After comparing the outcomes of two Army court-martial cases that took place in Stuttgart, Germany, in recent years, I can’t help but smell a rat in the military justice system.
One case involved Staff Sgt. Justin Wolfschlag, a military police dog handler who, according to a Stars and Stripes article Thursday, was found guilty of maltreatment of a subordinate but not guilty of a sexual assault charge stemming from his accuser’s claim that he made her perform oral sex on him. Members of the court-martial panel acquitted Wolfschlag on the more serious charge after Wolfschlag’s defense team maintained the oral sex and exposure never happened and argued there was no physical evidence presented to support the allegations.
Sergeant Wolfschlag was sentenced Thursday to 60 days’ hard labor and busted down two pay grades but, it appears, will be allowed to remain in the Army.
The other case involved Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart, a highly-decorated combat veteran and member of the elite Green Berets, who was accused in November 2008 of rape and kidnapping by a then-28-year-old German woman. Despite the lack of any physical evidence or witnesses and his accuser’s refusal to provide her mental health records — including details of her four-month stay in a psychiatric care facility — to the court, he was found guilty on several sexual assault-related charges, but not rape or kidnapping. Most importantly, he never admitted guilt to any of the charges against him.
Sergeant Stewart was stripped of his Special Forces tab and sentenced to eight years in prison. His stellar career as a combat medic and Level One sniper was brought to a halt by unproven charges, Stewart now lives as a convicted sex offender, based largely on the testimony of a German woman who, according to three of her friends who testified during a post-trial hearing, lied repeatedly on the witness stand during the court-martial.
My very-informed opinion is that Sergeant — err, wait — Private Wolfschlag got off easier than Stewart, largely because: (1) he was not an SF Soldier facing a court-martial panel made up of non-SF Soldiers who had recently served a deployment with the lead prosecutor as their legal officer; and (2) his accuser was an American instead of a German national who could not be held accountable by the military court for anything she said — or didn’t say — on the witness stand and could not be compelled to provide her mental health records to the court.
Of course, there is a lot more to Stewart’s story.
To read other posts about Stewart’s case, click here.
To understand the case fully, order a copy of my first nonfiction book, Three Days In August.