Fort Bragg soldier faces sex assault trial for alleged abuse against fellow soldier, spouse

Monday, June 9, 2014
Fort Bragg soldier faces trial for alleged abuse against fellow soldier
EMBED <>More Videos

An Army captain accused of sexually assaulting and beating his estranged wife -- also an Army officer -- is standing trial on Fort Bragg.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WTVD) -- An Army captain accused of sexually assaulting and beating his estranged wife -- also an Army officer -- is standing trial on Fort Bragg.

Captain Richard Camacho is assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division's 82nd Combat Brigade. His estranged wife -- who will remain unidentified as an alleged sexual assault victim -- also served in the 82nd Airborne Division at the time of the alleged assault.

The case against Captain Richard Camacho is unique for several factors. The alleged 2012 incidents happened in the couple's Harnett County home, where the district attorney's office opted against prosecuting the case, citing insufficient evidence.

The incident also happened following the discovery of Camacho's estranged wife's 10-month affair, during a deployment to Afghanistan between 2011 and 2012. The incident is on record with the military because she was deemed "unfit for command," and in the process of being dismissed from service before coming forward about the alleged abuse, at the encouragement of fellow soldiers.

Camacho faces nearly 20 counts of battery, sexual assault and communicating threats against his estranged wife, who was re-assigned to another Post following the report. If convicted, he faces a maximum of life in prison.

UNLAWFUL COMMAND INFLUENCE MOTION DENIED.

On Monday morning, LTC. Deidra Fleming, the presiding military judge, denied the defense's request to dismiss all charges based on Unlawful Command Influence.

The defense claimed UCI contributed to pushing Camacho's case forward because of pressure the Army, in particular the 82nd Airborne Division, has received to do so.

The division's former Chief Military Justice, Major Erik J. Burris, testified there was growing pressure to prosecute sex assault cases under his watch in 2012. The rule was, he said, given probable cause all cases should go to an Article 32 Hearing. If pending probable cause again, it will head to a court martial.

But more questions would arise from senior leaders about the details of sex assault cases, suggesting a blanket directive to prosecute the cases, said Burris.

"It was increasing and just having to deal with the burden of information handling on the cases was significant."

Burris's credibility was challenged by prosecutors, who pointed out the officer is facing similar charges for alleged crimes against his own spouse. Burris was relieved from his duties in February 2013, pending a criminal investigation, to include sex assault.

Burris denied his pending courts martial played a part in a motive to testify, but he did admit to having made recent comments expressing his "extreme displeasure" with how the Army was handling sex assault cases.

"[I said] Something to the effect 'I know enough about what's going on, if I wanted to, I could embarrass the 82nd,'" he testified.

Burris's replacement, denied any blanket directives concerning sex assault cases, and he backed up the testimony with statistics from the Division.

The numbers were pulled from the summer of 2013, and noted 18 sex assault cases were pushed forward to an Article 32 hearing, as opposed to 20 where probable cause was not determined. Of the 18 cases, five of them were dismissed following the hearing, some due to Chapter 10.

Prosecutors noted this as proof that not all sexual assault claims result in prosecution.

"I DIDN'T WANT TO HURT HIM"

Camacho's ex-wife, a pilot, testified Monday afternoon that she did not initially report physical abuse as far back as their military academy days because she didn't want to hurt her husband.

"I still loved him and I didn't want this to hurt his career."

The captain testified that the first time she'd been physically abused by Camacho was during the couple's sophomore year at West Point, during the fall of 2007.

She said Camacho had pushed her against a dorm wall, shook her, spit in her face and threw her on the ground in a fit of anger because he thought she had gone out on a date with another man.

"I was really afraid of him," she said.

The accuser testified that she had a two month no contact order repealed when Camacho apologized to her through a handwritten letter that prosecutors entered as evidence. In the letter, Camacho allegedly wrote that he'd treated the most important person in his life "like an animal."

The two rekindled their romance, and married in 2009 during flight school, but by 2010, Camacho's ex-wife said she began asking for a divorce because she "walked on eggshells."

"Nothing changed," she said of unreported verbal and physical abuse. "Just every day, things became awful to deal with."

"He would not let me get a divorce," she said, noting several incidents where she'd go stay in a hotel room to escape Camacho.

The pilot admitted to an extramarital affair with a Staff Sergeant during a 2011-2012 deployment to Afghanistan. The affair continued once they returned to Fort Bragg.

On November 19, 2012, while she was on her way to a doctor's appointment in Raleigh, she received a text from the man saying his wife had found out about the affair, and was going to their command. That's when she decided to tell Camacho, who was with her at a Lillington restaurant where the couple stopped to eat on the way to the appointment.

She said Camacho went off and drove them violently back to Fort Bragg, where he picked up another captain to keep from hurting her. The couple then returned to their Bunnlevel home, where the accuser called another Army couple over, as she said Camacho yelled at her, and said embarrassing things to her mother over the phone.

When the couple arrived, the alleged victim said they tried to diffuse the situation and wanted her to leave with them.

"A part of me did, but a part of me didn't think I could leave," she cried. "I was just so degraded and ashamed."

The couple, she said, stayed an hour before returning home. No one reported concern to authorities, but the alleged victim said at that point a night of sexual and physical abuse began, with Camacho hitting her repeatedly in the head and thighs, and choking her at one point. She also said he took a gun out of a drawer, and threatened to kill himself.

"I couldn't get away," she said.

The next morning, November 20, 2012, the couple went to a Division Clean Sweep event on post, and the accuser said Camacho would continue to hit her when no one was looking.

Her friend, from the couple who visited the night before, took her into a bathroom and took pictures of her bruises, she said. The woman's husband then took her to Womack Army Medical Center, where they explored the option of making a restricted report on the incident. Once they discovered the information would be unrestricted if she took a physical exam, they opted to leave.

The captain said a social worker at the hospital yelled at her to report something if she or someone she knew was being abused.

The courts martial is expected to end by Wednesday, with the potential to call a total of 32 witnesses to the stand.

Report a Typo