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GI Gets 12 Years in Gang-Beating Death
Stars and Stripes  |  By Steve Mraz  |  July 20, 2007
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Pvt. Terrence Norman was sentenced to the maximum punishment of 12 years’ confinement and given a dishonorable discharge Thursday for the 2005 beating death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson.

A six-member jury of two officers and four enlisted soldiers took less than three hours Thursday to find Norman guilty of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, violating an Army regulation on hazing and conspiring to violate the Army regulation on hazing.

The charges of aggravated assault and violation of the Army regulation on hazing were later dismissed during the sentencing phase because they were deemed excessive given the involuntary manslaughter conviction.

The panel deliberated for 45 minutes.

After Norman left the courtroom, he tearfully embraced a few friends before being escorted into a room.

Norman becomes the first soldier convicted in the case surrounding Johnson’s July 3, 2005, “jumping in” to join the Gangster Disciples. An eyewitness to the beating testified Tuesday that Norman was one of nine men who repeatedly punched Johnson during the six-minute initiation.

In an unsworn statement read to the jury, Norman called his actions “very stupid and completely unacceptable.” He apologized to Johnson’s family.

“My actions led to the death of your son and husband,” said Norman, 22. “… I am sorry for the pain I have caused you.”

Stephanie Cockrell, Johnson’s mother, testified that she had a particularly difficult time accepting the fact that her son survived a tour in Iraq only to die by the hands of his fellow soldiers.

“You expect in wartime to get the call or perhaps the knock on your door,” she said. “Never in a million years did I expect someone to say to me that your son was beaten to death by other soldiers.”

Johnson’s wife, Kenika, gave birth to the couple’s only son five months after he died. She testified that sometimes it is hard to look at Juwan Jr. and not cry because he looks so much like his late father. Kenika Johnson said she has no idea how she will tell her son what happened to his father.

“I guess I’ll just have to tell him the truth,” she said. “I don’t know how that will go.”

Prosecuting attorney Capt. Jocelyn Stewart recommended to the jury that Norman receive the maximum sentence.

“Do not forget Sergeant Johnson’s pain,” she said. “Do not forget the pain of his family that continues, the pain of that little boy who will grow up fatherless.”

Capt. Chandra LaGrone, defense attorney, told the panel prior to sentencing that Norman was ready to face the consequences of his actions.

“He was and is a young, impressionable kid, who made some very poor decisions,” LaGrone said.

Others who participated in the beating will face courts-martial soon. Six other current or former soldiers and four current or former airmen either beat Johnson or were present at the jumping in, according to testimony from Pvt. Latisha Ellis, the lone Army spectator to the beating. Ellis’ murder charge was dismissed in February in exchange for her eyewitness testimony.

The court-martial of Army Sgt. Rodney Howell is scheduled to begin next week, and Army Staff Sgt. Alre Hudson is set to stand court-martial in late August.

The jury found Norman not guilty of a specification of violating the Army regulation on hazing. The not-guilty finding stemmed from an alleged 2004 Gangster Disciple initiation when Kaiserslautern’s 66th Transportation Company was deployed to Tikrit, Iraq.

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