Swift Pleads Guilty to AWOL Charges After Sexual Abuse

Specialist Suzanne Swift has agreed to plead guilty to charges of being away without leave after refusing an assignment to return to Iraq because she says she was sexually harassed and abused by other officers. The army brought charges against Swift in September after she had been away for about five months, the Associated Press reports.

Under the agreement reached with the US military last week, Swift will face a maximum punishment that is less severe than the 12 months confinement and bad-conduct discharge she would have received had she not pleaded guilty. Now, her maximum punishment would be a reduction in rank, forfeiture of two-thirds of her salary for one month, and 30 days in confinement, AP reports. [UPDATE: On Wednesday, December 13, the army sentenced Swift to 30 days confinement and demoted her from specialist to private. She is still eligible to receive an honorable discharge at the end of her service.] She will also be compelled to finish her service in the military, serving until January 2009. Swift’s mother, Sara Rich, told Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman, “The alternative [to accepting the guilty plea] was, she’d go to trial, be re-victimized and re-traumatized and stand up to a year in prison.”

Swift had reported sexual abuse and harassment by three noncommissioned officers during her time in the military; two of these reported incidents occurred while Swift was stationed in Iraq. According to Democracy Now, Swift’s allegations went unaddressed initially. Only one claim has been substantiated, AP reports.
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AP 12/11/2006; Democracy Now 12/11/2006; AP 12/14/06

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