Sergeant on Trial on Charges Related to Allegedly Calling Soldier Fat

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VICENZA, Italy -- A sergeant first class pointed an unloaded pistol at one soldier, called another fat and touched the hair of a third, prosecutors said at a special court-martial Tuesday.

"It's not the crime of the century," Capt. Justin Kman told a nine-man panel. "But it's a crime."

Sgt. 1st Class Jessica Barboza, an information technology specialist, is in fact charged with three military crimes, and Kman said the evidence would show she was guilty.

Barboza's lawyer cautioned the panel against rash decisions and argued that the Army's case was weak. The charges Barboza faces often get dealt with in similar situations as nonjudicial punishment, but a service member can refuse and accept a court-martial.

Barboza declined nonjudicial punishment, defense attorney Jonathan Crisp told Stars and Stripes.

"She did not believe she was going to get a full and fair hearing," Crisp said.

If found guilty, the sentencing guidelines call for up to a year in jail and a bad conduct discharge. The charges against her stem from three incidents, which Kman described in his opening statement.

Pointing a 9mm pistol at another sergeant during preliminary marksmanship instruction at the range near Allied Joint Force Command Naples in November 2017 constituted dereliction of duty, he said.

"She said, 'Stay still so I can find my sight picture,'" the prosecutor said. "The government doesn't care if SFC Barboza thought she was being funny."

Repeatedly calling a specialist fat in front of other soldiers was maltreatment, he said, and Barboza had committed disrespect of a noncommissioned officer when she touched the hair of an African-American staff sergeant and made a derogatory comment.

Hold Barboza to account, Kman urged. Then, "we all move on and put the needs of our soldiers first."

Barboza's lawyer, however, lectured the panel on the danger of a rush to judgment that could have lifelong ramifications for his client and suggested that the specialist was in fact fat.

"I'd ask you to keep two concepts in mind -- context and culture," said Davis Younts, Barboza's attorney. "What was the context? Who else was in the room? Were there personality conflicts?"

The Army would not succeed in proving his client guilty, Younts told the panel.

"The government will not be able to prove there was the required criminal intent," he said.

The court-martial is expected to finish Wednesday.

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