Veteran of Iraq War Wants Deployment To Count Towards Jail Time
June 18, 2008
Most of you who know me, are aware that I work as a Victim Advocate. My job consists of providing services and support to victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. You all know how passionate I am about supporting our Troops. The following story is one time that I can definately say I am not in support of a specific Soldier. When I read this article at Military.com, needless to say, I was furious! Most of you have probably had contact with someone in your life who has been a victim of Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault and know how traumatic it can be for a victim. Perhaps you were a victim of one of these crimes yourself. If so, I’m sure that this will make you as angry as it does me.
Apparently in May 2007 Earl D. Werner, who is a member of of the Oregon National Guard, plead guilty of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes (that’s a sex crime) and for furnishing that minor (a 15 year old girl) with alcohol. For these crimes, Werner was sentenced to 365 days in the county jail. Judge Roger Bennett added that Werner was elgible to serve his sentence on work release. Work release is a program that allows convicts continue to work their jobs, but makes them spend their nights, as well as non-working hours at the country work release facility. The judge further ruled that because Werner was a member of the National Guard, if his unit was deployed, he would be allowed to deploy with them, as long as he reported back to the court after he returned from the deployment.
Apparently Werner didn’t qualify for the work release program, becuase his civilian job, which required him to drive a dump truck was rejected because he wouldn’t have adequate supervision. He spent 17 days in the Clark County, Oregon jail and then was released from jail for military service and spent 6 months in jail. Apparently Werner’s sergeant told the judge that he would still be elgible to serve, despite being convicted of a sex crime. Werner then spent 6 months in Iraq.
That’s the first thing that just really ticked me off. Anyone who’s been around the military, knows that the Department of Defense and the military take sex crimes VERY seriously. A person convicted of a sex crime has NO BUSINESS in the military, as that is not compatible with Military Ethos or Military Code of Conduct. It seems to me that the Oregon National Guard unit that Mr. Werner is a part of, is severely lacking in their sexual assault and domestic violence training and could use some serious training on the matter as soon as possible.
Werner returned to Fort Lewis in late April and was released from duty on May 2nd. In June the Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kim Farr asked Judge Bennett to impose the remainder of Werner’s sentence. One person said at the hearing that Werner should not be given any special consideration. I agree! How many people were put at risk in Iraq, when Werner deployed. How many people became victims of this man? Even if no one was assaulted by Mr. Werner, I find it hard to swallow that the Judge AND his chain of command in his National Guard Unit would take the risk of him victimizing more people. Werner’s defense attorney, Jon Mullen argued for the judge to consider Werner’s time in Iraq, as time towards his jail sentence.
“He went over and served the country proudly and did an outstanding job,” Mullen said. “I know he made a horrible mistake to get here in the first place, but the idea was that (going to war) is its own punishment. It’s an honor (serving),” he quickly added, “but also a brutal reality.”
While I respect the fact that Mr. Werner is a veteran and served our country in Iraq, I think that by him making the choice to commit a sex crime, he should pay for his actions. I don’t feel that his service in Iraq, in any way should exonnerate him. The man commited a crime and others are at risk of being a victim, if his time in Iraq is considered as time served.
It’s probably a good thing that I wasn’t present in the court room on June 13th, when Mr. Mullen made that preposterous statement. I don’t think I could have held my tongue and probably would have asked him if he was willing to take the risk that his spouse or his daughter could be sexually assaulted by Mr. Werner, a convicted sex offender. According to Mr. McMullen, Werner’s plans are to resume his job as a dump truck driver, however if Judge Bennett orders him to finish the remaining 348 days of his sentence, it will mean that time will be spent in jail, since his job didn’t qualify for work release. My opinion is, that’s exactly where he should be spending those remaining 348 days (which in my books is a pretty lenient sentence to begin with). Judge Bennett said that he wanted to review earlier court proceedings and would then issue his decision by the end of the week. I encourage each of you, if you feel the same way, to contact Judge Bennett at his office at the Clark County Washington Superior Court and let him know your thoughts about this. You can do so, by calling (360) 397-2315.
Let him know that sex crimes are NOT acceptable in society OR in the military and urge him to do the right thing and make Mr. Werner serve the remainder of his sentence. Serving in Iraq should not excuse him from serving his sentence.