Posted : Friday Jan 23, 2009 21:23:14 EST
JACKSONVILLE, Ark. — An Air Force sergeant was acquitted Friday of involuntary manslaughter in the beating death of an Army sergeant outside a base in Germany, but convicted of a lesser offense of aggravated assault, Little Rock Air Force Base authorities said.
Staff Sgt. Jerome A. Jones, 25, was also convicted of several other violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and acquitted of some, according to a news release from the LRAFB public affairs office.
Jones was sentenced later Friday to two years in prison, demotion to the rank of airman basic, and a dishonorable discharge, according to Tech. Sgt. Katherine Garcia, a spokeswoman for LRAFB.
Jones was charged in the July 4, 2005, beating death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson of Baltimore at a park pavilion in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where U.S. forces have a base. Prosecutors said the death was the result of a gang initiation.
Jones was a C-130 cargo plane crew chief with the 314th Airlift Wing at the Air Force base north of Little Rock.
He was acquitted of a charge accusing him of conspiring with members of a group called the Gangster Disciples to assault Johnson, and of another accusing him of being an accessory after the fact in Johnson’s death.
He was convicted of two other conspiracy charges, a charge accusing him of trying to influence witnesses, and one count each of wrongful use or possession of a controlled substance and failure to obey an order or regulation.
Garcia said guilty verdicts required guilty votes from four of the five court-martial members.
The sentence for Jones was decided in a penalty phase of the court-martial after the verdicts were rendered, Garcia said. She said Jones could have been sentenced to 17½ years in prison.
A prosecutor in the case, Capt. Peter Kezar, told the court that Jones took part in an initiation ritual used by the Gangster Disciples street gang, in which new members must endure a six-minute beating. Kezar said Johnson’s beating escalated from reckless to a free-for-all.
Capt. Jeremy Emmert, a defense lawyer, said Jones did not kill Johnson and does not belong to a violent gang. What prosecutors call a gang was a “benign” group for brotherhood, Emmert said. He also offered evidence that Jones was not at the park that night, and said government witnesses had their own motives to lie about “why they say Sergeant Jones was there.”
Others accused in Johnson’s beating are either serving sentences or facing courts-martial.