The Gangfighters Network is an organization designed to bridge the gap between academia and the criminal justice professions. For more information, visit and The focus is on gangs, initially adult gangs as it appears they have been ignored or absorbed into the mainstream society. There's a special focus on gang members in the military.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bill would ban gang membership in ranks

By Leo Shane III, Stars and StripesMideast edition, Saturday, December 15, 2007

WASHINGTON — Gang membership among military personnel for the first time would be specifically forbidden under language outlined in the 2008 Defense authorization bill.
Current department regulations prohibit membership in any organizations that “espouse supremacist causes; attempt to create illegal discrimination … advocate the use of force or violence; or otherwise engage in efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.”
But they don’t explicitly list street gangs among those groups, an issue lawmakers and law enforcement officials have criticized as a way to overlook possible gang affiliation among troops in the ranks.
“I’ve heard from police officers across the country that there are problems with gangs on posts,” said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., who introduced the amendment.
“The FBI suggests there are problems not only in the states but on bases abroad. So somebody hasn’t been serious enough.”
Earlier this year, Army Criminal Investigation Command announced a jump in gang-related crimes, from 23 incidents worldwide in fiscal 2005 to 60 in fiscal 2006. An FBI report found links between gangs and at least seven military facilities in the U.S. and gang activity and graffiti in bases in Germany, Italy, Japan and Iraq.
Both agencies classified gangs as a small but growing problem within the ranks.
All four services have rules allowing commanders to discipline or dismiss servicemembers found working with gangs, but the new bill language would be the first departmentwide standard specifically banning those associations.
Department spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington said officials there do not expect any changes in policing of troops as a result of the amendment because the current regulation “is already broad enough to prohibit active participation in criminal gangs.”
But he added they did not oppose the language change, to explicitly state that troops must reject participation in gangs.
“Although the Department’s statistics do not support the conclusion that gang problems in the military are pervasive or significantly on the rise, anything that negatively affects readiness or undermines military values is of concern,” he said.
Thompson, a Vietnam veteran, said he hopes the new language also spurs more investigation into the problem by military officials. He said in many instances defense investigators don’t have the same resources of agencies such as the FBI to recognize or identify gang affiliation.
“We want to make sure they’re sharing the same list, identifying problems and minimizing the opportunity for gang members to get in (the military),” he said.
He added that he has discussed the issue with defense officials, and hopes to see more progress on weeding out gang members in coming months. Withington said officials are already working with FBI experts on accessing their gang databases.
House and Senate negotiators finalized their work on the 2008 Defense authorization bill earlier this month. The House gave final approval to the measure Wednesday, and the Senate passed it Friday. It now goes to President Bush to sign into law.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The fuss over alleged gang signs – on Page 1!

By Dave Mazzarella, Stars and Stripes ombudsman
Pacific edition, Friday, December 14, 2007
This photo — which shows a soldier from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division dancing with a Washington Redskins cheerleader at Patrol Base Dragon, Iraq, during a Nov. 27 appearance by the squad — appeared on the front page of Stars and Stripes’ Nov. 29 Mideast edition and inspired several letters to the editor from readers.

Once again, folks are talking about gangs in the military. In February, Stars and Stripes published thousands of words over four days on the subject. I have a feeling people took note, judging from the way it has surfaced now.

Two front-page photographs provided by The Associated Press and published last month in Stars and Stripes started the more recent buzz about gangs, more specifically about the signs gang members make to identify their allegiances. One photo appeared Nov. 14 in the Italy edition and Nov. 15 in the Okinawa and Japan editions and showed a group of soldiers being sworn in as U.S. citizens in Iraq. The second appeared Nov. 29 in the Mideast edition and showed soldiers dancing with Redskins cheerleaders. The event also took place in Iraq.

There were quick objections to both photos, expressed in letters to the editor. It was alleged that two soldiers in the first photo — the one with a group becoming citizens — were flashing gang signs. (The two were pictured close to the center of the photograph.) Matthew Fritch, writing from Iraq, said he understood the Army was cracking down on gangs, and asked why Stripes would show such an image. The matter “should be forwarded to the Criminal Investigation Command for immediate investigation,” he wrote.

In the second photo the soldier dancing with the cheerleader supposedly was flashing a gang sign with his hands in the air. Or so thought several letter writers. "This is unacceptable and your editors must do a better job of quality control," wrote Sgt. Brian Sladky from Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Capt. Joe Smith, writing from Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, said: “This (showing gang signs) is a punishable offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, if I am not mistaken. Are you telling me that this is the best picture your staff could find, out of the many I am sure were taken there, to put on the front page?” (Smith also berated Stripes for depicting soldiers getting “up close and personal” with the scantily clad cheerleaders. And another writer, Sgt. Marsha J. Vega from Iraq, complained about what she called the authorities’ propensity to repeatedly bring in “hot females dressed in tiny outfits.” She didn’t mention Stripes. This is a debate, in any case, for another day.)

Yet another writer, Sgt. Matthew Merchant, from Camp Speicher, Iraq, questioned whether Stripes intentionally displayed the ostensible gang signs: “[I]f the intent is to point out that the [gang] problem still exists, I applaud you.”

As to the two photographs of soldiers allegedly making gang signs, it turns out that Stripes editors, when examining both photos prior to publication, raised the possibility that the soldiers were in fact doing so.

Regarding the first photo, showing the citizenship ceremony, Leo Shane III, one of the reporters for the February gangs series, and copy editor Kate Moloney, scrutinized the image. They decided it was not possible to determine if the gestures were gang-related. The photo then was published.

Shane and Moloney apparently were correct. Chris Grey, chief of public affairs for the Criminal Investigation Command (CID) at Fort Belvoir, Va., told me: “It’s hard to say with any certainty that these allegations have merit. The hand sign displayed by the soldier in the rear of the picture is very similar to the hand gesture commonly found in the Hawaiian Islands and is not associated with gang activity, and the hand gesture made by the soldier in the front is not readily recognized as a common gang sign.”

The photo of the soldier dancing with the cheerleader was also studied by the editors. Executive Editor Robb Grindstaff said: “None of us recognized it from the chart [of gang signs] we had previously published with the gang package.” My check of law enforcement sources revealed a slightly more confident yet not definitive judgment. The hand gestures “closely resembled” those of a Harlem gang, said one source, who asked that his name not be used because of the sensitivity of the subject. Another expert, Richard Valdemar, a gang expert formerly with the Los Angeles Police Department, said one hand looked to him as if it were giving a sign, but not the equally contorted other hand.

Still, as Grey of the CID noted, “displaying hand gestures is not a criminal act” and showing signs is not proof that the person belongs to a gang. Signals could be considered criminal if they threatened violence or menace — certainly not evident in the two photos Stripes published. And both Grindstaff and Grey pointed out that in modern times, rap artists and ordinary “cool” individuals often display gang signs even if they have nothing whatsoever to do with gangs.

As to the two soldiers pictured, only they know what they were doing. The captions on the photos did not include their names. For the record, I tried to identify them in order to make contact and ask, but I failed.

A picture is said to be worth a thousand words. Here are four: Let’s just cool it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Airman to face Article 32 in gang beating

By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes European edition, Thursday, December 13, 2007

Airman Nicholas Sims has become the first airman charged for allegedly participating in the 2005 gang beating of Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson.
An Article 32 hearing for Sims of Ramstein Air Base’s 86th Maintenance Squadron is scheduled to begin on the base Monday, said Darlene Cowsert, a spokeswoman with the 435th Air Base Wing.
Sims, 28, faces charges of grievous bodily harm, aggravated assault and failure to obey a lawful order, Cowsert said.
The charges were preferred against Sims on Nov. 28.
The charges against Sims are much less severe than those faced by soldiers implicated in Johnson’s death.
Johnson, a soldier in Kaiserslautern’s 66th Transportation Company, was found dead in his barracks room July 4, 2005.
Johnson was beaten by nine current or former servicemembers — including Sims — for six minutes on the evening of July 3, 2005, during an initiation ceremony into the Gangster Disciples, according to previous testimony from Army Pfc. Latisha Ellis.
As a gang recruit, Ellis was an eyewitness to the alleged beating and now serves as a key prosecution witness.
If the matter proceeds to a court-martial and Sims is convicted on all charges, his potential maximum punishment would likely include confinement, dishonorable discharge, reduction to the lowest pay grade and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
Sims served as the right-hand man of the local gang’s leader, former Ramstein airman Rico Williams, Ellis has testified.
During the July 3, 2005, beating, Sims punched Johnson 40 or more times, according to Ellis’ prior testimony.
Three soldiers, who stood court-martial this summer in the Johnson case, all faced the more serious charge of involuntary manslaughter.
The first two soldiers who were tried this summer — Pvt. Terrence Norman and Sgt. Rodney Howell — were convicted and sentenced to confinement for their roles in Johnson’s death.
In October, a jury found Army Staff Sgt. Alre Hudson not guilty in the matter.
An airman who previously worked at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and allegedly served as the timekeeper at Johnson’s beating remains under investigation.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Themitrios Saroglou is currently assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and no charges have been filed against him, according to Lois Walsh with the 96th Air Base Wing public affairs office.
Sims’ Article 32 hearing will determine whether enough evidence exists against the accused airman to proceed to a court-martial.
The hearing is similar to the convening of a grand jury.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Soldier held in city shooting could be freed

Case in which 5 were shot is 'legally insufficient,' says city prosecutor's office

A Baltimore soldier charged with shooting five people in a gang-related dispute last month could be freed from an Oklahoma jail today after city prosecutors drop the case, the state's attorney's office said this morning.

Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the city prosecutor's office, said the case against Jerrell Hill is "legally insufficient." Hill is being held in a county detention center near Fort Sill.

