Floyd, McCormick To Sponsor Bill For Stiffer AWOL Punishment

Sunday, July 22, 2007

State Rep. Richard Floyd said he and Rep. Gerald McCormick will propose new legislation to increase the current range of punishment for National Guardsmen who are AWOL and fail to report to their units and "shirk their military obligations."

The District 27 legislator said, "The recent case of Brandon W. Brown of Dunlap clearly demonstrates to me that our laws punishing military personnel who fail to report are far too lenient. The current law punishes a citizen for speeding the same as a soldier who fails to report to their unit.

"I am also disappointed in Judge Rebecca Stern, who released this soldier from jail after serving only one day and on his own recognizance with no bond having to be posted.

"According to news reports, this soldier had been visited many times by his superiors in attempts to persuade him to return to duty. He refused and demonstrated that he is not a very responsible person.

"This country is at war and so many of our soldiers are sacrificing so much for all of us."

Brown was initially sentenced to 11 months and 29 days and fined $1,000 by General Sessions Court Judge Bob Moon. The judge said he discovered the next morning that the charge is only a Class C misdemeanor carrying 30 days and a $50 fine rather than a Class A misdemeanor.

Meanwhile, Brown's attorneys, Hillary Stewart and Hallie McFadden, took the case to Judge Stern, who ruled it was an illegal sentence and released Brown from jail after he had served one day.

Judge Moon said, "Brown's attorneys never spoke to me, and I had no idea the attorneys had taken the case to another judge in another court so very quickly. The judgment was corrected and announced in open court the very next morning. Nevertheless, the buck stops with the judge in sentencing, and, although the prosecutors misinformed me of the classification of the offense, I take full responsiblity."

Rep. Floyd said, "The range of punishment for soldiers who are AWOL in these types of cases should be a Class A misdemeanor carrying a maximum sentence of 11 months and 29 days and a fine of up to $2,500. How this offense got in the same sentencing range as speeding, illegal parking and other minor traffic offenses I have no idea.

"However, if the law is changed and the penalties made stiffer, judges
would then have the discretion to punish more severely in appropriate
cases.

"In the past many of our soldiers received no enlistment bonus or
the benefits that they receive today. Soldiers who today receive an enlistment bonus, are paid and receive benefits should honor their
commitment to service. A 30-day maximum sentence and a mere $50 fine are absolutely no deterrent to soldiers who shirk their military obliigations. I hope that we can pass legisation to address this serious issue and to make desertion and AWOL a more undesirable
option."


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