims’ Article 32 hearing. Saroglou was ordered to testify at the hearing and was given testimonial immunity. Sims has been charged with grievous bodily harm, aggravated assault and failure to obey a lawful order for his alleged participation in the Gangster Disciples and the July 3, 2005, beating of Johnson. On the morning of July 4, 2005, Johnson was found dead in his barracks room, and his cause of death was later determined to be multiple blunt force injuries.

Sims, who at the time of Johnson’s death was a staff sergeant, is alleged to be one of nine current or former Kaiserslautern-area troops who beat Johnson for six minutes during a Gangster Disciples initiation. Specifically, Sims hit Johnson more than 30 times, including a few kicks, Saroglou said.

Sims could also face murder charges in Johnson’s death. However, Saroglou testified that when people were punching Johnson, the intent was not to kill him.

Saroglou, who formerly served at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and now is stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., was questioned on the witness stand for roughly three hours. Early in his testimony, Saroglou told of his own initiation into a group he knew early on as “BOSS,” which stands for Brothers of the Strong Struggle. Gang experts in other hearings for the Johnson case have testified that BOSS is an acronym commonly associated with the Gangster Disciples.

Saroglou was unsure of the date of his own initiation, but it occurred sometime between December 2002 and November 2006 when he worked at Landstuhl. Saroglou was hired as a bouncer at the Black Sounds nightclub in Landstuhl where former Ramstein Air Base airman Rico Williams, the self-proclaimed “governor” of the local Gangster Disciples, worked, Saroglou testified. As Saroglou gained the trust of Williams, he sought to join the organization.

Saroglou received a phone call telling him to show up at Sims’ house in black jeans and a black shirt, he said. Once there, Saroglou was made to stand in the middle of a six-pointed star on the ground marked by candles. A person stood at each point on the star, Saroglou said. The six-pointed star is the primary symbol used by the Gangster Disciples, gang experts have testified.

Williams asked Saroglou if he wanted to be in the gang. Once Saroglou said yes, Williams punched him in the mouth and then the others began beating Saroglou for a little more than six minutes, Saroglou testified. Sims, who knew how to box, delivered his “trademark” kidney punches to Saroglou’s lower back, Saroglou said.

In addition to Saroglou’s and Johnson’s initiation, Sims participated in at least two other gang initiations, Saroglou said. Others would hold off beating the gang recruits so Sims could line up and land his kidney punches, Saroglou said.

When asked if Sims threw his trademark kidney punches at the initiations, Saroglou answered bluntly.

“He always threw the kidney shots,” Saroglou said. “Always.”

As of press time Monday, the hearing was still under way. Once the Article 32 is concluded, a determination will be made as to whether or not the matter should proceed to a court-martial.

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