(Photo: US Army)
FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — Two soldiers said Tuesday that a noncommissioned sexual-assault prevention officer at Fort Hood recruited them and other cash-strapped female soldiers to join a prostitution ring.
Their testimonies came during an Article 32 hearing to determine whether Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen will face a military court-martial on more than 21 criminal charges filed in March that include pandering, adultery and sexual assault. The hearing is similar to a grand jury proceeding.
The first to testify was a female private who said she was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony.
"Basically, it was having sex with higher-ranking officers for money," the private said, according to the Killeen Daily Herald.
She was 20 at the time of the alleged misconduct and said she confided in McQueen, telling him she was experiencing money problems after her husband left her and her 3-year-old son and drained the couple's bank account.
She also testified that McQueen had sex with her and took photos of her naked to show potential clients.
Another soldier at the Army base in central Texas, Master Sgt. Brad Grimes, has already been demoted and reprimanded in the case for conspiring to patronize a prostitute and solicitation to commit adultery.
The private testified Tuesday that McQueen arranged for her to have sex with Grimes for $100.
A second female soldier testified that McQueen sexually assaulted her and also attempted to recruit her to join the prostitution ring, but she declined.
The names of the female soldiers who testified — three in all — have not been released. Fort Hood spokesman Tyler Broadway said it's to protect the women.
Anu Bhagwati, executive director of Service Women's Action Network and a former captain with the Marine Corps, said prostitution rings are not uncommon within the military and the allegations against McQueen were no surprise.
"Institutionally, a lot of inappropriate behavior is condoned," she told The Associated Press. "Women are so few within the military still that I think predators look at women as fresh meat and the military as an institution where they can get away with criminal activity."
More testimony is expected Wednesday, including from Grimes.
McQueen's attorney, Joseph Jordan, did not return a phone call to the AP seeking comment Tuesday. Fort Hoodwould not release the initial charges list — akin to the complaint in a civilian case — when the AP requested a copy.
The case has brought renewed focus on the prevalence of sexual assault within the military. In March, the U.S. Senate blocked a bill that would have stripped military commanders of their authority to prosecute or prevent charges for alleged rapes and other serious offenses.
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