Army Officer Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison

Legal books

Friday was Richard Camacho's last day on Fort Bragg.

The 82nd Airborne Division captain was sentenced to two years in a military prison, forfeiture of pay and benefits, and dismissal from the Army by a jury of ranking officers Friday. He also will have to register as a sex offender.

Late Thursday, the panel convicted Camacho of 11 of the 18 alleged wrongdoings, violating three military laws.

The convictions included abusive sexual contact, kidnapping and assault.

Prosecutors said Camacho beat and sexually assaulted a woman in Harnett County in November 2012 after he learned the woman had a 10-month affair with a noncommissioned officer.

The Fayetteville Observer is not naming the woman, who is a former 82nd Airborne Division captain, because it has a policy of not identifying victims of sexual assault.

Jurors expected to move onto sentencing in the weeklong court-martial Thursday night but were delayed after Camacho struggled to breathe following the verdict and was escorted out of the Fort Bragg courtroom.

He was later taken by emergency medical personnel to Womack Army Medical Center.

Court resumed about 10 a.m. Friday. Prosecutors and the defense team called witnesses pertinent to the case and to Camacho's character.

Among those was Camacho's father, Rudy Camacho, who testified earlier in the week.

Rudy Camacho was emotional, stopping at points to gather himself. His wife, seated in the front row, appeared frazzled and distraught. She stared at the floor for most of her husband's testimony, holding one hand over her mouth and a wad of tissues in the other.

Richard Camacho had always wanted to be a soldier, his father said.

He recalled Richard playing with green, miniature Army soldiers as a child. As a teenager, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point was the only college his son applied to, Rudy Camacho said.

The military was in Richard Camacho's blood. His great-grandfather served in World War I, his grandfather later on in the Navy and his father in Vietnam, Rudy Camacho said.

When the 28-year-old deployed for Afghanistan in 2011, he told his son to be careful, Rudy Camacho said.

"He said, 'Dad, this is my war,'" Rudy Camacho said. "That was the attitude he had, and it's continued to this day."

Camacho's girlfriend, Gina Valenti, said she and Camacho had been dating for a little more than a year.

At no point, she said, had Camacho been violent or abusive.

Valenti said Camacho is a gentlemen and a logical person who always thinks things through. She vowed to move near his military prison so she could visit him.

"When he comes out, we're going to be able to start a life together," she said.

Valenti's mother, Terry Valenti, said she met Camacho about eight times in the past year. She, like her daughter, was aware of the allegations. And like her daughter, she said she thought there was no way the court would find him guilty.

"I can't believe it's happened to him," she said. "The man I know -- it's just impossible."

Other friends, such as Capt. Brett Geib, said they had known Camacho for years.

"He's a fantastic officer, and he's done great things for this Army," Geib said.

'Fear I can't describe'

As the jury foreman, a colonel with salt-and-pepper hair, read the decision, the Camacho family stayed still.

When the court adjourned, a woman seated with the Camachos rubbed Gina Valenti's back as some friends and relatives cried and filed out of the back courtroom door.

The sentence returned Camacho to his pale state from Thursday, and he followed his family to a back room in the courthouse.

Moments later, a military police officer fetched a set of hand and leg irons from a Fort Bragg police vehicle outside and walked slowly to the defense room.

Camacho will spend the weekend in the Cumberland County Detention Center. Early next week, he's expected to receive notification of the confinement facility where he will spend the next two years.

Camacho faced life in prison on the convictions. But on Friday, prosecutors recommended eight years -- one year, they said, for each hour Camacho was accused of beating the woman -- in military prison and dismissal from the Army. The defense recommended just the dismissal.

Shortly before closing arguments for sentencing, defense lawyers played Camacho's interviews with a local radio and television station.

Prosecutors jumped at the interviews, a chance to counter Camacho's remarks on Army brass, sexual assaults and what they perceived as a continued attack on the victim.

In one interview, Camacho said if convicted, he should be given the maximum punishment, prosecutors pointed out.

The prosecution called two witnesses Friday: the woman Camacho was convicted of beating and the woman's mother.

The victim told the court she stayed with her mom in an off-post apartment for six months after she was attacked.

It was so traumatic, she said, she wore sunglasses and a hat most times of day.

When she traded in a car, which she co-owned with Camacho, she said she begged the car company not to give Camacho details about her new vehicle.

"When you see somebody like that and it's something that traumatic, it's a fear I can't describe," she said.

Her mother took the stand next and told the court about name-calling and language that scared her and compelled her into driving from Maryland to Fort Bragg.

She said Camacho called her, with the woman's daughter on speaker phone, and told her of the affair Nov. 19.

Prosecutors said Camacho called the mother's phone several times that day, cursing her daughter for the affair.

"I started to think maybe something was very wrong with him at that point," the mother said.

The victim said she still has trouble with double vision and can no longer pilot an aircraft.

Sometimes, she said, emotions and memories resurface.

"Still to this day," she said, "it's painful."

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Army Crime in the Military
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