Burns also said that authorities are withdrawing an extradition request for Hill, 18, who was charged this week with attempted murder in a warrant.
The attack occurred Sept. 20 in East Baltimore's Barclay neighborhood when police said two men approached a group on the street and one fired at least twice with a shotgun loaded with birdshot -- tiny metal pellets that, when discharged from a shotgun, can spray a wide area.

Police said at least three of the five victims who were shot have ties to a rival gang known as the Young Gorilla Family, which claims the Barclay neighborhood. Law enforcement officials believe the Young Gorilla Family and Bloods gang members have been responsible for a string of shootings and homicides in Barclay during the past year.

A police spokesman said investigators believe that the shooting suspect is a member of a local Bloods group known as the Pasadena Denver Lane gang. Hill's parents have said their son was not responsible for the attack and said they had no knowledge of his involvement in any violent gangs.

Hill's parents said they took their son to BWI Marshall Airport for an 11 a.m. American Airlines flight Sept. 11 and watched him pass through the security checkpoint, "and he was supposed to report back to base," Robert Hill said.

But earlier this week, Army officials said they could not publicly disclose when Hill reported to the base. Police also said they had witnesses who identified Hill as the suspected shooter.

Sterling Clifford, a city police spokesman, said this morning that new questions have come up about the case and where Hill was at the time of the shooting. Clifford said evidence does support that Hill flew to Oklahoma on Sept. 11 but that he did not report to Fort Sill until Sept. 21, a day after the shootings in East Baltimore.

Sterling said that Hill remains a "person of interest" and that the investigation is open and continuing.

Robert Hill said his son dropped out of one of the small schools at the former Northern High School in 10th grade but completed a security trades program at Woodstock Job Corps Center. Jerrell Hill, the younger of two children, earned his GED in March and enlisted in April because "he decided he wanted to get off the streets and do something with his life," his father said.

He joined the Army on April 25 and was a private assigned to 1st Battalion, 22nd Field Artillery at Fort Sill, according to military officials. He had been assigned to the artillery unit last month, officials said.,0,1360428.story?coll=bal-artslife-neighborhood


Oct 19, 2007 9:20 am US/Eastern

Evidence Clears Md. Soldier Of Shooting

by Dennis Edwards BALTIMORE (WJZ) ― Charges are dropped against soldier Jerrell Hill after indisputable evidence showed he left town before a Baltimore shooting.Charges are dropped against soldier Jerrell Hill after indisputable evidence showed he left town before a Baltimore shooting.

A new twist in the case of a Maryland soldier accused in a shooting. The judge asked that the charges be dismissed Thursday.

Dennis Edwards reports the charges are dropped after indisputable evidence showed Jerrell Hill left town before the shooting.

In spite of the evidence, investigators aren't convinced.

Baltimore Police got an attempted murder warrant for Jerrell Hill after a witness says he shot five people with a shot gun full of bird pellets in the 5600 block of Barclay St. But it turns out Hill had flown back to his base assignment at Fort Sill, Okla. 9 days earlier.

"This afternoon a prosecutor in the State's Attorney's office went to a judge and requested that the arrest warrant be quashed and the case be dismissed," said Margaret Burns of the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office.

Dropping the charges means Hill will be released from military custody to return to duty.

It's good, but not unexpected news for the 18-year-old's father, mother and girlfriend.

"I really wasn't worried. I knew where he was at all times. I was 100 percent sure that this was gonna break down," said Jerrell's father Robert Hill.

"The investigator who got the information that he wasn't there until Sept. 21. Where did you get that information from? Why did my son's name come from in the first place, and how did it go this far," said Jerrell's mother Quintina Hill.

But police tell Eyewitness News their investigation isn't over yet. They say Hill could still face charges.

They're still looking into what they call contradictory evidence about Hill's whereabouts between Sept. 11 and 21.

"If that's the case, if he's not responsible for it, obviously we don't want him to spend any more time in custody than he has already. And if he is the suspect, if it comes back to him, then we'll go get him again," said Sterling Clifford of the Baltimore City Police.

Hill's parents say there's no doubt he was at Fort Sill at the time of the shooting and before that. The Hill family says there is ample documentation because military personnel must sign in and out of work assignments.

Now the family is looking into legal options for totally clearing his name.

(© MMVII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Felons helped Army meet recruitment goal

Web Posted: 10/12/2007 11:29 PM CDT
Sig ChristensonExpress-News
WASHINGTON — The Army made its recruiting goal last year despite an increasingly unpopular war by turning to people convicted of serious crimes.

Recruiters signed up people who had committed such felonies as arson, burglary, aggravated assault, breaking and entering and driving while intoxicated.
The Army Recruiting Command said "moral" waivers for 1,620 felons were approved in the 2007 federal fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. That was far above the 2006 mark of 1,002.
The Army called giving waivers "the right thing to do" for those who want to serve. But a former Vietnam-era combat commander warned the service has cut a Faustian bargain it has made in the past and came to regret.
"I don't think that they should reduce their standards at all because it's not going to pay off for them," said retired Marine Lt. Gen. Bernard Trainor, who had the job of improving the quality of recruits in the Northeast after standards fell in the wake of Vietnam.
"It will be a short-term fix in making numbers, but a long-term headache in terms of performance," he predicted, "and I don't know one Army officer — particularly those who went through the Vietnam and post-Vietnam period — who doesn't take that same view."
The Army Recruiting Command's chief, Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick, said a relatively small number of the service's 80,000-plus active-duty recruits are granted moral waivers.
Most moral waivers, he said, were for misdemeanors — "small-time things" like joyriding and teen drinking. He said he or his deputy approved waivers for all serious offenses.
The Army grants waivers for reasons ranging from medical conditions to aptitude scores.
The number of all waivers issued also rose significantly in 2007 over the previous year —18.5 percent of all recruits. The Recruiting Command said 22,186 waivers were granted, more than half of them for "moral character" issues.
Another 38.9 percent were medical waivers, with the remaining 6.7 percent for drug and alcohol problems.
In all, 8,330 moral waivers were issued in the 2006 fiscal year. Of those, 1,002 were for offenses the Army classified as felonies, Recruiting Command spokesman Douglas Smith said. Recruits allowed into boot camp, he added, received a reduced charge in many cases but still were classified as felons.
Those convicted of sexually violent offenses and drug dealing aren't allowed into the Army. Federal gun control law forbids people convicted of certain domestic violence crimes from serving. Those involved in school violence were barred after the Columbine shootings, the Army said, as are people in jail, on parole or facing felony charges.
The Army conducts an extensive investigation into the background of each person only after a court renders judgment.
University of Maryland military sociologist David Segal called the numbers striking. The Army couldn't say if they were a record, but one Pentagon official, Dr. David Chu, told reporters this week that while waivers in 2007 were within historical norm, they were "at the high end" of the range.
The Army's increasing reliance on people with questionable backgrounds comes amid a war that Segal and the recruiting command's Bostick agree has hurt recruiting.
"When you have a war that's not supported by the American people, you're not going to get the right people to join the American Army," said Lawrence Korb, assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs during the Reagan administration, now a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress in Washington.
The Army, though, said the waiver program allows patriotic young people to serve their country. In a fact sheet on the subject, the Army notes just three in 10 Americans between 17 and 24 years old are fully qualified to serve. The Army, it adds, reflects American society and, as a result, is taking more overweight youths and people with asthma, along with those convicted of serious crimes.
Bostick conceded Iraq is the deal-breaker for people. Recruiters, he said, are struggling to win the hearts and minds of "influencers," parents and other authority figures who help guide young people.
The raw numbers underscore the Army's dilemma in the fifth year of the Iraq war. It signed up fewer high school graduates — just 79.07 percent in 2007, down slightly from the previous year. It's taking in more overweight recruits and a greater number of people who post the lowest scores on the military's aptitude test.
Those who have been members of gangs, though, aren't automatically excluded from service.
"It's the criminal behavior that would be cause for exclusion," said Smith of the recruiting command. Anyone seeking a moral waiver is closely scrutinized by both recruiters and their chain of command, he said.
He could not say how many on waivers make it through basic training or commit crimes — including felonies — once they are in uniform.
Some soldiers famed for their heroism in combat, however, had checkered pasts.
At 16, Louis Richard Rocco was about to be sentenced for grand theft auto and armed robbery when he visited an Army recruiter. After a heart-to-heart talk, the recruiter went with him to court, where a judge said he could join the Army at 17 if he stayed in school, obeyed a curfew and stopped hanging out with gang-member friends.
Rocco, who died at his San Antonio home in 2002 at 63, received the Medal of Honor after his helicopter was hit by enemy fire and crashed. He retired as a chief warrant officer in 1978, four years after receiving the medal from President Ford, and re-enlisted during the first Gulf War.
Rocco, an Albuquerque, N.M., native, recruited medical personnel at Fort Sam Houston and later became a motivational speaker in the Alamo City.
Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said the number of moral waivers for 2007 were "quite acceptable," and noted that rates for desertion and going AWOL "continue to be at historically low levels."
The Army could not say how many soldiers who came in on moral waivers last year were accused of committing offenses requiring court-martials or non-judicial punishment. It added that an examination of records in 2003 showed no "significant" problem.
But Trainor, co-author of "Cobra II," a critical look at the Iraq war, said it took seven years for the Marines to recover from their decision to lower recruiting standards. The corps fixed the problem, he said, by taking a "zero-tolerance" approach to those responsible for recruiting and training new Marines.
"Is there room for the renegade and the rogue in the enlisted ranks?" Trainor asked. "Yes, there is. You don't want to close it off because there's a guy there who is going to do a hell of a good job, but you have to be careful. I'm saying you have to be careful about the people you accept and invest in."

