FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo., Sept. 25 (UPI) -- A former Army drill sergeant was found guilty of sexual misconduct in a three-day military court-martial Wednesday for having sex with and forcing sexual favors from trainees.
Staff Sgt. Angel M. Sanchez, 30, faces up to 20 years for convictions on 18 specifications of three charges, including four counts of sexual assault and six counts of abusive sexual contact. He was found not guilty on nine specifications, including an allegation he forced an Army medic to have sex with him in Afghanistan.
Sanchez, a married father of two, also pleaded guilty to three charges of disobeying orders by having sexual contact with three female trainees.
As an officer with the 14th Military Police Brigade at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Sanchez was accused of using favors to win the trust of his victims, then threatening to damage their careers if they refused to cooperate.
One of Sanchez's accusers, a fellow drill sergeant, cried as she testified that she plans to quit the Army because she didn't turn him in earlier.
"I was supposed to be that strong female leader they could look up to," she said, of the trainees abused by Sanchez. "I have decided that I am done. I don't feel that I am the top 10 percent. I don't think I am good enough to do this."
Sanchez was found guilty of abusive sexual contact involving the drill sergeant.
Asking for a 25-year sentence, prosecutor Capt. Tyler Heimann said Sanchez had taken advantage of his authority to live out "his own pornographic fantasy."
"We can't have this in the Army," Heimann said. "If you sexually assault our junior soldiers, you must go to jail and you must go to jail for a long time... he must now soak up the pain and bear it on himself."
Defense attorney Ernesto Gapasin tried to portray Sanchez as a "jokester" who took things too far.
"Sgt. Sanchez is simply too immature to fulfill his role as a drill sergeant," Gapasin said, adding that the trainees who performed oral sex were not forced. "Oral sex always exhibits a certain degree of consent. What this case is really about is consent and conjecture."
Third Circuit Court Chief Trial Judge Col. Jeffrey Nance recommended a 20-year sentence, which will go to Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith, post commander, for approval. Smith can lower the sentence, but not overturn it.