Ex-CO Pleads Guilty to Bigamy, Adultery

Col. James H. Johnson III, left, walks with his defense counsel Lt. Col. Charles Kuhfahl, to the court room in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Behind them is Johnson's father, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) James H. Johnson Jr. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes
Col. James H. Johnson III, left, walks with his defense counsel Lt. Col. Charles Kuhfahl, to the court room in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Behind them is Johnson's father, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) James H. Johnson Jr. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Additional charges against the former head of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Col. James H. Johnson III, were dismissed Monday, a day after he pleaded guilty to 15 specifications, including bigamy, adultery and fraud.

Johnson pleaded not guilty to six of the 27 total specifications on the first day of his court-martial Sunday. Four of the six were dismissed Monday, including one fraud charge and two having to do with conduct unbecoming an officer. Six others were dismissed on Sunday.

Among the specifications Johnson pleaded guilty to were: fraud; violation of lawful regulations by misusing government vehicles, cell phones and a travel card for personal purposes; making false official statements; conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman; adultery; wrongful cohabitation; and bigamy.

Johnson, who took command of the 173rd in 2008, was fired in March 2011 after an Army investigation found he had misused a variety of government resources, apparently to woo an Iraqi woman and provide aid to her family.

On Sunday, Johnson told the court he knew he was not legally divorced from his estranged wife when he married the woman, Haveen Al-Atar, by proxy.

On Monday, lawyers argued over the two remaining specifications of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman that will be considered by the jury.

According to one of the specifications, he gave the woman’s family a cell phone that racked up service charges of more than $80,000.

The other pertains to a contract “for the financial benefit of Mr. Alladin Al-Aatar, a personal friend, and the father of (Johnson’s) mistress,” according to the charge sheet.

The defense asked that the amount of the contract not be put before the jury members, but the prosecutor said it was important that they have some indication of the amount so jurors could see an incentive to act unethically.

The two sides also disputed semantics. The defense counsel, Lt. Col. Charles Kuhfahl, asked that the term mistress not be used by prosecutors when presenting the evidence. He said the word was pejorative.

“If it’s a duck, it’s a duck, your honor,” prosecutor Lt. Col. William Helixon countered.

The judge decided that mistress was not pejorative.

The judge also granted Johnson 29 days off any potential sentence based on “illegal pre-trial punishment,” but what that illegal punishment entailed was not disclosed.

All told, the guilty pleas could bring a maximum punishment of 54 years and four months of confinement, according to court officials. A conviction also could result in dismissal from the service, total forfeiture of pay and allowances and a fine. But court-martial panels have broad discretion in sentencing and he also could be sentenced to no confinement.

Attending the trial again Monday was Johnson’s estranged wife, Kris, and the couple’s two children, as well as Johnson’s father, retired Lt. Gen. James H. Johnson Jr.

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Army Crime