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Fellow soldier faces military trial in sex assault of soldier from NC who later died

Court room and gavel. (Dreamstime/TNS)

A fellow soldier is scheduled to be formally charged in connection with the sexual assault of Asia Graham, the 19-year-old from North Carolina who was found dead at Fort Bliss, military investigators said Friday.

The soldier, a private first class whose name has not been released, was notified late Friday that the soldier will be arraigned and formally charged before a military judge sometime over the next week, Fort Bliss spokeswoman Lt. Col. Allie Payne told The Charlotte Observer on Saturday.

At the public arraignment, the judge also will schedule a date for a military trial, also referred to by the military as a court martial, Payne said.

On Friday, Maj. Gen. Sean Bernabe, commander of the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, “personally ordered” the charge be referred to trial, according to a Fort Bliss news release.

Graham notified military officials on June 1 that she’d been sexually assaulted, launching a months-long military investigation, Payne said. Investigators in October found probable cause that a fellow soldier sexually assaulted Graham. On Dec. 1, a top commander concurred with the findings, Payne said.

Graham, also a private first class, reported being sexually assaulted before she was found dead in her barracks on New Year’s Eve, McClatchy News previously reported, citing family members and Army officials.

Graham was a human resource specialist from Cherryville, a small Gaston County city about an hour west of Charlotte.

Fort Bliss, referred to on its website as “Home of America’s Tank Division,” is a U.S. Army post headquartered in El Paso, Texas.

Graham’s family told media outlets she’d been sexually assaulted by another soldier shortly after arriving at Fort Bliss in December 2019 and reported it to her superiors.

“I was with the military life. I spoke very highly about the military,” her mother Nicole Graham told the Charlotte Observer’s news partner, WBTV. “But in her situation, I think the leadership failed her.”

“Maj. Gen. Bernabe is committed to maintaining the integrity and impartiality of the military justice system,” Payne said in Friday’s release. “As a reminder to the Fort Bliss community, charges are merely accusations, and all Americans are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”


(c) 2021 The Charlotte Observer 

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