Army soldiers face discharges over alleged gay porn scandal

The Army has recommended that seven soldiers be discharged following allegations they engaged in sex acts shown on a gay pornographic Web site

BY

February 28 2006 12:00 AM ET

The Army has
recommended that seven 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers
be discharged following allegations they engaged in sex acts
shown on a gay pornographic Web site. Three soldiers
face courts-martial on charges of sodomy, pandering,
and engaging in sex acts for money. Four others
received nonjudicial punishments, according to a statement
released by the military Friday.


The charges do not mention the name
of the site, but the division had previously been
investigating allegations that soldiers appeared on a gay
pornography Web site. A spokesman for the division said the
charges were a result of that investigation.


The military-themed Web site did not
make any direct reference to the division or Fort
Bragg, a sprawling post about 70 miles south of Raleigh,
N.C. "As far as we're concerned, it's isolated to the unit,
and our investigation determined that these seven
individuals were the only ones" involved, said 82nd
Airborne spokesman Maj. Thomas Earnhardt.


The charges indicate the soldiers'
behavior is "a much more serious matter than just
their sexual orientation," said Steve Ralls, a
spokesman for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a legal
group that advocates for gays and lesbians in the
military. "I'm not going to make excuses for service
members who are taking part in sexual conduct for
money," said Ralls. "It would be absolutely criminal
regardless of whether they were heterosexual or gay."


Earnhardt said the three soldiers
charged under military law had been appointed military
attorneys. The three soldiers who face courts-martial
are: Spc. Richard T. Ashley, Pfc. Wesley K. Mitten, and Pvt.
Kagen B. Mullen. The Army did not release their ages
or hometowns but said all seven paratroopers were
members of the 2nd Battalion of the 508th Parachute
Infantry Regiment. An arraignment was scheduled for March
7.


The other four soldiers who received
nonjudicial penalties were not identified. Their
punishments included reduction to the rank of private,
45 days of restriction to the unit area, 45 days of extra
duty, and forfeiture of a month's pay. The registered
owner of the Web site's domain name lists an address
in Fayetteville, the city that adjoins Fort Bragg. A
phone number listed for the registered owner was not in
service Friday, and e-mails to the owner have been
regularly returned as undeliverable.


The 15,000 paratroopers of the 82nd
Airborne are among the Army's most elite soldiers,
having volunteered to serve in a unit that trains to
deploy anywhere in the world within 18 hours. The military's
"don't ask, don't tell" policy states that "homosexual
orientation alone is not a bar to service, but
homosexual conduct is incompatible with military
service." Service members who violate the policy are removed
from the military. (AP)

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