Two 1st AD criminal cases moving through Army's judicial system
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Two 1st Armored Division criminal cases — part of a spate of crimes allegedly involving Baumholder-based troops this summer — are working their way through the Army judicial system.
The Article 32 hearing for a Baumholder-based 1st AD soldier, accused of setting fire to the local government center Aug. 11, has been delayed pending the results of a defense-requested mental inquest, according to information submitted to Capt. Kristin Morrow, a 1st AD spokeswoman.
The inquest, a “sanity board hearing,” will determine if Pfc. Zachary Watson, 18, is competent to stand trial. Charges were preferred Sept. 13 against Watson, according to information from division legal officials, Morrow said.
Charges related to the fire also were preferred Sept. 13 against Spc. Samuel Bell, 22, with an additional charge on Sept. 22. Staff judge advocate officials did not provide details about the new charge.
An Article 32 hearing — the civilian equivalent of a grand jury — is scheduled Oct. 20 for Bell.
German police alleged that Bell and Watson, assigned to the 40th Engineer (Combat) Battalion, were involved in a number of crimes, including arson, the night of the fire.
In an unrelated incident, an Article 32 hearing was held Tuesday for Pvt. Stephen Blazofsky, 18, a Baumholder-based soldier accused of trying to kill a German woman. Article 32 hearings were also held for Blazofsky on Sept. 19 and Sept. 27 on the same charge, Morrow said.
“Due to potential legal issues for both the government and defense,” the third hearing was ordered, but division legal officials did not release any additional information, she said.
In an Article 32 hearing, the investigating officer’s written report — which has no deadline, though typically is complete within 30 days — can recommend that charges be dropped, or a court-martial be held. That recommendation is sent to the convening officer, who may accept it, ignore it or pass it up the chain of command.
Blazofsky was arrested Aug. 22 and accused of attempting to murder a 62-year-old German woman in May.
Blazofsky had been drinking heavily for three days when, after being told there was a party at a house on Erzweiler Strasse, he allegedly pushed his way into the woman’s home at about 3 a.m., German police told Stars and Stripes. He allegedly struggled with the woman, choking her and beating her head against a wall, then fled, according to police.
Relations between the Army and German officials and police have been strained by what Germans say has been an escalating series of crimes and misdemeanors by soldiers since the 1st AD returned from Iraq in 2004. That series of incidents climaxed with the Aug. 11 fire, which destroyed a wing of the local government center, causing more than 1 million euros in damage.