Skip to comments.Former 173rd commander handed reprimand, $300,000 fine
Posted on 06/15/2012 5:37:12 AM PDT by SLB
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany Col. James Johnson, convicted of fraud, bigamy, and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, was sentenced Thursday to a reprimand and a $300,000 fine.
The court-martial panel also imposed a sentence of five years confinement if Johnson, the former commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, fails to pay the fine. He was not dismissed from the service and was not sentenced to forfeit his pay and allowances. His convictions all had to do with an affair he had with an Iraqi woman he met while deployed and his efforts to help her family.
Thursdays hearing began when Johnson addressed the panel for the first time in the proceedings.
He implored the five colonels deciding his fate to let him leave the courtroom a free man so that he could protect the woman, Haveen Al-Atar, from the damage inflicted by the pairs illict love affair.
"She has nowhere to go, Johnson said. Shes hiding in an unnamed hotel, waiting to see if anybody will show back up to care for her, Johnson told the court. I passionately ask that you consider that.
Haveen Al-Atars father, who has disowned her, has threatened to send her back to Iraq, Johnson said, where shed either live a destitute life on the street or even be murdered in an honor killing. Her ex-husband, whom she was forced to marry, then forced to divorce when her relationship with Johnson came to light and dishonored the family, he said, has threatened to take away her beloved 4-year-old daughter.
Haveen and her daughter are at the center of my life, Johnson said.
Johnsons convictions included failure to obey orders and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. He pleaded guilty to 15 counts, two of which were later dismissed. He contested two counts of conduct unbecoming, but was convicted at trial.
The charges were all connected to his relationship with the Al-Atar family, whom hed met on an Iraq deployment in 2005. The family fled to the Netherlands as refugees in 2007. Johnson filed false travel vouchers when he visited the family, beginning in 2008, and improperly used government vehicles.
AdvertisementWhen he deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, he gave the family a government cellphone that racked up $80,000 in charges. He also steered money to Haveens father, Alladin Al-Atar, by hiring the former math teacher who had fought against Saddam Hussein and worked with the Americans, as his cultural adviser for Afghanistan. In addition, he attempted to get a contract to bring water-producing windmills made by a Dutch company to Afghanistan which, if approved, would have netted Al-Atar, who worked for the company, more than $500,000, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors told the jury that Johnson had abused his command to aid Al-Atar and find favor with his daughter, with whom he committed adultery, then wrongful cohabitation, then bigamy.
But Johnson told the panel on Thursday that for the contracts with Al-Atar, his motives were pure; he wasnt merely funneling money to Al-Atar. Although the two conferred by telephone and Al-Atar spoke none of the languages of Afghanistan and had never been there, I honestly believed the advice provided by Mr. Al-Atar were part of our success in Afghanistan, Johnson said. What I know in my heart is Mr. Al-Atar was contributing more than other advisers.
The water-producing windmills, Johnson said, had they worked, would have saved resources and lives by reducing water deliveries to combat outposts.
It was a good idea, Johnson said, and others agreed until they learned it wouldnt work.
Johnson began his statement, which was not under oath, by taking full responsibility.
I deeply regret having disgraced my family, disgraced my unit, disgraced my profession and disgraced my friends, he said. I failed the soldiers I commanded and the officers I served with for 26 years. Ive lost my son and daughter.
Lt. Col. Charles Kuhfahl, Johnsons defense lawyer, asked how the colonel, an honor graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, who was always rated best and brightest among his peers and who shone in four combat deployments, could explain all that had happened.
I failed in two large areas. I should have ended my marriage many years ago, Johnson said. I should not have kept the Al-Atars in my professional life. I allowed the lines of my professional life to cross into my personal life. Those lines became more blurred, and my decisions became more questionable.
He said his relationship with the Al-Atar family had been above-board at first, but his feelings deepened as time passed.
I found somebody that was a companion, a friend; we respected each other, he said of Haveen Al-Atar.I started rationalizing decisions I was making that pertained to (her father).
Later, after he was fired, sent to a basement office at U.S. Army Europe headquarters in Heidelberg, told not to speak to colleagues and had earned the enmity of his children, he said, I found I had nothing more than Haveen and her daughter to rely upon.
Johnson said the woman and her daughter had moved into his base quarters because theyd had nowhere else to go, and that officials had then taken away the base access card hed gotten for her and banned her from all USAREUR bases. Theyve tried to strip her away from me, he said.
He married her, although he was not yet divorced, he said, because she was in a perilous immigration status.
Kris Johnson, whose divorce from the colonel is not yet final, and who turned him in in an email to investigators last year, sat in the courtroom with the couples two teen-age children.
Youre a pathetic human being, she told him during a break.
