Soldier guilty of cruelty and maltreatment in Iraq
Associated Press Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A military panel in Kuwait convicted a U.S. soldier of being cruel and mistreating fellow soldiers, a case undertaken after an Army private from Ohio committed suicide in Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Enoch Chatman, of West Covina, Calif., was convicted Wednesday on two violations of the cruelty and maltreatment article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, said Lt. Col. Kevin Olson, a military spokesman in Iraq.
Chatman was one of four soldiers accused of mistreating others in their platoon in Iraq through verbal abuse, physical punishment and ridicule of other soldiers.
The investigation was prompted by the August death of Pvt. Keiffer Wilhelm, who grew up in Willard in northwest Ohio.
Wilhelm, 19, was in Iraq with his new platoon for just 10 days before he killed himself. His family believes he was treated so badly that he took his own life, but the military has determined there was no direct evidence the four soldiers’ misconduct caused the death.
His father, Shane Wilhelm, attended the trial and said he was glad Chatman “got something” but is not completely satisfied with the outcome.
“We’re glad that he was found guilty because he was there for most of the occurrences that took place to our son,” he said. “He was in a position to prevent this from happening, and he didn’t.”
Wilhelm’s mother has said he called her twice from Iraq and told her he was being targeted in his new unit and forced to run for miles with rocks in his pockets that smashed against his knees. He also told his mother that he was being forced to exercise for hours and that his personal items were disappearing, she said.
Chatman was sentenced Thursday to three months’ confinement, a reduction in rank and a reprimand, Olson said. He had faced up to 10 years in prison.
Sgt. Jarrett Taylor of Edmond, Okla., was found guilty in November and was sentenced to confinement for six months, reduction in rank and forfeiture of two-thirds pay for six months, Olson said.
Staff Sgt. Bob Clements of Eastland, Texas, is scheduled to face trial Feb. 14. He faces charges of cruelty and maltreatment, making a false statement, impeding an investigation and reckless endangerment. If convicted of all counts, he faces up to 25 years in prison.
Charges were dropped against Spc. Daniel Weber of Frankenmuth, Mich., who resigned from the Army.
Shane Wilhelm said Army officials told him that other platoons have taken notice of the case and are taking steps to improve the way officers treat subordinates.
“Hopefully, all four branches of the service make some changes so this doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Associated Press Writer Matt Leingang contributed to this report.