Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division fill the sky during an air show. Three of the seven soldiers face courts-martial on charges of sodomy, pandering and engaging in sexual acts for money.
The Army has charged seven paratroopers from the celebrated 82nd Airborne
Division with engaging in sex acts in video shown on a Web site, authorities
Three of the soldiers face courts-martial on charges of sodomy, pandering and
engaging in sex acts for money, according to a statement released by the military.
Four other soldiers received what the military calls nonjudicial punishments.
The Army has recommended that all be discharged.
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 Friday's charges were a result of that
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.
"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.
Steve Ralls, a spokesman for a legal group that helps gays and lesbians in
the military, said the charges indicate the soldiers' behavior is "a much
more serious matter than just their sexual orientation."
"I'm not going to make excuses for service members who are taking part
in sexual conduct for money," said Ralls, who works for the Washington-based
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. "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, but he said the lawyers would be unavailable for comment
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
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.