Originally created 01/30/98

Soldier convicted of larceny



A Fot Gordon private who admitted stealing from a barracks room was convicted of larceny Thursday and discharged from the Army.

Pvt. Ashlee J. Lemaire, of Company B of the 447th Signal Battalion, pleaded guilty to wrongful appropriation of property Wednesday. But a five-member court-martial jury found him guilty of larceny, a more severe crime.

Pvt. Lemaire said he took 78 compact discs and a hand-held television from Pvt. G.E. Shockley's unlocked wall locker in October to teach him a lesson about security. Soldiers are not allowed to lock their barracks door, but they must keep their wall lockers locked.

"I did intend to return the property after he learned his lesson from this incident," Pvt. Lemaire said.

Despite the guilty plea, prosecutors declined to offer a plea agreement to Pvt. Lemaire, instead arguing that he intended to keep the stolen property and was therefore guilty of larceny.

According to prosecution witnesses, Pvt. Lemaire removed the bolts from Pvt. Shockley's locked wall locker, hid the TV and CDs in a backpack and took them to an off-post hotel room.

"He was never going to give those items back," said the prosector, Capt. Jimonique Simpson. "The only lesson we've learned here are that locks don't stop thieves like Pvt. Lemaire. Pvt. Lemaire is guilty -- guilty of larceny."

In the sentencing phase of the trial, Pvt. Lemaire's company commander and drill sergeant described him as a substandard soldier, lacking moral courage.

"I don't believe him to be a soldier in any of the aspects," said Sgt. 1st Class Rick Pechonick. "This has greatly degraded the morale of the unit. Any infraction is going to degrade the ability for people to trust other people in the barracks."

Pvt. Lemaire's attorney asked the jurors -- three enlisted soldiers and two officers -- to show compassion and mercy for the 20-year-old soldier.

"By virtue of your findings, Pvt. Lemaire has a federal conviction," said the defense attorney, Capt. Katherine Kane. "Balance what has happened with how long he should have to pay for what you found him guilty of. Do not make him pay for the rest of his life."

The jury could have fined Pvt. Lemaire and sentenced him to six months in jail, forfeiture of two-thirds of his pay for up to six months and reduction to the lowest enlisted pay grade.

Instead, he was sentenced to a bad-conduct discharge from the Army. The punitive discharge could affect his future employment opportunities.