Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Barbara Boxer of California
are pressuring the Army due to its apparent handling of the case of Private
Jameson T. Hazelbower. While accused of child rape, Hazelbower went AWOL
from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, KY and was not pursued
by the Army, but incidentally apprehended by local police.
Stars and Stripes reports, Hazelbower fled Fort Campbell in January 2014 when he learned that he
was suspected of a forcible sodomy and sexual assault. He was arrested
months later when local police encountered him by chance, finding him
half-naked in a vehicle with an underage girl. Not only had the Army not
apparently pursued Hazelbower, but the U.S. Marshals Service was also
not alerted to his AWOL status.
Now, the senators want answers from Army about what happened and what officials
are doing to ensure that a case like Hazelbower's doesn't happen
again. "It is deeply concerning that a known child rapist was allowed
to desert his military post for three months without pursuit by law enforcement,"
the senators' letter reads. "As a result, Hazelbower went free
for three months before eventually being captured by chance near his hometown
in Illinois, where he was found partially dressed in a car with a 14-year-old
Choice of language is important. It’s concerning that someone being
investigated for a serious crime who deserts is not actively pursued using
appropriate measures. The senators’ letter incorrectly states that
Private Hazelbower was a known child rapist when he deserted. That was
not the case. He was suspected. This is a concern because the perception
is that Congress appears to be only interested in convictions rather the
pursuit of justice, hence the lack of discretion in word choice.
Additionally, the senators’ letter seems to subtly hint that the
lack of pre-trial confinement of PVT Hazelbower is also a problem. It’s
not clear whether or not pre-trial confinement was pursued in this case.
Generally, such action is taken only in cases where the individual is
a demonstrated danger to society, is likely to flee, and that lessors
forms of restraint would not hold him. Military Units are required to
use lesser forms of restraint before such draconian actions such as pretrial
confinement are used.
No Comment from the Army
This week, the Army told the press that it would not comment on the senators'
letter. "It would be inappropriate for us to comment on interpersonal
communications between members of Congress and senior Army officials,"
an Army spokeswoman wrote in an email. This smacks of a breakdown in the
process. Generally, when a person is declared absent without leave after
24 hours of not being at their appointed duty station. In many cases,
Soldiers are then dropped from the rolls after another 72 hours has passed.
After the Soldier is dropped from rolls, local and federal law enforcement
are required to be notified so that warrants for arrest can be generated.
It is unclear what happened in this case given the limited availability
of evidence. Clearly there was a breakdown somewhere.
Currently, Hazelbower is serving a 50-year sentence in a military prison.
He was ultimately convicted of child rape, possession of child pornography,
sexual abuse of a child, desertion and other charges related to three
other sexual assault victims. While it remains unclear as to why the Army
did not pursue him when it was discovered he was AWOL, officials did cite
jurisdictional issues when reached by the Associated Press on the matter
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