A story of malicious prosecution.
PFC Thomas A. Chestnut Jr.
PFC Thomas A. Chestnut Jr. is a loving and caring young man who has always had strong desire to help people. Thomas had served as a lifeguard at the YMCA where he had the experience of saving a life. This gave Thomas the desire and drive to do more, help more people.
At age 23, Thomas decided to join the army and become a combat medic. He wanted to help save the lives of soldiers that risk their lives for the rest of us.
In April of 2012, Thomas went off to basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He graduated and was shipped to Fort Sam Houston, Texas for his Advanced Individual Training (AIT), to become a combat medic.
While in Fort Sam Houston, Thomas was placed in living quarters with an individual that did not like him. Both Thomas and the roommate put in for a change of quarters. There was no other space available so they had to try to make it work. Thomas knew his roommate was uncomfortable with the fact that Thomas was a homosexual. Thomas tried to be as respectful as he could about it. He made a point to not say or do anything that would offend his roommate.
They argued over many things during the time they shared barracks. One argument led to a physical confrontation where the roommate attempted to put Thomas in some sort of choke hold. Thomas got free and left their room to report the incident. Thomas slept somewhere else that night.
One evening, some time later, Thomas and his roommate were sitting in their room watching an anime movie. Another soldier, an openly bi-sexual man in the same training course as Thomas and his roommate, came over to visit with them as he had done a few times before. On this occasion he was giving Thomas indications that he wanted to be alone with him. Thomas and this soldier had discussed the possibility of dating in the past. After a bit of this soldier’s flirting with him, and attempting to show a disinterest in the program Thomas and his roommate were watching, Thomas asks his roommate for some privacy.
The roommate gets up and goes to take a shower. The soldier proceeds to come on to Thomas in an aggressive manner and lets Thomas know he wants to have intercourse with him. After a few minutes Thomas goes to the bathroom door and asks his roommate for a condom. The roommate tells him “you know where they are” and Thomas gets one out of the roommate’s night stand. Thomas and the soldier proceeded to have sex.
Afterward, Thomas informs his roommate they are done and the roommate finishes up his shower. Thomas goes to take a shower and the other soldier lies down on Thomas’s bed. When Thomas gets out of the shower the soldier is asleep so he sits down and continues to watch anime with his roommate. After a while the two got tired so Thomas wakes the soldier and asks him if he is staying the night. The soldier decides to go back to his room.
The rest of the time at Fort Sam Houston, things continue to be the same between Thomas and his roommate. The other soldier and Thomas still kind of hung out. Some time later the soldier fails out of his course and is moved to a different MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). Thomas and the roommate complete their course and are moved to different posts. Thomas goes to Fort Hood, Texas.
A few months later, some time in early 2013, the roommate with some of his friends get caught with too much alcohol in his room and he decides to tell the authorities he needed the alcohol because he was dealing with the emotional stress of witnessing a sexual assault while in AIT at Fort Sam Houston. This is the first time this supposed assault is mentioned to authorities by anyone, thus starting the ball rolling to ruin Thomas’ career and future.
A short time later Thomas finds out he’s been flagged for sexual assault. He has an idea of who it must be because he only had sex with one soldier. He is confused and mortified. This could ruin his life’s dreams. His life is put on hold while the government gathers evidence to prosecute him. He tries to do his duties and focus on his future.
The Criminal Investigation Division (CID) questions the soldier Thomas had been with. The soldier admits that he took his prescription of Ambien before formation that evening in preparation for turning in early that evening. He remembers going to Thomas’ room that evening, sometime after formation, entering the room, tripping over the roommate then deciding to relax on a pile of clothing on the floor. He doesn’t remember anything after that as he ‘blacked out’. He had ‘blacked out’ at least once before from taking Ambien and had not had any memory of what happened.
Thomas had no knowledge of what this medication was or that the soldier had taken this medication, and no indication that the soldier was under the influence of any drugs or alcohol during their night together. As far as Thomas knew the sex was consensual and the soldier was the instigator and aggressor during the whole thing.
Thomas was formally charged on February 20, 2014. In April he had his Article 32 hearing to determine if they were going to proceed with the court martial. Even though the roommate is apparently caught in lies during testimony and the other soldier states that Thomas didn’t do anything the soldier didn’t want him to during his testimony, they proceeded to take it to court martial.
The court martial was scheduled for June 23, 2014. During the court martial only three witness are called to testify; the roommate, the soldier, and an expert on the effects of Ambien. The defense(court appointed JAG attorneys) called no witnesses and convinced Thomas that he should not take the stand. At no time during the trial was Thomas’s side truly told.
In a single day, they tried and convicted Thomas of sexual assault. It took a panel of eight military officers less than an hour to decide his future.
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