After the sentence was announced, Kris Johnson said it was insufficient and that she had wanted her estranged husband in jail. She was relieved, she said, that he was not sentenced to forfeiture and she would get to keep half of his retirement benefits, when their legal and financial affairs are settled. If he ever signs my divorce agreement, she said. He could drag the divorce out for another five years and live in a bigamous marriage.
The colonel said hed been trying to repay the money hed illegally spent and would pay double back if that would allow him to stop hurting my son and daughter and stop hurting Haveen Al-Atar and her daughter.
Hed tried to pay back the money and tried three times to resign in lieu of court-martial, he said.
The panel seemed persuaded by his statement and the closing arguments of his lawyer.
Prosecutor Lt. Col. Will Helixon in his closing argument had asked the panel to sentence Johnson to dismissal and confinement for a period of years, not months.
He said Johnson still was minimizing what hed done, characterizing his actions as cutting corners, errors in judgment, blurring the lines.
No, Helixon said. He engaged in criminal conduct. He said, Screw it. Im going to make this contract happen.
Kuhfahl said the appropriate sentence would be a fine, paying back the money misappropriated, or doubling it. Although in murders or arsons, for instance, theres no undoing the damage, he said, in this case, you can unring the bell.
Kuhfahl pleaded with the panel not to impose confinement.
Dont destroy his life, Kuhfahl said. Give him the opportunity to pick up the shattered pieces of his life and try to move on.
what a slime ball. His selfishness ruined the life of his wife and the life of this Iraqi woman.
Reads like the script of a B movie. Incredible.
Not all West Pointers are Mac Arthur’s.
He lost his family, his career is in the toilet, nobody can ever trust him with real responsibility ever again, and he has to pay $300,000 out of his pocket. I’d hardly call that a “slap on the wrist.”
To a BCT Commander, this is worse than death. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t off himself in the near future.
And I bet he is indeed old and fat
I may be mistaken, but I think that I read that if he’d been removed from the service his legal wife and his children would have lost all of their benefits.
The colonels may have been reluctant to do anything that would hurt the family, especially since it was his wife - his legal wife - who turned him in.
His retirement will be in the neighborhood of $85,000.00 a year. He has been making a fairly healthy 6 figure income for several years so should have something stashed back. A $300K fine will be a little rough for a few years, but nothing he can’t handle. As far as his integrity blemishes, you would be surprised at the numbers of retired officers who have blemishes like this and have jobs that 99% of John Q. Public would love to have.
The honorable thing would have been for the president of the court martial panel to hand him a .45 and one round, put him in a locked room and prepare a body bag for him.
I will have to ask my son what he thinks of his former commander.
He didn’t “lose” his family, he called the base commander in Italy and lied and said he and his wife were divorcing. He lied and said his wife was going to the States and leaving their teen son, in Italy. They had no such arrangement. The base commander arrived home to find Mrs. Johnson sobbing with his wife, and realized the good Colonel was lying.
When Mrs. Johnson did leave Germany with their son, he tried to have his wife and the mother of his kids charged with kidnapping.
Gee, wonder why he “lost” his family. He didn’t “lose” them, he destroyed his family with his selfish and criminal actions.
If an enlisted man had done just a bit of what this guy did: reduced to e1- Leavenworth-no retirement benefits-wife and kids totally screwed with no healthcare, etc.
It is a slap on the wrist. It is disgusting. He is married to two women right now. He used his power and rank to enrich the Iraqi family of his lover with taxpayer funds.
Of all the jacked up stuff a military man can do- this guy did it ALL. Cheating, lying, using thousands of dollars illegally, giving his lover fake orders for travel, fake security clearance, taking his wife off DEERS illegally and putting his 2nd wife and her child on DEERS.
The reason all of this happened is because he made it happen. He broke his own life and career. He won’t kill himself because his daddy is a General and will probably pay his $300,000 fine for him, and the he and his new piece are gonna start a new life together.
Take a look. The Brigade Commander America’s Airborne in Italy was far from old and fat.
Check the pic on the linked site. He is neither old nor fat, but he is missing his hair.
His conduct was dishonorable, and that is exactly the type of discharge he should be given.
He could always run for Governor of South Carolina....hasn’t this guy ever heard of the Appalachian Trail?!?!?
The comments at the website are worth reading. As a retired Lt Col, I’m afraid the sad truth is that the UCMJ really is the Uniformed Code of Enlisted or Junior Officer Justice.
Can you imagine what would happen to an E-5 who funneled a few thousand dollars to support his adultery?
I’d also really like to see what the folks around him were doing, including his commanding officer...nobody NOTICED? YGBSM!
Perhaps, but out of the Army, dishonorable discharge, no bennies, and some appreciable amount of jail time.
I’m not saying the damage done to his life wasn’t self-inflicted, but the repercussions are still very real. Maybe he’s a scumbag with no sense of honor or integrity, and he blames everyone else for his problems, I really don’t know.