Friday, August 17, 2007

Attack from within

By George J. Bryjak

Posted on: Friday, August 17, 2007

Collectively, the armed forces of the United States comprise the finest military organization in the world. The overwhelming number of men and women in its ranks are highly trained, honorable individuals willing to fight and die for their country. Lately, however, the integrity of the nation’s military has been compromised from within.

Since 2003, the U.S. Army has issued a significant number of “moral waivers” to recruits with criminal records: 15 percent of total recruits in 2004, 12 percent in 2005 and 11.7 in 2006. Over the past three years, more than 125,000 men and women with criminal records have joined the military. According to Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Ky., some of these individuals have “serious criminal misconduct” in their backgrounds. The most egregious offenses include receiving stolen property, aggravated assault, robbery, making terrorist threats and vehicular manslaughter.

Most experts are of the opinion that the unpopularity of the Iraq war is primarily responsible for the increase in “moral waiver” recruits. Individuals who oppose the war are not likely to enlist, while the majority of its “talk the talk,” hard-nosed supporters are unwilling to “walk the walk” to the recruiting office. As Alan Gropman of the Pentagon’s National Defense University argues, “There is terrific pressure put on recruiters ... They have to meet their mission so they request more waivers. In order to make the numbers they have to lower their standards.”

John D. Hutson, president of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire and former judge advocate general of the Navy, believes there is a very good reason why the military has traditionally shunned potential recruits with criminal histories: “If you are recruiting somebody who has demonstrated some sort of antisocial behavior and then you are putting a gun in their hands, you have to be awful careful about what you are doing ... You are not putting a hammer in their hands, or asking them to sell cars. You are potentially asking them to kill people.”

David Isenberg, Navy veteran and senior analyst at the British American Security Information Council, notes that studies from past decades indicate soldiers with criminal records are more likely to disobey military regulations: “The worse ... moral background you came from, the lousier job you did, not only in terms of your personal performance but in dragging down unit cohesion.”

Charles Moskos, a military sociologist at Northwestern University, states that lowering standards via moral waivers “increases the likelihood of problems in the unit, discipline problems.” As discipline is the bedrock of any military organization, anything that undermines the chain of command can only reduce a unit’s combat effectiveness.

No doubt some individuals with criminal histories (especially those who have committed less serious offenses) will be rehabilitated by the armed forces, becoming first-rate soldiers and respectable citizens. The question is, which ones with what offense history? This query may be impossible to answer as the military does not track criminal history of personnel.

While recruiters dispense moral waivers to clear the way for one problematic group of enlistees, another, arguably much more dangerous cohort of young men is entering the armed forces without waivers: neo-Nazis, racist skinheads and gang members. A 2006 investigation by the hate-group-monitoring Southern Poverty Law Center concluded that “large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinheads” are in the U.S. military. Department of Defense gang detective Scott Barfield told the SPLC that neo-Nazis “stretch across all branches of service, they are linking up across the branches once they’re inside, and they are hard core. We’ve got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad ... That’s a problem.” (Although the Pentagon has long been aware of white supremacists in uniform, it dismissed the SPLC report).

Barfield stated that to meet enlistment quotas, “Recruiters are knowingly allowing neo-Nazis and white supremacists to join the armed forces and commanders won’t remove them,” even when these troops have been positively identified. Based at Fort Lewis, Wash., Barfield has identified and submitted evidence on 320 extremists at that Army installation. Only two had been discharged as of mid-year 2006. According to a 1998 Defense Department study, young extremists are encouraged by older leaders to join the military and gain access to weapons, combat training and potential new recruits to white power organizations.

The SPLC investigation identified a former Special Forces officer who wrote an article for the National Alliance (a neo-Nazi organization) publication Resistance.

“Light infantry is your branch of the service because the coming race war and the ethnic cleansing to follow will be very much an infantryman’s war,” he wrote. “It will be house-to-house, neighborhood-by-neighborhood until your town or city is cleared and the alien races are driven into the countryside where they can be hunted down and ‘cleansed.’”

While on active duty, T.J. Leyden, a former racist skinhead and Marine, recruited for the Hammerheads, a nationwide skinhead gang. He later renounced his neo-Nazi affiliation and now conducts anti-extremism training seminars for the military.

“Right now, any white supremacist in Iraq is getting live fire, guerilla warfare experience,” Leyden said. “And if he comes back and decides at some point down the road that it’s race war time, all that training and combat experience he’s received could easily turn around and bite this country in the a—.”

A January 2007 report, “Gang-Related Activity in the U.S. Armed Forces Increasing,” issued by the National Gang Intelligence Center, concluded that members of nearly every major street gang “have been identified on both domestic and international military installations.” Although occurring in all branches of the armed forces, military gang activity is most prevalent in the Army, the Army Reserve and the National Guard. Principal findings of this study include the following:

¯Some gang members enlist to receive weapons and combat training as well as obtain access to weapons and explosives.

¯Gang incidents involving active-duty personnel on or near U.S. military bases include drive-by shootings, assaults, robberies, drug distribution, weapons violations, extortion and money laundering.

¯Military training could result in more organized, sophisticated and violent gang activity as well as an increase in deadly assaults on law enforcement officers.

¯The military enlistment of gang members could ultimately lead to the worldwide expansion of U.S.-based gangs.

¯As most gang members maintain an allegiance to their gangs, these individuals could jeopardize the safety of other soldiers.

While military personnel with criminal records as well as gang and neo-Nazi affiliations existed prior to the Iraq War, their numbers have increased since the inception of this conflict. If U.S. involvement in the Iraq campaign drags on for another five to 10 years, this problem will only intensify, perhaps reaching a crisis level. A growing racist and criminal element within the armed forces is undermining the honor and possibly the effectiveness of the most distinguished institution in American society.

George J. Bryjak served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1964-67 and then was a sociology professor for 24 years at the University of San Diego. Now retired from teaching, he lives in Bloomingdale.


Alvarez, L. (Feb. 14, 2007) “Army Giving More Waivers in Recruiting,” New York Times

Bender, B. (July 13, 2006) “More Entering Army with Criminal Records,” Boston Globe

Bowman, T. (Feb. 14, 2006) “Army Accepting More Recruits with Criminal, Drug Histories,” Baltimore Sun

“Gang-Related Activity in the U.S. Armed Forces Increasing” (2007) National Gang Intelligence Center, Stars and Stripes,

Gerstein, J. (March 16, 2006) “Army Transfers Could Trigger a Gang War,” The New York Sun

Holthouse, D. (Summer 2006) “A Few Bad Men,” Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center

Kifner, J. (July 7, 2006) “Hate Groups Are Infiltrating the Military, Groups Asserts,” New York Times

Main, F. (March 16, 2006) “Gangs in the Ranks,” Chicago Sun-Times

Mitchell, B. (Feb. 11, 2007) “White Supremacists Presence Has Been a Concern for Years,” Stars and Stripes,

Powers, R. (Feb. 12, 2007) “Gang Activity in the U.S. Military,”,

Turse, N. (Oct. 1, 2006) “U.S. Is Recruiting Misfits for Army,”,

Sunday, July 29, 2007

After Tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Marine Left Dying on Tampa Street

St. Petersburg Times - Published Sunday, July 29, 2007
TAMPA - Just after the first bomb exploded in the Iraq war, Miguel Angel Suarez enlisted in the Marines.

His parents and five siblings warned him of the dangers abroad, but Suarez said he wanted to repay this country for the better life his family found after moving here from Mexico City when he was7 years old. It was March 2003, and this new war was his chance.

He survived tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. When his four-year enlistment was up this year, he signed up again. This time, he would work from a safer base in Tampa.

The insurgents never got him. But early July 21, Suarez was gunned down and left to die a mile and a half from his childhood home.

Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies say a 21-year-old gang member killed the Marine in a botched robbery attempt.

Jonathan Sanabria of 18425 Bittern Ave. saw Suarez, 25, walking home from a concert near the corner of North Himes and West Sligh avenues, deputies said.

In the ensuing scuffle, Sanabria pistol-whipped Suarez, shot him twice and left him lying in the street, deputies said.

They arrested Sanabria, described by deputies as a member of the Gangster Disciples gang of Chicago, Tuesday evening on a first-degree murder charge.

Sanabria, in jail without bail, told detectives it all happened because he wanted Suarez's gold chain.

"El Toro"

Pedro Suarez sat outside his West Tampa home Wednesday afternoon, cloaked head to toe in his little brother's full camouflage uniform, still wondering how anyone could kill Miguel.

This was the man who traveled to Mexico twice a year to surprise his 81-year-old grandmother with mariachis and flowers.

The Marine who stayed quiet about the dangers in Afghanistan and Iraq to keep his mother from worrying.

Miguel Suarez had been the baby of the family.

But in the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, everyone knew him as "El Toro."

He spoke in double entendre, making jokes that slid by most. Sgt. Jimmy Ray Sumaya always laughed.

"Finally," Suarez told him when they met. "Someone who knows what I'm talking about."

They became quick friends, and Sumaya encouraged him to re-enlist this year.

Suarez did and told his brothers he wanted to make the Marines a lifelong career.

a strange mood

The night he died, Suarez went to a Colombian Independence Day concert with a childhood friend, Janeth Valderrama.

In their tight-knit group, Suarez played the role of "the Fonz," she said. He razzed his friends, hassled waiters and never let himself - or his pals - make excuses.

"You wouldn't get the comfort; you'd get the truth," Valderrama said. In situations where some might offer consolation, he made people face reality: "Yeah, it was your fault."

Still, Suarez's friends trusted him not to judge or lecture them, said Liliana Villavicencio. He played pranks on them but was there when they needed him.

And despite his irreverence, he knew when to focus. Before exams at Jefferson High School, his normal goofing off gave way to diligent studying, Villavicencio said.

