Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sexual assault earns Airman demotion, discharge, brig sentence

by Senior Airman Shane M. Phipps
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

9/10/2013 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Airman Basic Alexander Rowe, 726th Air Control Squadron, was found guilty of forcible sodomy Aug. 16.

After a three-day court martial, Rowe was sentenced to two years confinement, demotion to E-1, a dishonorable discharge with forfeiture of all pay and allowances. He is being transferred to Naval consolidated brig, Miramar, Calif.

"On March 10th, Rowe was in a hotel room with several other Airmen who he had provided alcohol to," said Capt. Andrea Hunwick, 366th Judge advocate chief of installation law and prosecutor for the case. "The victim was an Airman 1st Class who drank excessively to the point of throwing up on himself, passing out in the shower and falling asleep in his own vomit. When he woke up the next morning, he was (being sexually assaulted)."

In the eyes of the legal system, minimal physical force is required to be considered forcible sodomy if the victim is under the influence, Hunwick said.

"By law, if someone is intoxicated the only force necessary to complete the offense is the force necessary to overcome their will," Hunwick said.

Upon thoroughly researching the case, prosecutors discovered the defendant's sexual assault history.

"We found a victim in 2008 who had alleged sex assault against Rowe, but the case really didn't go anywhere because the victim was discharged for using marijuana," Hunwick said. "So, the investigation was essentially dropped."

Uncovering the alleged victim from 2008 proved to be an essential piece to the case, in more ways than one.

"It was very beneficial finding this individual because it showed a pattern in Rowe's behavior, and provided the original victim a sense of closure," said Capt. Jeanhei Dabbagh, 366th JA chief of military justice. "I really think justice was served in this case."

For those involved in a trial like this, the serious impact sexual crimes have on the victims is evident.

"It's especially stressful preparing for these trials because these cases affect real people," said Hunwick. "This current victim was very much affected by what happened to him, he wants to get out of the Air Force and has needed to receive therapy. You want to make sure they get the justice they're after."

Hunwick and her team said this trial can shine a light on the relationship between alcohol and sexual assault.

"I want Airmen to understand alcohol is legally not a defense to any crime to include sex-assault," she said. "Legally, it does not matter how drunk you were, if you sexually-assault someone, you're going to be treated like any reasonable, sober person would be treated. Intoxication is simply not a defense."

In addition, the JA team said it is paramount for individuals to understand what can be considered a crime.

"Regardless of how one perceives a sexual act - minor touching, or even sexual intercourse - such an act done without consent is a crime," explained Dabbagh.

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