European edition, Thursday, May 10, 2007

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Army Staff Sgt. Alre L. Hudson repeatedly hit Sgt. Juwan Johnson during Johnson’s July 3, 2005, initiation into the Gangster Disciples, according to witness testimony Tuesday.

The testimony came during the final day of an Article 32 hearing for Hudson, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, hazing and conspiracy to violate Army policy on hazing in the death of Johnson.

Johnson died of multiple blunt-force injuries hours after the beating.

Pvt. Latisha Ellis, an eyewitness to the alleged jumping-in ceremony, testified that Hudson and eight others beat Johnson for six minutes, at which point they were out of breath.

“Everybody hit [Johnson] no less than 20 times,” said Ellis, who made a deal with the government in exchange for her testimony.

Prior to Ellis’ testimony, the hearing’s investigating officer, Maj. Michael McGovern, and prosecution and defense lawyers toured the Hohenecken pavilion, where the jumping-in ceremony allegedly took place. The brief site visit provided all parties a chance to familiarize themselves with the location before Ellis’ testimony, which continually referenced specific locations in and around the pavilion.

After the beating, Ellis drove home one of the participants who lived near Miesau and then drove back toward the location of the beating, stopping at a gas station near Hohenecken “to sit and think,” she said.

Ellis testified she was at the gas station for 20 minutes before former airman Rico Williams — the self-proclaimed governor of the Kaiserslautern Gangster Disciples and the first person to punch Johnson at the ceremony — coincidentally arrived. The two talked for around an hour. They knew how severely Johnson was beaten, she said. Williams told Ellis that if Johnson died, Williams would have to leave Germany as soon as possible. Then, Williams threatened Ellis directly, she testified.

“[Williams] said if I say anything, he would kill me and my family,” Ellis testified.

The Air Force is investigating Staff Sgt. Nicolas Sims of Ramstein Air Base in relation to Johnson’s death. Ellis testified that Sims beat Johnson during the initiation and served as Williams’ “right-hand man” in the Gangster Disciples.

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