FORT HOOD, Texas – Authorities on Wednesday charged a Fort Hood sergeant with paying for sex with a soldier in a prostitution scheme allegedly arranged by a low-level coordinator of the Texas Army post's sexual assault prevention program.
The scandal and others in the U.S. armed forces have triggered outrage from local commanders to Capitol Hill and the Oval Office, and prompted a rush of proposed legislation to deal with the epidemic of sexual assaults in the military branches. One recent scandal involved an Air Force officer who headed a sexual assault prevention office until he was arrested on charges of groping a woman in a parking lot.
In Texas, Master Sgt. Brad Grimes was charged in military court Wednesday with patronizing a prostitute, conspiring with another soldier to patronize a prostitute, committing adultery and solicitation to commit adultery, according to Fort Hood officials. The woman soldier allegedly involved in the prostitution has not been charged.
The charges stem from an investigation into a battalion-level coordinator of Fort Hood's sexual assault and harassment prevention program, post spokesman Chris Haug said.
In May, the Army said a sergeant first class was being investigated on allegations of sexual assault and possibly arranging for at least one woman to have sex for money. The Army said he was one of the coordinators of the program at Fort Hood, about 125 miles southwest of Fort Worth.
Army officials declined to comment about the case Wednesday or release his name, referring questions to Fort Hood.
Two officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case, identified that soldier as Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen. U.S. officials have said he is being investigated in connection with activities involving three women, including sexually assaulting one woman. The allegations involving the third woman were not known. A defense official in Washington said it was not yet clear if one of the women was forced into prostitution or participated willingly.
McQueen has been suspended from all duties but had not been charged as of Wednesday.
Grimes, an 18-year Army veteran, does not work in Fort Hood's sexual assault prevention program, Haug said. A court date for Grimes has not been set.
Congress has been weighing legislative proposals, but on Wednesday a committee rejected a bill that would have overhauled the military justice system by removing commanders from the process of deciding whether sexual misconduct cases and other serious crimes go to trial. Instead, the Senate Armed Services Committee sided with the Pentagon's top brass in approving legislation to keep commanders involved in deciding whether to prosecute sexual assault cases.
The House is scheduled to vote soon on its version of a defense policy bill that includes a number of sexual assault prevention provisions.
The Pentagon estimated in a recent report that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, up from an estimated 19,000 assaults in 2011, based on an anonymous survey of military personnel.