A newspaper review of military sexual assault programs found that reporting lapses and other mistakes contributed to a climate in which a Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., drill sergeant preyed on female subordinates.
Army Staff Sgt. Angel M. Sanchez was found guilty at a September court-martial of four counts of sexual assault and six counts of abusive sexual contact at a court-martial. He also was found guilty of several lesser charges of maltreatment and faces a possible 20-year prison sentence.
A government investigation concluded that high-level leaders on post "mishandled" informal sexual harassment complaints in Sanchez's unit, E Company, 701st Military Police Battalion, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (bit.ly/1BvpqsE) reported after reviewing more than 500 pages of military records provided in response to a public records request.
Sanchez was accused of using his supervisory position with the 14th Military Police Brigade at Fort Leonard Wood to isolate his victims and win their trust with favors, including cake and ice cream. One woman testified that failing to cooperate would have jeopardized her military status. The women said the incidents took place in the bathroom of the female barracks, a supply closet, a stairwell and an office shared by drill sergeants.
The Philadelphia native and father of two didn't testify during the three-day court-martial but apologized to his victims, many of whom were in the courtroom, after the verdict. He served one tour in Iraq, where he earned a Bronze Star and two other combat medals before arriving at the Missouri post in August 2013.
Sanchez admitted to having sex with three subordinates before his court-martial. He was then found guilty of incidents involving five more women in what one prosecutor called an effort to fulfill "his own pornographic fantasy."
Military records reviewed by the newspaper described Sanchez as being "extremely adept at choosing his victims, place of attack, masking his misconduct from his chain of command and superiors, and maneuvering around the safeguards put in place to protect trainees."
The investigation found no indication that Sanchez' current or previous superiors "were aware of criminal or inappropriate behavior prior to the allegations of misconduct being reported."
But both co-workers and those under his command saw "many indications of a predator in the ranks," military records indicated.
"Sanchez's peers and subordinates describe him as a person who often made inappropriate comments, sexual jokes and remarks, and flirted with soldiers," one investigator noted. "His peers and subordinates failed to report this behavior to their chain of command, enabling (Staff Sergeant) Sanchez to continue to behave in this manner for a long period of time."
A female soldier who had served with Sanchez in Alaska and Afghanistan told an investigator that "there was not one female in the unit that (Sanchez) did not make an inappropriate comment to or about." She said she didn't report it to command because she didn't think anything would be done.