Sheppard Air Force Base Senior Airman Anjelika Faul has been sentenced to 2.5 years confinement, a bad conduct discharge & reduction to lowest enlisted rank.
She pleaded guilty on Monday to violating Article 111 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice "drunken or reckless operation of a vehicle" and Article 119, Manslaughter. The pleas are part of a pre-trail agreement between Faul and the Government.
The charges relate to a June 1012 accident that killed a Sheppard civilian employee, 53-year-old Michael Brown.
Tuesday's testimony began with the defense counsel duo of Air Force Capt. Terence Dougherty and civilian attorney Michael Payne. Capt. Dougherty began by questioning Faul's co-workers and supervisor, who commended her work ethic and character.
Payne also questioned a woman who said she considers herself a mother to Faul, her oldest daughter is Faul's half-sister. She spoke about Faul's troubled childhood, dealing with a mother who had multiple D.W.I's and D.U.I's.
Faul's half-sister also testified, and told the court about the defendant's great relationship with her three young children. At one point Payne asked her, "Do you need your sister? Do your kids need your sister?" Through tears, she said they all did.
On cross-examination the government focused on events that took place just this last March. Faul attended an Article 32 Hearing, the equivalent of a pre-trial hearing in a civilian court. She did so without any support from family or friends and, for the first time, saw pictures of the accident and Brown's autopsy.
The following Saturday, Faul and several friends went out to Texas Showgirls, where she consumed alcohol, got into a fight and was arrested for public intoxication. On Monday, Faul tried to commit suicide by swallowing pills with alcohol, and cutting her wrists. A fellow Airman found her, and she spent approximately 3 weeks at Red River Hospital.
The prosecution tried to paint this incident as part of a reckless pattern, while the defense said it was a reaction to the stress of the situation and Article 32 Hearing. Faul's family members and co-workers said the Texas Showgirls incident was outside her character.
When court resumed after lunch, sentencing took just 5 minutes. After announcing her sentence, the judge, Lt. Colonel Natalie Richardson, reviewed the pre-trial agreement, which stated the time on confinement could not be longer than 5 years. Fitting into these parameters, the judge's sentence would stand.
Monday began with establishing how Faul would be court martialed. She requested and was granted a court martial by a military judge alone, rather than by a panel of military members.
During her arraignment, Faul pleaded guilty to the manslaughter and drunk driving charges, but before the judge could accept the pleas, she needed to be convinced of Faul's guilt.
For the first charge, driving while intoxicated, the judge asked Faul, "Tell me why you are guilty of this offense." At this point, the soft-spoken Faul started crying and needed some time to compose herself.
She then told the court about Friday night, June 15th, 2012. Faul had recently returned from deployment in Kuwait and said she wanted to celebrate with friends. She invited several other airmen to her apartment at Arbor Creek where they began drinking.
Faul believes she had about two mixed drinks before a friend drove them to Denim & Diamonds bar. There, she estimates she had 5-10 shots. Faul said she felt pressured to drink them, but admitted she was not forced. The group left the bar when it closed.
At this point Faul had not been behind the wheel, but around 2:30 a friend who got lost on their way to Faul's apartment called and asked if she could come help her find the way.
The Senior Airman told the court she certainly should not have driven, and said she now knows her judgment was impaired because she felt sober at the time. Faul and her friend made it back to Arbor Creek where she believes she consumed five more mixed drinks.
The court took a brief recess before addressing the second charge, manslaughter. When court resumed, the judge again asked Faul, "Why are you guilty?" Faul said around 6:30 AM on June 16th, 2012, she got a text message about a friend who was sent to United Regional Hospital.
She told the court, "Looking back I realize I was too drunk to drive. It seemed more important to me I go to the hospital to see my friend."
Faul, who had consumed approximately 20 servings of alcohol at this point and whose blood alcohol level would later be clocked at .24, got lost on her way to United Regional. She wound up on I-44 North and when she realized she'd missed her exit, tried to make a U-turn across the median.
Faul turned right into the path of 53-year-old Michael Brown who was on his motorcycle. Faul said, "After I turned, the next thing I remember was feeling a sudden impact. I was surprised." The Senior Airman broke down once again as she recalled the moments after the accident. She said, "I opened my eyes and saw a woman screaming in the middle of the highway."
Faul admitted drinking and driving to WFPD officers who responded to the scene. She and Brown were taken to United Regional. Brown was treated, but died as a result of his injuries. Meanwhile, police say Faul was uncooperative about giving blood. One officer at the hospital said she was joking and laughing, and told them to "Go test him [Brown] he's the one who hit me."
Just before lunch Judge Richardson accepted both guilty pleas and the pre-trial agreement.
When court resumed in the afternoon, the Government called five witnesses. The first was the WFPD officer from the hospital who saw Brown when he arrived, and described him as "Covered in blood from head to toe."
The other four witnesses were all Brown's co-workers, many of them still clearly upset about his death. One young airman described him as a father figure and mentor. The government rested its case just after 2:15.
Even though a pre-trial agreement was signed and accepted, Judge Richardson will still rule on a sentence based on the testimony and evidence presented. If her sentence is more lenient than what's it the plea agreement, it will be accepted instead. However, if her sentence is more harsh, the court will use what's in the plea agreement.
The maximum penalty is 10 years & six months confinement, a dishonorable discharge, loss of pay and allowances and a demotion to the lowest level of enlisted Airman.
Court will resume with the defense team's evidence and testimony on Tuesday at 8:30