This article was updated on April 7, 2021. Although the victim had provided permission to use her name in the article, she subsequently asked that we remove her name because she wishes to move on from this episode in her life. We have granted her request.
(Author’s note: The following is a special report based on official documents, audio recordings and email interviews. Because of the nature of the topic, some material may be inappropriate for some readers.)
On July 4, 2016, a 23-year old pregnant woman arrived at the University Medical Center (UMC) hospital complaining of abdominal and back pain. The patient, who was transported by EMS to the hospital, alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by her boyfriend. The alleged sexual assault allegedly happened at the barracks on Fort Bliss. The patient is a civilian who is married to another soldier who was on active duty status during the alleged assault. The alleged attacker is a Fort Bliss-stationed military policeman, who is not married to the alleged victim.
According to the alleged victim, the military police sergeant allegedly slapped her, threw her against the bed post and sexually assaulted her. The alleged sexual assault happened at 900 Pleasanton at Fort Bliss, where the military police sergeant resides. According to the complaining woman, both the military policeman and her had been carrying on an affair. The complaining woman also stated that she had been living at the barracks with the military policeman since “mid March through June”. She had a key to his room at the barracks that she used.
When the alleged victim was questioned by an assistant county attorney as to why she was allowed to stay at the barracks, her response was that the sergeant was the “barracks NCO” and “he could do whatever he wanted.” According to the alleged victim, she “never signed in” to the barracks.
As a result of the ensuing loud argument, after the alleged assault, another soldier who overheard the commotion, summoned military police to the barracks. The military sergeant, who is the alleged assailant, also called his MP friends resulting in two sets of military policemen responding to the alleged sexual assault.
This is not the first time that military police had responded to the scene involving both the civilian woman and the sergeant. On February 9, both the woman and the sergeant were both arrested at Fort Bliss with both claiming self-defense in a domestic violence incident. The alleged victim also said that she called the police on January 20 for assault, but later dropped the charges.
Currently the alleged victim is pregnant with the alleged attacker’s baby. Her husband, who is no longer in the military after completing six years of service, is still with his wife and cannot “believe how unjustified the military law enforcement and leadership” have been in dealing with his wife’s case.
Sexual assault cases are difficult because of the circumstances involved. They are especially more difficult when it involves a married woman who is involved with her alleged assailant. Typically, the cases become a “he said, she said” case where the facts are difficult to ascertain. A sexual assault case is best left for the courts to adjudicate based on the evidence provided.
Today’s article is not about the alleged sexual assault, although it is an important element, but rather the subsequent actions that have occurred. It is the actions of Fort Bliss officials that need to be discussed because they do not conform to the standards of investigative fairness. Obviously, for the alleged victim it is about getting her day in court.
The US military has been under scrutiny for their handling of sexual assault cases on military bases. As a result of the scrutiny there have been attempts to make the reporting of sexual assaults and harassment in the military more transparent. According to a September 2016 report of 2015 military cases of sexual assault, in 2015 the conviction rate for a sex offence was only 9%. Over 20,000 military members were sexually assaulted in 2014, according to military reports. Less than 600 were prosecuted in 2015 on sexual assault charges.
The victim contacted me last month asking for help in exposing her case to the public. The victim hopes that by sharing her story that the “public awareness may bring more justice” and that she just “wants to be left alone” by the alleged attacker.
The United States Army has a program named SHARP that deals with sexual assaults and harassment in the military. SHARP is an acronym for “Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention”. Additionally, the US military has specific codes of conduct under which its members must adhere to.
There are two issues involved in this case, besides the alleged sexual assault. The first is the issue of the relationship between the victim and her alleged attacker. According to the information provided by the victim, she was married while spending nights at the Fort Bliss barracks with the military policeman. She alleges that the soldier, she was staying with, was fully aware of her marital status. Many readers may assume that there is a specific regulation that prohibits military members from adulterous affairs. The reality is that under military law, adultery is a banned behavior that falls under the general prohibition against “bringing discredit” to the military.
Generally, there are three elements that must be proven in a court martial for adultery. The first is that a sexual encounter was had. The second is that the soldier was married and the third is that the activity could bring “discredit upon the armed forces.”
