Thursday, February 01, 2007

Bottom of the Barrel

Military Recruiter and Cheerleader Coach Engage in Sex-ploitation of Sixteen Year Old Student

By Tom Turnipseed

The Ware Shoals High School scandal is scorching the front pages of South Carolina’s newspapers with a sordid saga of alcohol, sex, and shady shenanigans involving a 28 year old married cheerleader coach, a 29 year old South Carolina National Guard recruiter and a 21 year old guardsman with 16 year old high school cheerleaders. It includes a sexual rendezvous at a local motel during school hours with the cheerleader coach/counselor and the military recruiter having sex in one room while the other guardsman had sex with a 16 year old cheerleader in another room. Two 16 year old cheerleaders went to the motel and both were given vodka by Jill Moore, their cheerleader coach.

Marjorie Riddle and Chuck Crumbo reported in the State that a male student had sex with Ms. Moore too, and that Moore also had sex at the National Guard Armory with the recruiter, Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Fletcher.

According to law enforcement investigators, Sgt. Jeremy Pileggi, has admitted having sex with the 16 year old cheerleader but the local sheriff’s office said it would not file charges against him because the age of consent in South Carolina is 16.

Seanna Adcox of the Associated Press reported on Jan. 28 that some members of the South Carolina General Assembly think the investigation into the Ware Shoals High School scandal will spur the legislature to change the age of consent from 16 to 18.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell said, “We should certainly change that to 18. The fact that a 16 year-old can consent is not something I was aware of until this occurred. I suspect a lot of members of the Legislature and citizens of South Carolina did not know.”

However, Spartanburg prosecutor Trey Gowdy said he wished the legislature wouldn’t raise the age of consent. Gowdy feels the best way for lawmakers to respond to the problems presented by the Ware Shoals scandal is for the legislature to enhance sentencing against the adults violating and abusing their positions of trust. If the allegations are correct “Entrusting your children to a school system and military department the most troubling aspect”, said Gowdy.

Jill Moore has been charged with supplying alcohol and cigarettes to the female students and contributing to the delinquency of a minor for the motel sex-capades.

Meanwhile, Sgts. Pileggi and Fletcher have been suspended by the National Guard. The Guard said that if its investigation reveals what the Greenwood County sheriff’s office has concluded, the soldiers might be charged with: Failure to obey a military order; dereliction of duty; false official statement; accessory after the fact; and wrongful appropriation of government property The last charge would derive from sheriff’s reports that Moore and Fletcher had sex in the recruiter’s office at the Ware Shoals armory.

Army regulations, applying also to the National Guard, prohibit recruiters from having sex, dating and drinking alcohol with “all high school students.” Pileggi and Fletcher could be fined or jailed and kicked out of the National Guard if they are found guilty.

Maj. Gen. Harry Burchstead, the Guard’s deputy adjutant general and a former S.C. assistant attorney general and prosecutor said, “This type of misconduct is intolerable, and we are currently reviewing recruiting policies and procedures to ensure something like this cannot and will not happen in the future.”

Burchstead also said the Guard’s soldiers were “serving honorably in harm’s way," and, “the alleged actions of these individuals in no way reflect the standards of conduct of members of the South Carolina National Guard.”

Misconduct cases against military recruiters increased more than 50 percent to 630 in 2005, from 400 in 2004, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

On Saturday, John Hendren reported on ABC-TV’s World News that the new troop surge in Iraq and President Bush’s call to expand the ranks of the Army and Marines by 92,000 troops was putting pressure on standards for military recruits for the all volunteer army. Will there be enough high‑quality recruits to fill the expanding ranks? Eli Flyer, a former senior manpower analyst at the Department of Defense, points to a disturbing development: Army officials are giving more waivers for troops with medical conditions that might otherwise disqualify them, and more waivers for troops with criminal records.

"There is no question that standards will suffer if they have to, in order to meet the specific year goals," Flyer said.

Stephen Green, who is charged with raping and murdering a 14 year old girl and her family last year in the Iraqi town of Mahmudiya, had previous criminal convictions and mental problems that might otherwise have made him ineligible.

"The increases here," Flyer said, "will have the effect of giving more turnover within the Army, more behavioral problems, more psychiatric problems."

As President Bush pushes his escalation of the Iraq war we are scraping the bottom of the barrel to find the necessary manpower. The military recruiters like those who violated their public trust in the sordid scandal of alcohol and sex at Ware Shoals high school are examples of what we might expect as we hit the bottom of that barrel.

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and political activist in Columbia, South Carolina.

1 comment:

mrcleanisin said...

Age of consent is explained at the link below