Suarez started out his usual self Friday night. Valderrama picked him up at the house he had just bought in Riverview. They drove to the concert at the Hindu Temple of Florida on Lynn Road. Suarez had a few drinks and danced with his friends.

But by 2 a.m. his mood had changed.

"He was really drunk and seemed really bored," Valderrama said. "I don't know exactly why."

She left him for a moment to check on her sister. When she returned, Suarez was gone.

When the concert ended at 3 a.m., Valderrama waited outside to see if her friend would emerge.

She called him on her cell phone, and after a long wait he called her back.

He apologized for his behavior and told her how much her friendship meant to him. But he also said he wanted to be alone, and told her to go home.

She could tell he was in a strange mood because he didn't crack any jokes.

She told him she wasn't going home until she knew he was safe, but the line went dead. Figuring Suarez was walking to his parents' house, she drove up Himes Avenue.

About 4 a.m. she saw the lights.

"Oh, great, they picked him up and they're going to put him in jail because of public intoxication," she thought.

Then she saw him lying on the street. She recognized his white undershirt and shoes. She begged police to let her talk to him, so he would know she had kept her promise. But they held her back as the paramedics worked.

That tortures her, she said.

"Maybe if he had heard my voice he would have reacted and not gone."

"god forgives"

Every afternoon since July 21, his family has prayed the rosary. Each time, about 100 people come to the house to join them.

His cousins drove 42 hours from Mexico to Tampa to mourn his death. His ex-wife, Yvette Martinez, flew in from Air Force service in Afghanistan.

Suarez was buried Thursday after a morning mass at St. Joseph's Catholic Church.

But the family's ordeal continues.

There's still the man with the pitchfork gang tattoo and more than 10 previous arrests awaiting trial.

Hating Sanabria won't bring her son back, said Hermelinda Suarez. The mother only had two words to say to him: "God forgives."

"I'd like to talk to him," said Sgt. Sumaya. "Ask him, 'Why?'<0x200A>"

Suarez was learning how to play the guitar. He had just gotten his motorcycle permit. He dreamed of one day starting a family.

What hits his friends the hardest is the way he died.

Suarez always said he hated gangs, thought they made people weak and robbed them of personality.

Suarez's friend Villavicencio is outraged by the senselessness of his death.

"He's a Marine," she said, "not some little hoodlum, to get shot in the street."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Are Gang Members Using Military Training?

Military Police Have Briefed Local Police That Troops Could Be Sharing Their Skills

July 28, 2007
Four U.S. Marines in South Carolina were recruiting local kids, some as young as 13, into the Crips street gang. (CBS/Richland Co. Sheriff)

A Quote

"The numbers are increasing like crazy around the U.S. and adding this extra fuel is just not going to help matters."

Hunter Glass


(CBS) Like most American cities, Columbia, South Carolina, has its share of problems, but nothing prepared the Sheriff Leon Lott for what his department discovered last August.

Four U.S. Marines – who proudly snapped pictures of each other – were recruiting local kids, some as young as 13, into the Crips street gang. The leader was a lance corporal.

"We have enough problems with local kids and what they are doing," Lott, the Richland County Sheriff, said. "But to have the Marines – someone who is trained – to come up here and recruit and give them the training they've had in the military, it scares me to death cause it tells me we're at war with these gangs."

It's a concern also raised by the FBI. In a recent report the agency warned: "Military training could ultimately result in more sophisticated and deadly gangs ... as well deadly assaults on law enforcement officers."

CBS News has learned that military police have briefed local authorities in major cities, including New York, about the rising danger that gang members in the military could share their skills with gangs on the streets. That could include combat, logistics, and even emergency medical skills.

"We heard about it in other places," Lott said. "We didn't think Columbia, South Carolina would be a place where the military would have influence on our gangs, but we had it."

Army investigators tell CBS News that there is absolutely no evidence that soldiers are using their combat training in gang activity, nor proof that gangs are sending members into the military to learn such skills. They insist the threat is low.

"We're not seeing this in this particular time – we're just not," said Colonel Gene Smith of the U.S. Army's Office of the Provost Marshal. "It's just a theory."

But there was an incident in which a disturbed Marine used his training to kill two policemen. In January, 2005, the Marine, who police say was associated with the Norteno street gang, shot to death two policeman outside a convenience store in Ceres, California.

Surveillance video shows him using a technique marines call "cutting the pie" – instead of cowering, he boldly attacks.

"Gangs are gaining strength across the United States," said Hunter Glass, a retired police detective who tracks gangs. "The numbers are increasing like crazy around the U.S. and adding this extra fuel is just not going to help matters."

The House of Representatives has passed legislation prohibiting service members from associating with street gangs. A Senate could vote could come next month. But there are also calls to raise enlistment standards, which have slipped to such an extent that one in 10 new army recruits has a criminal record.

"We were able in the 80's and into the 90's to say, 'you have to be special to serve your country because this is difficult work'," said Lawrence Korb, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense. "But now we are saying, 'we are so desperate for people, we are going to take anybody as long as you can walk through the door'."

A short term solution for the military and a future problem, some say, for police departments in their war against street gangs.

Gang activity more common in military

WASHINGTON, July 28 (UPI) -- Urban street gangs have moved from U.S. cities into the U.S. military, with gang graffiti even showing up on Humvees in Iraq.

Hunter Glass, a retired police detective in Fayetteville, N.C., where Fort Bragg is located, said strains on the military because of Iraq and Afghanistan make it difficult to keep gangs out of the military.

"It's obvious that many of these people do not give up their gang affiliations," Glass told CBS News.

The Army Criminal Investigation Command said the number of gang-related investigations increased from nine in 2004 to 61 last year. But officials said gang activity is still a tiny part of its caseload.

The increase coincides with the increase in the number of recruits given waivers for having criminal records. Membership in a street gang is not necessarily a disqualifier.

Stephanie Cockrell, whose son was killed in a gang initiation in Germany two weeks before his discharge, said that should change.

"I would have loved to have seen him with his child, I really would have -- that part is hard, that part is hard," she said.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Exclusive: Gangs Spreading In The Military

CBS News Talks To The Family Of A U.S. Soldier Killed In Gang Initiation
July 28, 2007
Shavon Striggles, a Marine corporal, poses in gang colors inside the barracks on Parris Island. (Richland County Sheriff)

A Quote

"I feel like I didn't prepare him enough to deal with this and I should have. But how would I have known there were gangs in the military?"

Stephanie Cockrell - Mother of Sgt. Juwan Johnson

(CBS) U.S. Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson got a hero's welcome while home on leave in June of 2004.

"Not only did I love my son - but my god - I liked the man he was becoming," his mother, Stephanie Cockrell, remembers.

But that trip home was the last time his family saw him alive.

When Johnson died, he wasn't in a war zone, he was in Germany.

"He had finished his term in Iraq," his mother said. "I talked to him the day before his death. He said, 'Mom, I'm in the process of discharging out. I'll be out in two weeks'."

On July 3, 2005, Sgt. Johnson went to a park not far from his base in Germany to be initiated into the 'Gangster Disciples,' a notorious Chicago-based street gang. He was beaten by eight other soldiers in a "jump-in" - an initiation rite common to many gangs.

"My son never spoke of joining a gang," Cockrell told CBS News correspondent Thalia Assuras.

Johnson died that night from his injuries. His son, Juwan Jr., was born five months later.

"I feel like I didn't prepare him enough to deal with this and I should have," his mother said. "But how would I have known there were gangs in the military? I could have had that talk with him."

Evidence of gang culture and gang activity in the military is increasing so much an FBI report calls it "a threat to law enforcement and national security." The signs are chilling: Marines in gang attire on Parris Island; paratroopers flashing gang hand signs at a nightclub near Ft. Bragg; infantrymen showing-off gang tattoos at Ft. Hood.

"It's obvious that many of these people do not give up their gang affiliations," said Hunter Glass, a retired police detective in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the home of Ft. Bragg and the 82nd Airborne. He monitors gang activity at the base and across the military.

"If we weren't in the middle of fighting a war, yes, I think the military would have a lot more control over this issue," Glass said. "But with a war going on, I think it's very difficult to do."

Gang activity clues are appearing in Iraq and Afghanistan, too. Gang graffiti is sprayed on blast walls – even on Humvees. Kilroy – the doodle made famous by U.S. soldiers in World War II – is here, but so is the star emblem of the Gangster Disciples.

The soldier who took photos if the graffiti told CBS News that he's been warned he's as good as dead if he ever returns to Iraq.

"We represent America – our demographics are the same – so the same problems that America contends with we often times contend with," said Colonel Gene Smith of the Army's Office of the Provost Marshal.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command reported 61 gang investigations and incidents last year, compared to just 9 in 2004. But army officials point out less than 1 percent of all its criminal investigations are gang related.

"We must remember that there are a million people in the army community," Smith said, "And these small numbers are not reflective of a tremendous, pervasive, rampant problem."

The rise in gang activity coincides with the increase in recruits with records. Since 2003, 125,000 recruits with criminal histories have been granted what are known as "moral waivers" for felonies including robbery and assault.

A hidden-camera investigation by CBS Denver station KCNC found one military recruiter was quick to offer the waiver option even when asked, "Does it matter that i was in a gang or anything?" That is well within military regulations.

"You may have had some gang activity in your past and everything ... OK ... but that in itself does not disqualify...," the recruiter said.

Military regulations disqualify members of hate groups from enlisting, but there is no specific ban on members of street gangs. Sgt. Juwan Johnson's family says such a prohibition is long overdue.

"Just maybe we can save someone else's child ... somebody else's husband ... somebody else's father," his mother said. "I would have loved to have seen him with his child, I really would have -- that part is hard, that part is hard."

