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Senators Push for Answers on AWOL Soldier Accused of Child Rape

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.

As 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 girl."

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 last month.

Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law is a 10+ year veteran of the U.S. Army that has committed our firm to the defense and advocacy of accused members of our armed forces. He has traveled the globe to ensure that our military servicemembers receive the consideration they deserve—even as they face the most serious of charges.

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Categories: Military Law News

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