One of the best known cases of adultery in the military was in 1997. Lieutenant Kelly Flinn, the first US female service woman to fly a B-52 bomber, left the military after having an adulterous affair with the husband of an enlisted military subordinate. Lt. Flinn, who was honorably discharged after avoiding a court martial, was prosecuted on numerous charges. The most serious charge was for lying to superior officers and disobeying lawful orders. The military normally handles adultery at the lowest possible level, instead of the more severe court martial level. In the case of Flinn, a court martial was convened only after she disobeyed an order to stay away from the married boyfriend. That is the normal process for handling adultery in the military environment. The prosecution is based on the welfare of the military structure.
Letters of reprimand, official orders to stay away from each other or censures are normally the way charges of adultery are handled within the military. Court martials are rare and are usually the result of lying to military officials or disobeying orders to cease the activity. Typically, the publicized cases of adultery in the military are the result of escalating violations by the perpetrators.
In the Fort Bliss case, the alleged sexual assault is not the first time both individuals have had an encounter resulting in police intervention. As you read further you will see that there are also the issues of other violations of rules, procedures and, more importantly, how Ft. Bliss officials seem to have handled this allegation of a sexual assault on base. This is the second, and the most important issue that needs to be addressed in this case.
Fort Bliss Sergeant James Pippen has allegedly assaulted the victim on at least three occasions, according to the victim. The victim has acknowledged an affair with Sgt. Pippen and has acknowledged living at the Ft. Bliss barracks in Pippen’s room for a number of months. This is an apparent violation of the rules. The victim alleged that on July 4, Pippen sexually assaulted her at the barracks. The victim is currently pregnant with Pippen’s child, which was conceived about five months prior to the alleged sexual assault. Sgt. Pippen is a member of the 93rd Military Police Battalion at Ft. Bliss.
The US military’s SHARP program tells victims of sexual assaults to contact the local Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) that is available 24 hours, seven days a week. At that point, under the SHARP protocol, two types of reporting are initiated – a restricted or an unrestricted one. A restricted report is privileged and confidential. However, if an alleged victim contacts the chain of command or law enforcement then the reporting of the incident becomes unrestricted. Unrestricted does not mean that the records of the alleged assault are automatically publicized, but rather that the allegation of assault is processed through the bureaucracy with the alleged attacker, the chain of command and the alleged victim all participating in the process.
The victim’s sexual assault outcry was made at UMC and she subsequently involved the Ft. Bliss law enforcement and the chain of command. Thus, her sexual assault outcry falls under the “unrestricted” reporting type and confidentially and privilege do not apply in her case.
According to the nurse’s notes, created at the time of her intake by UMC staff, the incident was being treated as a sexual assault. The UMC staff called the El Paso Police Department to alert them of an alleged sexual assault and EPPD referred them to Ft. Bliss. When UMC staff contacted Ft. Bliss, they were told that Ft. Bliss had already been notified of the incident and that Ft. Bliss military police “would not be coming to [the] hospital for [the] report.” Additionally, Ft. Bliss officials told the UMC nurse that the victim, “would need to follow up” with Ft. Bliss officials directly.
A follow up call was placed to Ft. Bliss officials by UMC staff and after speaking to a Ft. Bliss investigator, the victim was finally interviewed in Triag at UMC by military officials. According to the medical records, it took two calls from UMC medical staff to Ft. Bliss to get them to respond to the hospital to process the victim.
In a letter dated August 30, 2016, County Attorney, Gabriella Reed, acting on her own behalf and not officially on the behalf of the County Attorney’s office, wrote to the Inspector General at Ft. Bliss with concerns about the case. Although Reed had officially represented the victim in a protective case order against Pippen, in the letter Reed specifically writes that she is writing the letter as “an Attorney” and as a “military spouse.”
In the letter, Reed wrote that “SHARP cases and how they are a priority for command is not a philosophy that is embraced by the leadership of the 72nd Military Police Detachment, and the Criminal Investigation Division” at Ft. Bliss.