This month a military court sentenced two of Juwan Johnson's attackers to prison.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Second soldier is jailed in gang beating death

By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Wednesday, July 25, 2007

MANNHEIM, Germany — Sgt. Rodney Howell was sentenced to six years confinement and a dishonorable discharge Tuesday for his role in the 2005 beating death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson.

Howell, who faced a possible 19 years behind bars, is the second soldier in as many weeks to be convicted, sentenced to jail time and given a dishonorable discharge for killing Johnson. Last week, Pvt. Terrence Norman was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

An eyewitness testified that nine men beat Johnson for six minutes during a July 2005 Gangster Disciples initiation near Kaiserslautern.

Army Judge Col. Julie Hasdorff determined Howell’s sentence and verdict because Howell opted against a court-martial by jury. Hasdorff found Howell guilty of involuntary manslaughter, violating an Army regulation on hazing, conspiring to violate the Army regulation on hazing and making a false official statement.

Under the hazing charge, Howell was convicted for his own 2004 initiation into the gang, which took place when Kaiserslautern’s 66th Transportation Company was deployed to Tikrit, Iraq.

The judge found Howell not guilty of aggravated assault.

Howell was also sentenced to reduction to private and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.

The most serious charge Howell faced was involuntary manslaughter for his role in the July 3, 2005, jump-in initiation of Johnson, who died of multiple blunt force trauma the next day.

Before sentencing, Howell gave a tearful unsworn statement in which he apologized to Johnson’s wife.

Much of the prosecution’s case rested on the testimony of Pvt. Latisha Ellis, who said as a one-time gang recruit she was only a spectator to the beating.

Ellis testified that Howell was one of the current or former servicemembers who beat Johnson during the initiation ritual near Kaiserslautern.

“It is time for Sergeant Rodney Howell to take responsibility for his actions,” said Capt. Rebecca DiMuro, prosecuting attorney. “Sergeant Howell and his fellow Gangster Disciples conspired to initiate Sergeant Johnson in a jump-in/beat-in ceremony.”

With Ellis being the only source linking Howell and Johnson’s death, the details of her testimony were of vital importance, defense attorney Capt. Joe Venghaus said.

At the very least, Ellis was exaggerating when she testified Johnson was punched 220 times and kicked 12 times during the beating, Venghaus said.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense when we see the pictures of Sergeant Johnson,” Venghaus said.

Dr. David Posey, an expert in forensic pathology, testified for the defense that Ellis’ testimony of what happened is not consistent with injuries he saw in Johnson’s autopsy photos.

“I would have expected to see a lot more injuries to the head and neck,” said Posey, a retired Army colonel.

Ellis testified that Johnson was kicked in the chest repeatedly by the self-proclaimed gang leader, Rico Williams. Photos of Johnson’s chest and abdomen did not show significant damage.

“If [Johnson] was kicked in the chest, I’d expect to see some injuries there,” Posey said.

Under questioning from DiMuro, Posey said he saw injuries that would indicate Johnson was kicked in his left flank.

As for Ellis, DiMuro said when a crime is committed in hell there are no angels as witnesses.

“[Ellis] is no angel, but that does not mean what she told us is not true,” DiMuro said.

Next month, Staff Sgt. Alre Hudson is scheduled to stand court-martial for playing a part in killing Johnson.

Soldier gets 19 years in killingJudge gives midrange sentence to man with role in murder of comrade

ADAM LYNN; The News Tribune Published: July 25th, 2007 01:00 AM

A federal judge sentenced a Fort Lewis soldier to 19 years in prison Tuesday for setting in motion a series of events that led to the murder of his former Army buddy.
U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton told Michael Antonio Jordan he bore responsibility for the death of Christopher Jerry, even though it was another man who fired the gun that killed him.

“A buddy, or a former buddy, is dead, and it’s because of you,” Leighton said during Jordan’s sentencing hearing at Tacoma’s federal courthouse. “You’re going to have to live with that for the rest of your life, sir.”

Jordan, 21, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of kidnapping that led to a death.

Federal prosecutors contend Jordan orchestrated the kidnapping of Jerry, his former roommate, the night of Aug. 30, 2005. Jordan intended to recover $1,500 he loaned Jerry, prosecutors said.

After he and others beat Jerry at a remote area of Fox Island, Jordan drove Jerry to Lakewood. Once there, Jordan enlisted help from members of a violent street gang in dealing with Jerry, according to court documents.

One of them, Thomas Evans Dunigan, made a plan to kill the 22-year-old man, a plan that gang member Markus Moore later carried out near a fence surrounding Fort Lewis.

Moore was sentenced last month to 29 years in prison for shooting Jerry. Dunigan was sentenced last month to 20 years for his role in the murder.

Jordan’s lawyer, Charles Johnson of Tacoma, told Leighton on Tuesday that Jordan deserved a sentence of 16 years, saying his client was an Iraq war veteran with no criminal history.

Jordan joined the Army at 16 to escape a life of gangs and crime but made poor judgments the night of Aug. 30 and the early-morning hours of Aug. 31, 2005, Johnson said. Diagnosed mental health issues played a role in Jordan’s decision-making, his attorney said.

Federal prosecutor Gregory Gruber argued that Jordan should get at least the same sentence Dunigan received.

While Jordan served honorably in Iraq, he betrayed the loyalty of a fellow soldier when he turned Jerry over to men who he knew to be violent gang members, essentially signing his death warrant, Gruber said.

“Who should value life more than a soldier who has seen death?” the prosecutor told Leighton. “None of this would have happened without Mr. Jordan.”

Given a second chance to address the court, Johnson countered that Gruber was unfairly using Jordan’s military service against him.

“He tried to make something of his life, and they want to punish him for it,” Johnson said.

Jordan declined the opportunity to speak on his own behalf.

Leighton then decided on a midrange sentence for Jordan, who faced 16 to 22 years under sentencing guidelines.

“You assembled the cast of characters,” the judge said. “You set it all in motion.”

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

NCO accused of beating chooses judge over jury

By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Tuesday, July 24, 2007

MANNHEIM, Germany — Sgt. Rodney Howell opted Monday for a judge to determine the outcome of his court-martial instead of a jury composed of fellow soldiers.

Howell faces five charges, including involuntary manslaughter, in a 2005 alleged gang initiation beating that resulted in the death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson.

Last Thursday, a jury convicted Pvt. Terrence Norman of involuntary manslaughter and associated charges in Johnson’s death. Shortly after the conviction, the jury gave Norman his maximum possible sentence of 12 years confinement, a dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances. The next day, Howell and his attorneys requested court-martial by judge alone.

Howell’s court-martial began Monday in Mannheim with Col. Julie Hasdorff presiding as judge. As of Monday afternoon, the prosecution had called several witnesses. If found guilty on all charges, Howell could be sentenced to a maximum of 24 years behind bars.

Prosecuting attorney Capt. Rebecca DiMuro said the case was about Howell’s taking responsibility for the results of his actions.

“Like wolves on a piece of meat is how the eyewitness will describe how for six minutes nine men beat Sergeant Johnson,” DiMuro said.

As many as nine current or former servicemembers beat Johnson at the initiation to the Gangster Disciples on July 3, 2005, near Kaiserslautern, eyewitness Pvt. Latisha Ellis said.

Howell punched Johnson multiple times during the initiation and hosted a July 4, 2005, cookout in which a cover story was concocted, Ellis testified Monday.

Defense attorney Capt. Jeffrey Fox acknowledged that Howell was close with some of those involved in the case but those were relationships forged when Kaiserslautern’s 66th Transportation Company was deployed to Iraq in 2004.

“The government is trying to confuse you with guilty by association, which they can prove, and guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which they can’t prove,” Fox said.

Ellis testified using many of the alleged gangsters’ nicknames such as “Hurt,” “Peewee” and “Zay.” When asked by defense attorney Capt. Joe Venghaus what they called Howell, Ellis said Howell was called by his last name.

Venghaus questioned Ellis’ credibility, noting that she has been convicted of making a false official statement to investigators in the case. Venghaus pointed out that not until February when she made a deal with the government did Ellis reveal to prosecutors what she was now saying in court.

Ellis testified she lied when first talking to investigators in August 2005 because she was scared of Rico Williams, a former Ramstein Air Base airman and the self-proclaimed leader of the Gangster Disciples in Kaiserslautern.

Also on Monday, autopsy photos of Johnson were displayed that showed abrasions and bruises on his back, flank and arms. Col. Kathleen Ingwersen, who performed Johnson’s autopsy, said he died of multiple blunt force injuries.

