A former Fort Carson soldier who was pregnant at the time she was imprisoned for desertion during a tour in Iraq has been released early for good behavior and performing extra work.
Army Pvt. Kimberly Rivera was released from Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar in San Diego Thursday after serving nearly seven and a half months of a 10-month sentence, her civilian lawyer, James Branum, said.
Branum submitted a clemency request to Fort Carson officials on Rivera's behalf several weeks ago, when Rivera was still pregnant with her fifth child, he said.
In the request, Branum asked that Rivera be released 45 days early, allowing her to prepare for birth, give birth, and bond with and breast-feed her baby.
The request, submitted with nearly 500 letters from supporters around the world, was denied Nov. 28, after Rivera had already given birth, Branum said.
Kimberly Rivera and her husband, Mario Rivera, will now focus on "rebuilding their lives," likely with extended family in Texas. Where the family eventually ends up will depend on "wherever they can find a job and cheap rent," Branum said.
Mario Rivera will likely look for work, and Kimberly Rivera will likely stay at home with the couple's children. Eventually Kimberly Rivera may seek work or return to school, but for now, "she has a newborn that's going to be at the focus," Branum said.
Her bad conduct discharge will likely pose less of a problem when it comes to finding future employment than most would think, Branum said.
"It would keep her from rejoining the military, and law enforcement is picky," he said. "But most employers don't care what the discharge is, but why. It's not as much of a black mark as people think it is."
The bad conduct discharge "effectively functions as a federal misdemeanor," Branum added.
Rivera, formerly of Fort Carson's 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, pleaded guilty to two counts of desertion at an April 29 court-martial at Fort Carson. She was sentenced to 10 months of confinement and a bad conduct discharge.
In January 2007, the Army granted Rivera leave from Forward Operating Base Loyalty in Baghdad, where she served as a front gate guard. She failed to return to duty.
In September 2012, Rivera, who was facing deportation from Canada, turned herself in at the U.S.-Canadian border.
During an April sentencing hearing, government lawyers argued that Rivera, who was granted leave shortly into her tour to work out marital issues, failed to return because her husband threatened to leave her and take their children, not because she was a conscientious objector.
Branum argued that Rivera was a conscientious objector even though she never filed for such a status. She failed to file because she didn't know the option was available to her, he said.
After failing to return for duty, Rivera fled to Canada with her family and began voicing anti-war sentiments via a blog that was discovered by her comrades in Iraq, said Staff Sgt. Amelia Nelson, a former co-worker of Rivera, in court in April.
Rivera wrote that seeing "wounded, injured and killed civilians on a daily basis was normal," Nelson recalled in court.
But "nothing like that had been seen at the front gate" where Rivera worked, Nelson said.