Reed writes that her perception of the case is that the case was “not handled in an appropriate manner” and that the leadership of the “72nd Military Police Detachment and CID failed to do the right thing by conducting a proper investigation.” Reed adds that her purpose in writing the letter is to ensure that the victim “is not lost in the system…and to ensure that the base leadership has an opportunity to look into this matter and determine if in fact this SHARP case was handled in an appropriate manner.”
On July 6, two days after the alleged sexual assault, Sgt. Pippen was ordered to have no communications with the victim. The order was issued by the Detachment Commander, Cpt. Edwards via a “no contact order” on a “Development Counseling Form.” The order ordered Pippen to have no contact, except through a “third party and only in reference” to his child.
After the alleged sexual assault, the victim was assigned a “special victim advocate” as per the SHARP protocol. The advocate was withdrawn by the Army on August 1, after the victim’s husband left the Army. She was told that she was no longer eligible for the services of the special victim advocate because her husband was no longer a member of the military.
The victim was left alone to navigate the Ft. Bliss bureaucracy in pursuing her case against Sgt. Pippen.
In an attempt to secure a protective order, the victim attempted to get copies of the military police reports in July. According to the victim she was told that the reports were “not ready”. The victim also attempted to get copies of the report from military officials for the February incident in which she, and Pippen were both arrested on domestic violence charges at Ft. Bliss. According to the victim, military officials provided her with the incorrect case number initially and told her there were no reports for the incident in which she was arrested. Only after a private attorney got involved, did the victim receive the correct police report number.
Additionally, the vitcim had told Army investigators that she has numerous audio recordings between her and Pippen. Initially Army investigators refused to listen to the tapes. Sometime later, CID Special Agent Whal threatened the victim with taking away her telephone for an indefinite period of time through a subpoena, if she did not immediately share the recordings with him. By this time, the victim had been advised by Reed, the county attorney helping her with the protective order, to do whatever she pleased with the recordings. Reed had also informed the CID investigator that Reed would include him in her “IG complaint” because of his “unpleasant and obstinate” attitude with the attorney.
Gabriela Reed wrote, in her letter, that her perspective “as an attorney, a military spouse, a victim advocate and an American voter is that the 72 Military Police Detachment, and the CID at Ft Bliss still has failed to get it right when it comes to SHARP.”
The victim alleges that because Sgt. Pippen is a military policeman at Ft. Bliss, both the army’s criminal investigation division and the post’s military police have attempted to block her allegations of a sexual attack on the military post. The victim acknowledges staying in the barracks with Pippen because Pippen controlled access to the barracks where he resides. Yet, the victim states that no apparent disciplinary action has been taken by military officials for this apparent violation.
Although, the victim eventually received some of the reports she has asked the Army for, she has yet to receive copies of all of the records she needs for her to pursue her case through the legal system. The vitcim contends that a cover up is being used to protect Sgt. Pippen and that a proper investigation is yet to be conducted by Army officials. She feels that the Ft. Bliss hierarchy refuses to take her allegations seriously and have blocked her attempts to access her records, both for her arrest on the domestic violence case or on the status of the case against Sgt. Pippen for her alleged sexual assault.
The Sergeant should be prosecuted for the barracks violation and any role he had in trying to make these charges go away. Even if the sexual assault is he said/she said (and the fact that she kept coming back makes it hard to prosecute), the barracks issue is a big deal.
I hope she learned her lesson and should have never had an affair to begin with.
And how about the Sergeant?
everybody is scum in this story
Corruption this is a bunch of bs who cares if the woman is married and how supportive her husband is now really isnt this more about the facts this girl was in an abusive relationship while seperated from her husband she made a bad choice ya who hasnt though does it mean cover it up deny justice ? Shes what 23 how old is this man that did this to her women in abusive circumstances sometimes hope that they will change and they mean it when they say they r sorry thank god her and the baby made it out alive the man is a criminal needs to be in jail the military broke all kinds if rules allowing this dysfunction makes u wonder what else they sweep under rug
It’s a horrific and very disturbing situation. 3-5 lifes will be destroyed.