Short of fully-undeserved nepotism (which sounds like it may be a possibility), he’s going to have to answer a few questions about his military service record to some future employers, especially if they require a security clearance.
My e-8, 1SG husband would lose his career with a single DUI.
The repercussions for him are unreal. He was protected by his peers. His wife and kids did not deserve to lose everything, but he put them in that position.
His General father will him a job somewhere, and he will continue to bang his Iraqi whore- thanks, Military Corruption.com.
My husband would be in Leavenworth for a very long time if he did one thing that this guy did.
We wouldn’t have anything. Nobody would care. You do realize their are men in Leavenworth for fighting the war, men in hospitals and in the ground, and Col Johnson has been using the Military’s money and resources to play games for the last few years, right? And you wonder if he is a “scumbag?”
I just don’t get the people who defend or excuse him.
He should be held to the highest standard.
Well, I do wish the best for his soon the be ex-wife, and their kids.
What a nightmare for the kids.
What’s the saying? “Privilege has its rank”
He will retire at $85,000 per year and then get another job making 6 figures in the private sector.
He is awgly
I just meant by “old and fat” that is why these dopey men hae affairs, to assure themselves that they “still got it” yech
and that they are not old and fat. Amazingly, they never recognize the satanic attack on their family. Their selfishness, “I’ve never experienced anything like this” deceives them into thinking it is them, their attractiveness, etc and they fail to recognize satan tempting them.
No, I know he’s a scumbag; I’m just curious as to how deep it goes.
As to the rest, I’m sure you’ve been around the military long enough to know that “justice” is rarely served.
Not all West Pointers are Mac Arthurs.
Old Dougout Doug is responsible for the disasters at Clark Field having had 12 hours warning after Pearl Harbor..the unnecessary invasion of Pelielu..etc, etc.
Flogging is way too good for this scumbag. In about 1980 I had a good friend in Germany lose his career due to being charged with DUI, but found not guilty. Just the fact that he was charged was enough for his “report card” to be less than stellar. This soldier had all the potential in the world to head to OCS or be one fine 1SG or CSM, but he was forced to ETS due to a bar to reenlistment.
I remember him as “Dugout Doug” as well.
Officers take care of their own.
Any enlisted man or civilian would be prison for a long time...
Justice is pushed down the throats of those who do not deserve it, and those who do deserve it get none of it.
How deep does scum penetrate? Perhaps he is the pond on which scum floats gently...or perhaps...
“He implored the five colonels deciding his fate to let him leave the courtroom a free man so that he could protect the woman, Haveen Al-Atar, from the damage inflicted by the pairs illict love affair.
“She has nowhere to go, Johnson said. Shes hiding in an unnamed hotel, waiting to see if anybody will show back up to care for her, Johnson told the court. I passionately ask that you consider that.
This guy can go to hell. Hope his teen children can somehow get the sight and sound of their disgraced father pleading for his girlfriend out of their ears and/or eyes at some point in their mangled lives.
Adam & Eve, David & Bathsheba, Samson & Delilah, John the Baptist & Salome, King Edward the VIII & Simpson. Nothing new here, move on
A guy I knew had a pretty wife. His squadron commander told him, “She has great tits. I’ll bet she’s hot in bed. Heck, I’d like to _____ “, and the filled in blank was the start of a graphic description of sex. The witnesses agreed it wasn’t said as a crude joke, either.
The guy slugged the Sq CC.
He was court martialed. The guy, not the Sq CC. Found guilty and forced out. The Sq CC was promoted to Colonel. He was later ‘forced’ to retire as an O-6 after financial wrongdoing. Oh golly! What a punishment - the rest of his life on O-6 retired pay!
Pray tell, what would the punishment be for an E-6 or E-7?
Hell, I knew a guy that ended up in Leavenworth for joyriding in a Colonels car. This guy embezzles hundreds of thousands and he keeps getting paid. The world is bent.
Yep.... he needs to name his penis so he doesn’t have a stranger making all his decisions.....
Sad deal all around .
Stay safe SLB !!
Our military is slipping far down a slippery slope. We allow absoulte traitors like the terrorist insider who killed so many in an enemy attack at Ft. Hood to remain in the servie and get promotions EVEN THIOUGH THEY KNEW HE WSAS CORRSPONDING WITH AN AL QUIDA TERRORIST BY EMAIL! for God’s sake.
Now this. This man should spend 20 years of hard labor at Leavenworth and at the very least be stripped of any advantage his pension/retirement might bring him and send it all to the family (his long time wife and kids).
It is so shameful to the millions who have served honorably before and the same who serve honroably today to have such instances...and there are far too many in this PC compulive atmosphere that has sprung up and been nutured for far too long.
Enemies will take advantage of this (like at Ft. Hood) and more will die. I fear a whole lot of people, both military and civilian will end up dieing before we as a people nap out of it and demand and force the necessary changes.
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