FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – An Army sergeant accused of carjacking a sheik's sport utility vehicle in Iraq (search) testified Wednesday an officer told him to do it, and that he didn't think it was a criminal act.
"I was a soldier fulfilling my duties to my lieutenant within the rules of engagement," said Sgt. 1st Class James Williams, 37, of rural Westmoreland County, Va.
Williams, of the 101st Airborne Division (search), began testifying late Tuesday afternoon in the second day of his court-martial. He is charged with armed robbery and willful dereliction of duty for allegedly allowing his soldiers to consume alcohol. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
The defense rested Wednesday night. A panel of eight military jurors is expected to begin deliberating Thursday.
On Tuesday, Williams' attorney, Bernard Casey, argued the vehicle was taken only after Williams' lieutenant instructed soldiers to find him a vehicle, and that it was the lieutenant, Bradley Havlik, who came up with the cover story that the SUV was found abandoned.
The SUV had cut off another Humvee in a two-vehicle convoy Williams was in, Williams said. After about a five-minute chase, the SUV stopped, and the SUV was taken without force after the driver exited the vehicle, Williams said.
When they returned to the compound, Pavlik was "happy when we brought the vehicle back. He said, 'You guys finally got me a truck,"' Michael Harvey, a former Army specialist in the platoon, testified Wednesday.
But when Pavlik learned the men did not leave a receipt as they had been instructed to do under the rules of engagement if a civilian vehicle was seized for military purposes, Pavlik told the men to say the SUV was found abandoned, Williams said.
The Army later paid Sheik Ahmed W. Al-Faisal $32,000 for the SUV.
In testimony Wednesday, Williams also said he saw commanders drinking alcohol in Iraq and thought it was OK. He said when he allowed his soldiers to drink, he watched their weapons and made sure other non-drinking soldiers were providing security.
He said he only consumed alcohol once in Iraq. "It was my understanding that moderate use was tolerated through my experience with other units," Williams said.
Another soldier already has been convicted in the case and sentenced to prison. The lieutenant also faces a court-martial.