First, let tackle the wife. She was trespassing by stating in the barracks and engaging in sex with a service not her spouse. That’s two chargeable offenses before a Federal Magistrate. As already stated the situation is tainted because of the length of stay in the barracks and repeated sex. Some will question that, but remember some victims blame themselves, etc. They keep returning to the abuser. She should have followed thru for prosecution and the chips fall.
Two MP squads showing up at the scene. That Desk Sgt, MP Duty officer, Patrol supervisor plus the MP should also be prosecuted. They have assigned areas and are not to leave that area except to eat, bathroom, reports, etc. The Desk Sgt, Duty Office and Patrol supervisor monitor the radio and are supposed to check the patrols. So the MP chain of command heard it all and allowed it to happen. The only MPs that should have been there are those assigned to that area and CID.
Now the SGT, but it sounds like he was a Staff Sergeant. Offenses for conduct unbecoming, adultery, assault and rape, disobedience of Company and Post orders, requesting patrols leave their responsibility. Most certainly, as an MP he must be held to a higher standard. Can you image the damage done to the credibility with soldiers and families? The MP motto is ” Of the troops, for the troops”. Or at least it was years ago.
The Post Commander should order the MP and CID chain of command to appear before him to explain why and how did the units are out of control. That’s a leadership problem ! It should or will appear on their efficiency reports or worse.
Who knows what the heck CID was doing ? Did they determine that the statements lacked creditability ? Did the command determine equal quilt and prosecution would make matters worse ? Was evidence good enough for a case ?
Was the Post so embarrassed that they thought necessary to sweep it under the rug ? The Post Law Enforcement running amuck after the assault and rape but also no one reporting the barracks activity !
Trust me this is going to get very nasty and the Army Chief of Staff, IG and the Sec of Army and the Sec of Defense are furious.
Are these allegations ? He said-she said ? Prosecutable case ? It’s seems that a counseling statement was issued, that’s very odd. That’s usually to identify short comings that need improvement or correction. Failure to comply could result with military punishment or discharge.
When we are desperate for manpower and standards are lowered these situations can be expected. There is more than a Blue Line here, there’s the combat brotherhood that leads to protecting one another.
The allowing of women into combat arms and gender issues to exist will lead to even worse problems. There is a major difference in a short skirmish and prolonged combat. There is a report out there that states same gender rape is at high rate. Yes, there has always been gays serving but they were mature about their activity therefore no one said anything. But to flaunt is waving a red flag. Heterosexuals bragging were usually ignored because they were bs barracks talk.
It must be really interesting in tbe submarine service.
No one deserves to be sexually assaulted or hit by any man the fact he is getting away with it is ridiculous she obviously wasnt with her husband if living at the barracks with this dirtbag loser with a title and the government backing his loser rapist ass this a is disgusting injustice
Has anyone considered if there was a no contact order in February that technically his chain of command knew about the inappropriate relationship and failed to do their duty in February to keep him from contacting her again. ESPECIALLY if they both got arrested and an IG complaint about adultery was made in February by the husband. Usually that gets the chain of commands attention. The chain of command failed their solider and the solider failed himself. Interesting. Its very common for soldiers to be married especially into contract for the extra benefits and pay. Whatever the marriage situation the husband does not seemed to butthurt about it if he is supporting his wife through this, and you know the fact she was living with another man. Id assume it would get hard coming up with excuses after excuse where she was every night unless some sort of arrangement was made. Sounded like they had a contract marriage and that this horrible event brought them closer. As for the solider of course he is going to play innocent, those are hard charges coming his way, well suppose to be coming his way, but look him up and he seems “peachy and ready for a promotion” . Good job Fort Bliss you have a man under investigation and you’re going to promote him. Lets all join the military and do as we please, forget about justice. If there is enough documented evidence of hospital reports, bruising, audio and testimony then this “man” should not be on duty at all and the word demotion should be in his near future not promotion. DISGUSTING. Hopefully all our young daughters out their do not run into a sick “man” like this, or even him. Hopefully the woman gets justice. I’m ashamed of everyone blaming her, she’s pregnant with the assailants child, no matter the situation he should not have touched her in any way to produce harm while she’s carrying his kid. That’s not a man, that’s a coward. Did his dad teach him how to abuse women, probably where it started. There is so much social cacophony about law enforcement and blue lives matter, don’t get me wrong, large law enforcement family, but when you hear about this you can almost understand why some people just build up hate towards a specific group. This man and all his friends should be ashamed to call themselves “law enforcement” when they do not enforce the law but break it and cover for each other as they see fit. There is no honor in what they do, it makes all the good soldiers and law enforcement look bad. I’m sure this wont be the last and probably is not the first attempts at a cover up for a fellow law enforcement officer.
