FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. >> A Missouri drill sergeant is guilty of sexually assaulting and harassing eight female soldiers, a military judge ruled Wednesday.
Army Staff Sgt. Angel M. Sanchez, 30, was accused of using his supervisory position with the 14th Military Police Brigade at Fort Leonard Wood to threaten some of the women he was tasked with training. His accusers said the incidents took place in the bathroom of the female barracks as well as in an office shared by drill sergeants.
Sanchez was found guilty of charges including four counts of sexual assault and six counts of abusive sexual contact.
At the outset of the military judicial hearing, Sanchez pleaded guilty Monday to three charges of disobeying orders by having sexual contact with three female trainees. Several additional accusations against Sanchez were dismissed after a pretrial hearing in the spring.
His accusers said the incidents took place in the bathroom of the women’s barracks as well as an office shared by drill sergeants at Fort Leonard Wood. Other allegations were brought by a medic in Afghanistan and a soldier in Fort Richardson, Alaska.
Sanchez, who is married, also served one tour in Iraq, where he earned a Bronze Star and two other combat medals before arriving at the Missouri post in August 2013. He did not take the stand.
Sanchez’s attorney Ernesto Gapasin questioned the accusers’ credibility, noting that some of the initial accusers were either facing disciplinary action of their own or forced separation from the military at the time complaints against Sanchez were raised. He suggested that three privates who accused Sanchez of forcing them to perform oral sex on him had consented to sex.
On Tuesday, an Army National Guard private testified that a brigade commander had warned her company of soldiers during training that the entire group wouldn’t graduate if any additional sexual assault complaints were made. An installation spokeswoman declined to discuss the allegation.
The charges against Sanchez were filed in May, days before a Pentagon study on sex assault in the military found that more than 5,000 reports of sexual abuse had been filed in the previous fiscal year, a 50 percent increase from the previous 12 months.
Pressure from Congress led to several reforms in how the military justice system handles sex assault complaints. Accusers are now assigned lawyers to guide them through the legal process, and the statute of limitations has been eliminated. Anyone convicted of a sexual assault in the military faces a required minimum sentence of a dishonorable discharge.
The Pentagon’s first formal report on sex assaults in its ranks found that in the vast majority of the cases the victim was a young, lower-ranking woman and the offender a senior enlisted male service member, often in the same unit.