“If he would not have received these injuries, he would not have died at that time,” she said.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Soldier gets 12 years in gang-related beating death

Private is first to be convicted in Sgt. Juwan Johnson case, gets dishonorable discharge
By Steve Mraz, Stars and StripesEuropean edition, Friday, July 20, 2007

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Pvt. Terrence Norman was sentenced to the maximum punishment of 12 years’ confinement and given a dishonorable discharge Thursday for the 2005 beating death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson.
A six-member jury of two officers and four enlisted soldiers took less than three hours Thursday to find Norman guilty of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, violating an Army regulation on hazing and conspiring to violate the Army regulation on hazing.
The charges of aggravated assault and violation of the Army regulation on hazing were later dismissed during the sentencing phase because they were deemed excessive given the involuntary manslaughter conviction.
The panel deliberated for 45 minutes.
After Norman left the courtroom, he tearfully embraced a few friends before being escorted into a room.
Norman becomes the first soldier convicted in the case surrounding Johnson’s July 3, 2005, “jumping in” to join the Gangster Disciples. An eyewitness to the beating testified Tuesday that Norman was one of nine men who repeatedly punched Johnson during the six-minute initiation.
In an unsworn statement read to the jury, Norman called his actions “very stupid and completely unacceptable.” He apologized to Johnson’s family.
“My actions led to the death of your son and husband,” said Norman, 22. “… I am sorry for the pain I have caused you.”
Stephanie Cockrell, Johnson’s mother, testified that she had a particularly difficult time accepting the fact that her son survived a tour in Iraq only to die by the hands of his fellow soldiers.
“You expect in wartime to get the call or perhaps the knock on your door,” she said. “Never in a million years did I expect someone to say to me that your son was beaten to death by other soldiers.”
Johnson’s wife, Kenika, gave birth to the couple’s only son five months after he died. She testified that sometimes it is hard to look at Juwan Jr. and not cry because he looks so much like his late father. Kenika Johnson said she has no idea how she will tell her son what happened to his father.
“I guess I’ll just have to tell him the truth,” she said. “I don’t know how that will go.”
Prosecuting attorney Capt. Jocelyn Stewart recommended to the jury that Norman receive the maximum sentence.
“Do not forget Sergeant Johnson’s pain,” she said. “Do not forget the pain of his family that continues, the pain of that little boy who will grow up fatherless.”
Capt. Chandra LaGrone, defense attorney, told the panel prior to sentencing that Norman was ready to face the consequences of his actions.
“He was and is a young, impressionable kid, who made some very poor decisions,” LaGrone said.
Others who participated in the beating will face courts-martial soon. Six other current or former soldiers and four current or former airmen either beat Johnson or were present at the jumping in, according to testimony from Pvt. Latisha Ellis, the lone Army spectator to the beating. Ellis’ murder charge was dismissed in February in exchange for her eyewitness testimony.
The court-martial of Army Sgt. Rodney Howell is scheduled to begin next week, and Army Staff Sgt. Alre Hudson is set to stand court-martial in late August.
The jury found Norman not guilty of a specification of violating the Army regulation on hazing. The not-guilty finding stemmed from an alleged 2004 Gangster Disciple initiation when Kaiserslautern’s 66th Transportation Company was deployed to Tikrit, Iraq.

Charges dismissed in gang-initiation beating death in Germany

By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Wednesday, June 20, 2007

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The fate of the case against Spc. Bobby Morrissette in the 2005 beating death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson will rest in the hands of a new command.

On Thursday, Brig. Gen. Scott West, commander of the 21st Theater Support Command, withdrew and dismissed all charges against Morrissette, according to Joe Monchecourt with the 21st TSC public affairs office. West served as the convening authority in the case.

The decision was reached late Thursday, but the information was not released until Tuesday because Friday and Monday were training holidays for the Army.

West’s action was taken to comply with a May 30 ruling by Judge (Col.) James Pohl. Military prosecutors from the 21st TSC and commanders who had convening authority were disqualified from the case for not following protocol during the investigation into Johnson’s death, Pohl ruled. The disqualification surrounded a December 2005 interview of Morrissette in which prosecutors and investigators did not follow proper procedure. Pohl did not dismiss the charges against Morrissette at the late May hearing.

Morrissette’s current unit, the 1st Cargo Transfer Company, is scheduled to relocate from Kaiserslautern to Grafenwöhr in the coming months. Files in the investigation into Morrissette will be forwarded to the command that Morrissette’s unit will fall under for legal matters.

“The gaining command should be free to take whatever action is deemed appropriate,” Monchecourt said.

Upon the move, the company will remain under the command and control of the 21st TSC, but the legal jurisdiction would fall under the Joint Multinational Training Command, said Elke Herberger, a U.S. Army Europe spokeswoman.

Morrissette faced charges of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, gang affiliation, hazing and making a false official statement in the alleged gang-initiation death of Johnson. Johnson died of multiple blunt force injuries on July 4, 2005, after an alleged initiation ceremony into the Gangster Disciples. Three other Kaiserslautern soldiers are facing courts-martial in the death.

West also dismissed charges alleging that Morrissette committed an indecent act and used indecent language in another incident.

Also on Thursday, West referred the case of another suspect in Johnson’s death to court-martial. Staff Sgt. Alre Hudson will stand court-martial on charges of involuntary manslaughter, hazing, aggravated assault and conspiracy to violate Army policy on hazing. A date for Hudson’s court-martial has not been set.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Expert testifies gang beating death was a rite gone wrong

By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Thursday, July 19, 2007

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The six-minute beating in which nine men punched Sgt. Juwan Johnson more than 200 times was a Gangster Disciples rite of passage gone wrong, a gang expert said Wednesday.

Johnson was found dead in his barracks room hours after the July 3, 2005, beating.

Detective John Bowman, head gang investigator with the Killeen, Texas, Police Department, testified Wednesday during the third day in the court-martial of Pvt. Terrence Norman.

The 22-year-old Norman faces four charges, including involuntary manslaughter, in Johnson’s death. If convicted on all charges, Norman could spend 19 years behind bars.

The jury was scheduled to begin deliberating Thursday morning.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Capt. Chandra LaGrone, Bowman testified that aspects of Johnson’s beating were unusual for a gang initiation.

Jump-in ceremonies for Gangster Disciples can involve three people beating an initiate for 60 seconds or six people beating an initiate for 30 seconds, Bowman said. Prior to the Johnson case, the longest Bowman knew of a gang initiation lasting was 90 seconds.

“I’ve never heard of a six-minute jump in,” he said. “That’s a long time for anybody to throw hands.”

Pvt. Latisha Ellis has testified the beating lasted six minutes. The number six holds particular significance with the gang because one of its symbols is a six-pointed star.

Johnson was scheduled to leave the Army three weeks after the date of his beating. Under questioning from LaGrone, Bowman said he never heard of a jump-in ceremony happening so close to the time a person was set to leave the area where a gang operated.

“Usually, jump-ins are for the good of the gang,” he said.

Col. Kathleen Ingwersen, the medical examiner who performed Johnson’s autopsy, testified that the 25-year-old died from multiple blunt force injuries and that, medically, Johnson’s death was a homicide.

Despite an eyewitness who testified Johnson was hit more than 200 times, Ingwersen said the autopsy showed Johnson did not have broken bones, chipped teeth or swollen eyes. She did not detect any bruising on his face at the time of the autopsy.

“I expected more injuries given the history of this, but I’m not surprised,” Ingwersen said.

The autopsy showed Johnson suffered severe injuries to his brain and heart.

The prosecution rested its case around 11 a.m. Wednesday, and the defense followed suit shortly thereafter.

In her closing argument, prosecuting attorney Capt. Jocelyn Stewart told the panel that when they consider every piece of evidence, she is confident they will convict Norman.

“The evidence presented over the past several days will leave you convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of the accused’s guilt,” Stewart said.

Defense attorney Maj. Sean Wilson called only two witnesses. Their testimony barely lasted 10 minutes.

During his closing argument, Wilson questioned the credibility of prosecution witnesses — particularly the testimony of Ellis, an eyewitness, and Spc. Terance Pope.

“The details will show how those stories completely and utterly fall apart,” Wilson said.

Staff Sgts. Roger LeBlanc and Sermior Mitchell both testified that they knew Pope to be untruthful.

Pope earlier testified that he drove Norman to a Kaiserslautern tattoo parlor sometime between July and September 2005 so Norman could get a Gangster Disciple tattoo covered up before speaking with Army investigators.

Also Wednesday, prosecutors dismissed Norman’s charge of making a false official statement. The dismissal lowered his maximum potential jail time from 31½ years to 19 years.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Witness testifies private hit sergeant many times during initiation ceremony

By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Wednesday, July 18, 2007

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Pvt. Terrence Norman punched Sgt. Juwan Johnson more than 20 times in the face, back and chest July 3, 2005, during a gang-initiation ceremony near Kaiserslautern, an eyewitness testified in a court-martial Tuesday.

Norman also held up Johnson when he could no longer stand during the six-minute “jumping in” ceremony so others could strike Johnson, said Pvt. Latisha Ellis, an eyewitness to the beating. Johnson died of multiple blunt force injuries the next day.

Maj. Sean Wilson, Norman’s lead defense attorney, questioned the credibility of Ellis, who already pleaded guilty to lying to investigators.

Norman faces six charges in Johnson’s death, including involuntary manslaughter.

Ellis testified that Norman and eight other men beat Johnson during an initiation into the Gangster Disciples.

Norman is the first of three soldiers to stand trial this summer in relation to Johnson’s death.

A panel of two officers and four enlisted soldiers will determine Norman’s fate. If convicted on all charges, Norman could spend a maximum of 31½ years in confinement.

Tuesday marked the second day of the court-martial, which is expected to last through Friday.

Attorneys for both sides gave opening statements in the late morning, with Ellis — the first witness — taking the stand shortly after 1 p.m.

Nearly three hours later, she was still on the witness stand.

Norman hit Johnson “as hard as he could” during the initiation ceremony, Ellis said. After the beating, Norman helped Johnson to Johnson’s car and drove the white BMW away from the pavilion in Hohenecken, where the jumping in took place, Ellis testified.

Ellis, who contends she was a spectator and not a participant in Johnson’s beating, is the prosecution’s key witness.

Ellis was once charged with Johnson’s murder, but she made a deal with prosecutors.

In exchange for her testimony, a murder charge against Ellis was dismissed, but she pleaded guilty to making a false official statement for lying when first questioned by investigators in August 2005.

Because Ellis lied under oath in a sworn statement, Wilson questioned the veracity of her recollection of what happened on the evening of July 3, 2005.

“It’s a complete lie,” said Wilson during his opening statement. “It’s a complete fabrication.”

Ellis testified that seven men hit Johnson more than 20 times each, with two of them hitting Johnson more than 40 times.

Johnson did not have swelling, bruising or bleeding on his face after the beating, Ellis said.

Wilson classified the account as an “incredible story” that Johnson could be hit more than 200 times on the face and upper torso and not be bloodied, swollen or bruised.