Put this fake man away! He does not serve God or his country by stepping on others freedoms. Narcissistic psychopath. Yeah go look him up! what a scum bag! The post commander should be answering to this and having leadership report to him especially if they had to re-open and close the case numerous times and run this girl around. People this guy has numerous affiars with probably a lot of wives on post and off post, she was just a stupid naiive young girl that got caught up in his “charm”. She should have left after the January incident. We don’t know what its like to go back to abusers, hopefully she has learned not to play with fire, and hopefully for the 93rd Battalions sake they do something to this chum bucket besides a slap on the wrist and a negative counseling. Everyone in the investigation or had contact with the victim should have to report to the General of post and be investigated. Only thing saving her bottom is the audios she has of this scum bag. Major brotherhood protection right here. Please let this go up to Congress, I hope she’s brave enough to get this on other social media. The army leadership obviously has a major problem that they cant handle and should let the state of Texas prosecute. I honestly don’t believe she has to worry about anything, this loser doesn’t have enough juevos to be a real man let alone a father. God help that poor child she’s expecting, deserves much better than this man as a dad. He already had one victim he doesn’t need to ruin another person.
I don’t think the woman was an innocent victim in this case. Just a thought. Initially, she might have succumbed to the charms, returning repeatedly ? Unless she had the “blame herself syndrome.
As for the husband. He could be an understanding, forgiving and loving husband. Is it a contract marriage ? Only they know the real situation. It may or may not come as a shock to some. There are open marriages, husbands or wives that are ok with spouses having lovers because of the separations, some that are unable to impregnate the wife so agree to a surrogate. This day and age, anything goes so that could be another factor. I’ve seen of situations of the type I just described.
Best thing is to let the investigation pan out and see what happens. Even if there were no innocent victims, there WILL be consequences because of the bad pr.
Yes because she begged this man to beat her and the child she carries. When you think about it a man with years of combat training and deployment vs a 23 year old pregnant girl you have to laugh at the situation because obviously who will do more damage. How did she “egg” him on to rape her? Yeah I agree consequences should definitely follow, but to blame only her is total bull, he sounds like a piece of work. Either way the military does not seem to be handling it because he indeed is a law enforcement member on post. Would you want your son or daughter to go on post for whatever reason let’s say a party and they are underage and everyone gets busted except the military personnel because they are members of the service and your kiddos get slammed with federal charges because they are civilians. Not protecting her, but yeah we don’t know her marriage situation and the fact that post hasn’t done squat but run her and her attorney around is what people are irritated about. Favoritism* not freedom and its gross.
Nope, not placing all the blame on her. I have seen cases on both sides of domestic violence and rape. It’s not always as it appears. Which is why I say let the investigation pan out.
I’m not so sure this favoritism, more likely a case of extreme embarrassment. Or it could be letting it crawling away because the result could make matters worse.
I really don’t think this is let the military go free and we get the civilians. To be honest military dependent are in a different category of a regular civilian. Not all but most will be living in a Federal law and militarty environment so are fully aware of consequences for infractions. Habitual offenders that are dependent with family overseas can be returned to the US or use sponsorship which they no longer any dependent privileges in the host country. Families or individual families can be ordered vacate family quarters.
This whole thing stinks but until an investigation is done as to why the chain of command failed, why there was no investigation (if true), etc. Its very serious for the military. Btw, the FBI can enter the case because it’s a crime committed on a federal installation and is an offense under USC 18. Not the military just the alleged rape, assault and trespassing.
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