Ex-Army commander pleads guilty to bigamy

June 11, 2012 at 5:35 PM
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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany, June 11 (UPI) -- A former head of the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team pleaded guilty to bigamy, adultery and fraud linked to a relationship with an Iraqi woman.

Col. James H. Johnson III also pleaded guilty to fraud, violation of lawful regulations by misusing government vehicles, cellphones and a travel card for personal purposes, making false official statements, conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, and wrongful cohabitation, Stars and Stripes reported.

Johnson pleaded guilty to six of 27 total specifications Sunday on the first day of his court-martial. Four of those six were dismissed Monday, including a fraud charge and two related to conduct unbecoming of an officer. Six others were dismissed Sunday.

Johnson, who had been in command of the 173rd since 2008, was fired in March 2011 after an Army investigation revealed he had misused government resources, apparently to woo the Iraqi woman and to aid her family, Stars and Stripes said.

He said in court Sunday he knew he wasn't legally divorced from his estranged wife when he married the Iraqi woman, Haveen al-Atar, by proxy.

One of the specifications said Johnson had given the woman's family a cellphone that accumulated charges of more than $80,000. Another specification referred to a contract for the financial benefit of the woman's father, described as a "personal friend" of Johnson.

Johnson could be sentenced to a maximum of more than 54 years of confinement if convicted of all the specifications to which he pleaded guilty, court officials said. He could also be dismissed from the service, forfeit allowances and be fined. Stars and Stripes noted he could also be sentenced to no confinement.

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