The details of a Fort Hood, Texas, prostitution ring – involving US soldiers recruiting cash-strapped female privates who were struggling to keep their young children in diapers – came to light this week with the court-martial of the ring’s coordinator.
Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen could have been facing 33 years for an assortment charges including assault and battery, conspiracy to patronize a prostitute, adultery (which is a prosecutable offense in the military), and dereliction of duty.
While US military prosecutors had asked for five years, McQueen – who will be demoted to the rank of private and stripped of all pay and benefits – received a 24-month sentence in a plea deal. He will be dishonorably discharged.
Revelations about the Fort Hood prostitution ring have been particularly concerning to US military officials because McQueen was a sexual assault response coordinator, a job meant for those interested in helping to shepherd victims through the healing process.
McQueen “exploited his rank and position of authority to abuse young enlisted women, but at the end of the day, he is walking away with a slap on the wrist,” says retired Col. Don Christensen, who was chief prosecutor for the Air Force.
“The fact that Fort Hood’s sexual assault prevention officer received only a 24-month sentence for running a prostitution ring with soldiers is disgusting,” added Mr. Christensen, who is now president of Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group.
As the Pentagon struggles to encourage victims of sexual assault to come forward, one of its chief challenges has been convincing reluctant troops that perpetrators will face consequences for the crime. A Department of Defense report from 2014 found that 1 in 4 victims steps forward to report sexual assault.
McQueen used his job to victimize women, Army reports show. This deeply damaged the credibility of the Fort Hood sexual assault reporting program, said a US soldier who testified during a preliminary hearing for the case last June.
“There’s no longer any trust,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Dice, who replaced McQueen as a sexual assault response coordinator after the allegations came to light in May 2013. “The program is pretty much compromised.”
During McQueen’s court-martial, one soldier testified that she was assaulted during Army training, before arriving at Fort Hood.
McQueen told the female soldier, “I heard about your situation.” He then proceeded to invite her to pimping parties in which noncommissioned officers also in attendance had been told they could pay the young female soldiers under their command for sex.
“I felt angry and stressed,” she told the court. “It just reminded me of a bad situation.”
McQueen appeared to be a trustworthy figure on base, as the sexual assault response coordinator and a saxophone player in a nearby gospel church. At the same time, he was photographing female soldiers in the nude and shopping them around to higher-ups.
Many of these details came to light during the 2013 court-martial of Master Sgt. Brad Grimes, who was convicted of paying $100 to have sex with a soldier at Fort Hood.
“Basically, it was having sex with higher-ranking officers for money,” said the female soldier, who was granted immunity to testify in a hearing in the McQueen case.
“When I got home, I felt disgusting,” another soldier told Army investigators, according to The Daily Beast. “But at least I could buy food and diapers for my household.”
Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, who is the commander in charge of McQueen’s court-martial proceedings – known in military parlance as the “convening authority” – must still approve McQueen’s sentence.
At his sentencing hearing Thursday, McQueen cried and expressed remorse. “I would like to apologize to each of the individuals, the command, and everyone affected,” he said. “I was wrong for approaching soldiers and putting them in this situation.”