Soldier convicted in military court-martial at Fort Sill

Saturday, October 22nd 2005, 11:40 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ An Army National Guard soldier from Rhode Island was convicted in a military court-martial at Fort Sill of various charges, including drinking alcohol, possessing drugs, weapons offenses and threatening fellow soldiers while stationed in Iraq.

Former Sgt. Kenneth William Clark was reduced in rank to private and received a bad-conduct discharge, according to his attorney, Patrick McLain.

McLain characterized last week's court-martial as a victory for the defense because jurors voted not to give Clark jail time.

``Though the jury surely had its own reasons, they probably based it upon the rampant alcohol use by most of the members of this artillery battery and the poor leadership of the unit's senior NCOs and officers,'' McLain said.

Attempts to reach military prosecutors at Fort Sill were unsuccessful.

Clark initially was charged with several violations of military law, including violating orders prohibiting the consumption of alcohol, drinking on duty, possessing Valium and marijuana, assault by pointing a loaded weapon at fellow soldiers, disobedience of orders and communicating threats on several occasions, according to military court records.

Military prosecutors agreed to drop charges of possessing marijuana and some of the charges involving threats, McLain said.

Clark's artillery battery was attached to an Arkansas unit charged with training Iraqi soldiers, McLain said. He was sent to Iraq in March 2004, and the violations were alleged to have occurred in January and February 2005 at Camp Cooke, Iraq, records show.

The charges were referred to court-martial by Fort Sill's commanding general.

McLain said prosecutors offered a plea deal to Clark to serve between one and two years in jail, but Clark refused.

``He didn't think the offer was fair,'' McLain said. ``It was behavior that everyone else was doing. His common-man sense of justice was offended.''

During testimony at the trial, McLain said evidence showed drinking among soldiers in the unit was widespread.

``The rampant alcohol use was to show that (Clark) could have reasonably believed that order was no longer in force,'' McLain said. ``This is one guy being brought in here, and here is the rest of his command bringing him down for the very conduct they themselves engaged in.''

McLain said Clark, who is married and has three children, has returned to his job with a septic tank company in Rhode Island.

``On a matter of principle, he wanted the truth to come out,'' Clark said. ``The second thing is, he just wanted to be home with his wife and three kids.

``He knew he would be found guilty...and he was ready to take the consequences, but he wanted it to be just and fair.''