In her opening statement, prosecutor Capt. Jocelyn Stewart said Ellis’ eyewitness account is exactly what happened that night.

Johnson’s jumping in ceremony was part of a systematic plan by the Gangster Disciples to bolster their numbers in Kaiserslautern, Stewart said.

“This was not a random act of violence,” Stewart said. “Sergeant Johnson was beaten that night because of a systematic plan.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Soldier pleads not guilty in sergeant’s death

First court-martial begins in alleged 2005 gang initiation beating that turned deadly
By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Tuesday, July 17, 2007

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Pvt. Terrence A. Norman pleaded not guilty Monday to involuntary manslaughter in the alleged 2005 gang-beating death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson.

Norman is the first soldier to stand court-martial in Johnson’s death. Two other soldiers charged in Johnson’s death are scheduled for court-martial this summer.

Norman also faces five additional charges, including obstructing justice and conspiring to violate an Army regulation on hazing. All six charges against Norman stem from Johnson’s death, as well as other alleged initiations into the Gangster Disciples in Tikrit, Iraq, and in Kaiserslautern.

Norman, now with the 29th Support Group, deployed to Iraq in 2004 with the Kaiserslautern-based 66th Transportation Company. During its deployment from January 2004 to February 2005, the company primarily operated out of Camp Speicher near Tikrit.

Johnson, of the 66th Transportation Company, was beaten on July 3, 2005, near Kaiserslautern during an alleged jumping-in ceremony into the Gangster Disciples, a notorious Chicago-based gang. In pre-trial hearings, eyewitness Pvt. Latisha Ellis testified that nine men — mostly servicemembers — beat Johnson for six minutes. Johnson was found dead the following day in his Kaiserslautern barracks.

Following a morning of legal motions Monday, Norman entered a plea in the afternoon of not guilty on all charges. As of press time, military lawyers were selecting a panel from 12 potential jury members. At least one-third of the panel must be enlisted soldiers. Opening statements were not expected to begin until Tuesday morning.

Norman’s court-martial is expected to conclude Friday but could go into the weekend.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A family looks for justice

There’s been no closure for GI’s death in 2005, allegedly from blows suffered in gang initiation
By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Wednesday, July 4, 2007

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Like many of her fellow Americans, Stephanie Cockrell will set off fireworks tonight.

But in addition to celebrating July Fourth, Cockrell will remember the life of her late son — Sgt. Juwan L. Johnson, 25. The mother and son set off fireworks together on July 4, 2004, while Johnson was home in Baltimore on leave from Iraq. On July 4, 2005, Johnson was found dead in his Kaiserslautern barracks.

“It’s two years later, and there’s still no justice,” Cockrell said in a telephone interview this week.

The medical examiner who performed Johnson’s autopsy ruled the death a homicide from multiple blunt force injuries. Johnson died from wounds allegedly suffered during a gang initiation ceremony near Kaiserslautern. A soldier for six years, Johnson was deployed to Iraq with Kaiserslautern’s 66th Transportation Company, returning in early 2005.

While no one has been convicted, several soldiers have faced or will face legal proceedings, including three who will stand before courts-martial this summer.

In a March 2006 letter, Army officials informed Cockrell that eight military servicemembers were identified as suspects in Johnson’s murder.

“This is unreal,” wrote Cheryl Williams, Juwan Johnson’s great aunt. “Nothing is being resolved. There’s no closure for us, and who cares? Juwan was just another person killed. I hope his death means nobody will go through what Juwan went through.”

Courts-martial are scheduled this summer for three soldiers, all charged with involuntary manslaughter and other crimes related to Johnson’s death.

Pvt. Terrence A. Norman faces court-martial on July 16 in Kaiserslautern, and Sgt. Rodney H. Howell’s court-martial is scheduled for the following week in Mannheim. Staff Sgt. Alre Hudson is scheduled for court-martial on Aug. 21 in Kaiserslautern.

No one else has been charged in relation to Johnson’s death, according to the 21st Theater Support Command public affairs office.

Initially, two soldiers faced murder charges in Johnson’s death. In October 2006, Spc. Bobby Morrissette was charged with murder, becoming the first soldier charged in the case. Earlier this year when Morrissette was ordered to stand court-martial, he faced the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter. Morrissette’s involuntary manslaughter charge and other related charges were dismissed last month after evidence arose that prosecutors and investigators did not follow proper procedure during a December 2005 interview of Morrissette.

Pvt. Latisha Ellis was also charged with murder. After making a deal to testify for the prosecution as an eyewitness to the beating, Ellis’ most serious charges were dropped. At a summary court-martial, Ellis pleaded guilty to making a false official statement. She was reduced to the lowest pay grade and sentenced to 30 days of hard labor without confinement.

While Cockrell sets off her Fourth of July fireworks, she’ll remember her son. Cockrell knows she needs to get to the point where she can forgive, but she’s not there yet, she said.

“You know Juwan’s death happened, but nothing officially has been done to any individual because of it,” she said. “I’m blown back by what happened with Morrissette. I really wonder when does (Juwan’s) spirit rest. What message is the military sending to its soldiers or its potential soldiers?”

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Former Marine says pot deal went bad, resulting in throat-slashing

By David Allen, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Thursday, June 14, 2007

NAHA, Okinawa — It was a pot deal that went bad.

That’s the story Darian Preston Daniels stuck to for his three hours on the stand Tuesday during his trial for taking part in robbing a friend Oct. 25 and leaving him for dead.

Daniels, 29, a former Marine and the husband of a sailor, said he was merely acting as a liaison between two friends the night Marine Sgt. Michael Avinger, 30, slit Bryant White’s throat on Hamahiga Island.

Daniels said he was “like a brother” to Avinger since both men belonged to the same street gang, the Crips, back in the U.S. They came from different chapters of the infamous gang and didn’t know one another, but they met on Okinawa on Camp Courtney in August 2004, he said.

However, since the trial started May 1, the bond has been broken and they’ve each attempted to blame the other for the vicious mugging. Last week, Avinger said he cut White’s throat to save the man’s life, thinking Daniels would kill White if he didn’t act first.

He testified he intended just to make it look like White was dying, but he cut the man’s throat more deeply than he intended.

At the opening of the trial, White, 23, a former airman, claimed he was lured to the island on the promise they were going to meet some girls and was attacked by both men, who demanded a large amount of money Daniels had seen White’s wife throw at him during an argument on Oct. 17. He said Avinger sliced his throat, leaving a 7-inch scar, after Daniels demanded his money.

On Tuesday, Daniels said he had nothing to do with the robbery.

“It wasn’t supposed to be a crime scene,” he said. “It was supposed to be a marijuana transaction.”

Daniels said Avinger wanted to buy some marijuana from White and he drove with White to Hamahiga Island, following Avinger in a separate car, to make the purchase. He said he was leaning against his car watching White and Avinger talk when Avinger suddenly grabbed White and pressed a knife against his throat.

He said he heard Avinger ask White about the money and the marijuana.

White denied having any money. Then Daniels said he heard Avinger say: “If you don’t want me to kill you, stop playing with me.”

They talked some more, Daniels said.

“This is about your mouth writing checks your butt has to cash,” Daniels said he heard Avinger tell White.

Then Avinger cut White’s throat, Daniels said.

“Why didn’t you stop him?” the prosecutor asked.

“What was I supposed to do?” Daniels responded, raising his voice. “In the States — the United States — where I’m from, you don’t put a knife to someone’s throat unless you’re going to use it. So there was nothing I could say.”

Daniels said he never intended to rob White.

He said he signed a confession on Nov. 14 only because he was under duress after 21 days of interrogation by police.

“The police threatened the welfare of my wife and kids,” Daniels said.

The detectives told him that Avinger had confessed and implicated Daniel’s wife and threatened to arrest her on a charge of conspiracy if he did not admit his involvement, he testified.

“I wasn’t going to let them take my wife,” he said. “So, if they brought my wife in who would take care of my kids? So I told them what they wanted to hear, any man would do that if he loves his family.”

The next hearing in the case is set for June 26, when Daniels is scheduled to personally cross-examine Avinger.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Army apologizes to Guardsmen over tattoos

Scripps Howard News Service
Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Though they say it's a year late, New Mexico National Guard members are glad to receive an apology for the Army's investigation into alleged gang tattoos while they served in Kuwait.

The apology arrived in a letter Monday from Brig. Gen. Rodney Johnson, the head of the Army's Criminal Investigation Command. Members of the command carried out the probe, which included a partial strip search, on the New Mexico soldiers, Guard spokesman Maj. Ken Nava said.

Johnson writes "to personally apologize" in his letter. He writes that when he learned the "situation had caused one of you to state that you 'didn't feel like an American today,' I knew that this investigation had been gravely mishandled."

Nava said the apology is welcome, even though it comes a year after the incident.

"Our general called for an apology when it happened in 2006. Here we are a year later," Nava said.

The May 2006 search of 60 members of the New Mexico unit was prompted by a soldier's report that he had seen Chicago-area gang tattoos on a Hispanic soldier. The Hispanic soldier was not from New Mexico, and it was never explained what led an investigator to the New Mexico unit.

The New Mexico Guard members were ordered to take off their clothes down to athletic shorts and were looked over for gang tattoos. No tattoos were found.

Though the investigator who conducted the search has been cleared of any illegal action, Johnson issued the formal apology.

Adjutant Gen. Kenny Montoya, commander of the New Mexico Guard, had immediately called the search racially motivated and illegal. He asked for an apology and called for the removal of some top Army leaders.

"In the Army, if you apologize, it means you take responsibility for something," Montoya said in April. "Somewhere along the line, general officers forgot that's part of their responsibility."

The 60 New Mexicans who were searched were members of Task Force Cobra, a 190-member collection of members from various New Mexico units that provided convoy security in Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar from November 2005 to November 2006.

The search occurred after the unit had returned to Kuwait from a stint in Iraq.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Two soldiers arraigned in beating death tied to gang initiation

By Scott Schonauer, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Thursday, June 7, 2007

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Two soldiers were arraigned Wednesday in the gang-initiation beating death of Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson.

Sgt. Rodney H. Howell and Pfc. Terrence A. Norman appeared in court at Kleber Kaserne in Kaiserslautern but did not enter a plea.

Howell is charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, failure to obey an order or regulation, conspiracy and making a false official statement. His trial is scheduled for July 23 at Taylor Barracks in Mannheim.

Norman is charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, failure to obey an order or regulation, obstruction of justice, making a false official statement and conspiracy. His trial is set for July 16 at Kleber.

Norman and Howell are each accused of punching Johnson 20 or more times during a July 3, 2005, gang initiation ceremony. Johnson, 25, of the 66th Transportation Company, died the next day of multiple blunt force injuries.

Norman and Howell are among five soldiers who have faced charges in the death. Some of the past developments in the case include:

n Last week, a military judge removed the lawyers prosecuting Spc. Bobby Morrissette for his role in the death. He was facing various charges, including involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault. Those charges were dismissed, but prosecutors had requested a new hearing to reconsider.

n On May 7, Army Staff Sgt. Alre L. Hudson faced charges of involuntary manslaughter, hazing, aggravated assault and conspiracy in connection with the death at an Article 32 hearing.

n On March 27, Pfc. Latisha Ellis admitted to giving a false official statement at a summary court-martial as part of a deal. She saw the beating and is a key witness in the case. She remains the only soldier convicted of a crime in connection with the death.

Two soldiers arraigned in beating death tied to gang initiation

By Scott Schonauer, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Thursday, June 7, 2007

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Two soldiers were arraigned Wednesday in the gang-initiation beating death of Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson.

Sgt. Rodney H. Howell and Pfc. Terrence A. Norman appeared in court at Kleber Kaserne in Kaiserslautern but did not enter a plea.

Howell is charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, failure to obey an order or regulation, conspiracy and making a false official statement. His trial is scheduled for July 23 at Taylor Barracks in Mannheim.

Norman is charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, failure to obey an order or regulation, obstruction of justice, making a false official statement and conspiracy. His trial is set for July 16 at Kleber.

Norman and Howell are each accused of punching Johnson 20 or more times during a July 3, 2005, gang initiation ceremony. Johnson, 25, of the 66th Transportation Company, died the next day of multiple blunt force injuries.

Norman and Howell are among five soldiers who have faced charges in the death. Some of the past developments in the case include:

n Last week, a military judge removed the lawyers prosecuting Spc. Bobby Morrissette for his role in the death. He was facing various charges, including involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault. Those charges were dismissed, but prosecutors had requested a new hearing to reconsider.

n On May 7, Army Staff Sgt. Alre L. Hudson faced charges of involuntary manslaughter, hazing, aggravated assault and conspiracy in connection with the death at an Article 32 hearing.

n On March 27, Pfc. Latisha Ellis admitted to giving a false official statement at a summary court-martial as part of a deal. She saw the beating and is a key witness in the case. She remains the only soldier convicted of a crime in connection with the death.

Two soldiers arraigned in beating death tied to gang initiation

By Scott Schonauer, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Thursday, June 7, 2007

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Two soldiers were arraigned Wednesday in the gang-initiation beating death of Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson.

Sgt. Rodney H. Howell and Pfc. Terrence A. Norman appeared in court at Kleber Kaserne in Kaiserslautern but did not enter a plea.

Howell is charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, failure to obey an order or regulation, conspiracy and making a false official statement. His trial is scheduled for July 23 at Taylor Barracks in Mannheim.

Norman is charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, failure to obey an order or regulation, obstruction of justice, making a false official statement and conspiracy. His trial is set for July 16 at Kleber.

Norman and Howell are each accused of punching Johnson 20 or more times during a July 3, 2005, gang initiation ceremony. Johnson, 25, of the 66th Transportation Company, died the next day of multiple blunt force injuries.

Norman and Howell are among five soldiers who have faced charges in the death. Some of the past developments in the case include:

n Last week, a military judge removed the lawyers prosecuting Spc. Bobby Morrissette for his role in the death. He was facing various charges, including involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault. Those charges were dismissed, but prosecutors had requested a new hearing to reconsider.

n On May 7, Army Staff Sgt. Alre L. Hudson faced charges of involuntary manslaughter, hazing, aggravated assault and conspiracy in connection with the death at an Article 32 hearing.

n On March 27, Pfc. Latisha Ellis admitted to giving a false official statement at a summary court-martial as part of a deal. She saw the beating and is a key witness in the case. She remains the only soldier convicted of a crime in connection with the death.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Former gang member appeals to youth to 'Refuse to Die Like That'

James Jamison grew up in the projects of Stamford, Conn., a hard-core area affectionately termed the "Cage" by local police.

"They thought we were all animals and they treated us like animals," he explained.

Gangs and drugs were a way of life and by the time he was 17, five of his eight closest friends had died at the hands of violence.

His escape was to join the Air Force. And even though he has gone on to acquire several degrees and become successful in other arenas, he still wrestles with the fact that he is a high school dropout.

"Every time I'm around my peers, I always feel a little bit less than them," he says. "We have spaces in our lives that we're supposed to achieve certain things. You can never go back and graduate from middle school when you should have, or high school when you should have. You missed it."

Jamison now lives in Wilmington, where he is senior pastor of Hope Baptist Church.

He was in Goldsboro this weekend, speaking on Friday to seventh- and eighth-graders at Dillard Middle School, and as keynote speaker at the Youth Gospel Fest at Goldsboro High School Saturday evening.

His experiences as a former gang member before turning his life around are the basis of a book he is currently writing entitled "Refuse to Die Like That." His stop in Wayne County was to make an appeal to the next generation to follow suit.

At 13, 14, and 15 years old, "your lives are just beginning," he said. And while the routes to escape may appear glamorous, young men and women need to be selective before choosing the wrong path.

Many become involved in gangs to fill a void in their lives, Jamison said. 

"A lot of people spend their lives trying to fit in, to feel necessary," he said. "I spent a lot of time trying to find out who I was."

Now 54, he realizes just how much time he was lost.

"Time flies and you don't have as long as you think you have to get your act together and we need to start working on that now," he said.

In the beginning, he admitted he thought gangs were cool. He moved up the ranks as a warlord, making decisions as a leader. Today, he realizes the opposite is true.

"Most people in gangs are losers, searching for something he's not sure of, afraid because he's afraid to stand alone," he said.

Encouraging the teens to take a stand, make a difference and rise above their situations, he said it's time they become an example to others.

Jamison asked the students how many had known someone who was killed in the last two or three years, how many were concerned about their own lives. Nearly everyone raised their hands in response.

He then shared how many friends he has encountered over the years and realized he was not happy to see them because of their accomplishments or jobs, but because they were still alive.

"Tragic," he said. "When we're excited about a kid that's alive at 21, there's a problem."

Being in a gang is nothing to be proud of, Jamison said.

"If you're proud to be in gangs, you're telling me that you're proud of everything that's destroying the black man today," he said. "You're proud of everything making our sisters not have a husband when they grow up that can provide for them and their children ....

"We have to stop killing each other like it doesn't matter."

Jamison then challenged the middle school students to take action.

"I want 10 people right now that are fed up with the violence and the neighborhood, that would be willing to sign a pledge," he said.

He said the promise entailed "that for 90 days I will not hurt, disrespect, injure, kill or maim any individual, and I will not support it ... will not laugh at it, will not encourage it. If there's a fight, I will not gather around it."

Nearly two dozen rose from their seats and joined him at the edge of the stage. They signed the pledge sheet and were given a sticker that bore the words, "I made a promise."

Darryl Woodard, director of Smart Choices for Youth, which sponsored Jamison's appearance, said there will be follow-up steps taken to ensure those who took the pledge and others concerned about gangs and violence will have support. He said the school's principal was being given information to distribute to families on how to guard against the problem, especially during the summer months when many students are more idle.

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 3, 2007 02:01 AM

Friday, June 1, 2007

Guardsman stole gear because he was mad about his time in Iraq

June 1, 2007
BY FRANK MAIN Crime Reporter/
An Illinois National Guard soldier told investigators he sold military equipment on the black market because he was upset over his treatment in Iraq -- and it was so easy to steal.
Staff Sgt. Lee N. Shobe pleaded guilty Wednesday to providing a government witness with night-vision devices, a laser sight, M-16 rifle magazines and body armor plates in September. In November, he sold an undercover FBI agent another night-vision device and a stun gun, according to his plea agreement.

When he was arrested in January, he explained "he was selling the equipment because of poor accountability within the military and because he was treated poorly in Iraq," his plea agreement said.

Shobe, of Downstate Toledo, was assigned to the National Guard Armory in Downstate Sullivan. He faces up to 10 years in prison, but the government has recommended a lenient sentence because of his cooperation.

The FBI recorded Shobe telling an informant that a soldier from Chicago smuggled body armor from Iraq and Shobe stole it from the soldier's duffel bag. Shobe is heard agreeing with the informant that Chicago gang members "would love those," according to court documents.

Some law enforcement officials are concerned that gang members serving in the military are supplying criminal associates back home with stolen weapons and equipment.,CST-NWS-gangs01.article

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I prefer to be called Carter, though I have grown accustomed to answering to most any variation that remains respectful.
I learned from the UPS manual that a leader does not need to remind others of authority by use of title. Knowledge, performance, and capacity should be adequate evidence of position and leadership.