By By Tech. Sgt. Mike Meares, 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs, Sheppard AFB, Texas (AETCNS)
/ Published October 20, 2013
Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas -- A 22-year-old Airman assigned to the 82nd Dental Squadron at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, was sentenced to 30 months confinement, a bad conduct discharge and reduction to the lowest enlisted grade in late July after admitting she drove drunk and caused an off-base vehicle collision resulting in the death of a base civilian employee in June 2012.
Senior Airman Anjelika L. Faul pled guilty to one specification of drunken or reckless operation of a motor vehicle, a violation of Article 111, Uniform Code of Military Justice, and one specification of involuntary manslaughter, a violation of UCMJ Article 119, during a general court-martial here July 29-30.
Faul faced a maximum sentence of 10 years and six months in prison, a dishonorable discharge, total forfeiture of pay and allowances and a reduction to the rank of airman basic for her role in the vehicle accident that claimed the life of Michael David Brown, 53, on June 16, 2012.
Brown worked as a packing and crating specialist in the 82nd Logistics Readiness Squadron at the time of his death. He was also a retired Air Force master sergeant who worked in security forces, safety and as a military training leader while in the military.
Lt. Col. Natalie Richardson, the military judge, presided over the court-martial. In a prepared series of responses read after pleading guilty, Faul told her side of the story, fighting through her tears.
During the first day of a two-day trial, Faul described the timeline events of June 15, 2012, from approximately 9 p.m. that night until about 6 a.m. the next morning.
She recalled a series of decisions during a night out with friends and other Airmen, which ultimately led to Brown's death. Throughout the night, Faul calculated she consumed about 20 servings of liquor with very little to eat.
"It was Friday night and our plan was to hang out and drink," Faul said. She also noted that she had recently returned from a deployment to Southwest Asia and missed her family and friends while she was gone.
In a statement made to the court, Faul explained she received a phone call in the early morning hours of June 16 about a friend who was at United Regional Hospital for treatment. She said she made the decision to go to the hospital, knowing she was drunk, but felt it was important to be with her friend.
Faul's friend, a fellow Airman from the 82nd Dental Squadron, told her not to come to the hospital because it was not that serious. The friend also asked Faul if she was sure she was OK to drive since she'd seen her drinking at a local bar earlier that night.
"Altogether, I had too much alcohol to have driven," she said.
Faul continued, telling the court how she had a general idea regarding the location of the hospital and was driving there on intuition. When she realized she missed the hospital exit while driving north on I-44, she pulled over to the shoulder near the Missile Road exit and decided to make an illegal U-turn through the grassy median to go in the opposite direction.
"I think I looked to see if anyone was there," she read. "I didn't see anyone. The next thing I remember is the impact. I didn't see a motorcycle and was surprised by the impact."
Faul stated that after the impact, she got out of her car and looked over and saw a female standing on the highway screaming.
At the scene, Faul remembered standing frozen, in shock, completely surprised by the events and being disconnected from them.
She was taken by police car to United Regional Hospital, where she was administered a mandatory blood test that revealed her blood alcohol level to be .24, three times the legal limit in the state of Texas (.08) and more than twice the acceptable limit allowed by the UCMJ (.1).
A full toxicology report showed that Brown was sober at the time of the collision.
Waking up in jail after she was booked, Faul remembered thinking about the nightmare she was experiencing.
"I thought I would be in jail forever," she said. "I never wanted anything like this to happen."
Speaking directly to the military judge, Faul stated she remembered Brown being a patient of hers at the base dental clinic and that her driving while intoxicated and making an illegal U-turn were the reasons why Brown is now dead.
"Because I did all of those things," Faul tearfully said to the military judge, "Mr. Brown is dead and I will have to live with that for the rest of my life."
After Faul made her statement to the judge, the judge accepted her guilty plea and the government began the sentencing phase of the trial.
The morning that Brown was killed, he was on his routine Saturday morning motorcycle ride to meet up and eat breakfast at the Burkburnett diner with fellow military veterans, according to statements provided to the military judge during the trial.
Brown's father, Floyd Brown, is also a retired Air Force member. His sister, Sharon Bean, wrote a statement to the judge on behalf of the family for the trial, expressing the depth of their loss and telling the judge about Brown and what a great brother, son and uncle he was.
Several members of Brown's unit also testified.
"If you needed anything, (Brown) would be the first to help," said Staff Sgt. Lasondra Anderson, 82nd LRS unit deployment manager. "He was the first to come ... and last to leave."
Airman 1st Class Nathan Zachary, who worked with Brown in the packing and crating section, recounted how Brown had mentored him.
"(Brown) was a mentor to me in many ways," the Airman said. "He was a father figure ... a professional mentor."
Zachary also talked about how Brown kept morale up in the shop by telling stories in the back office of their shop and how difficult it was to go to work after the accident.
"Me and some of my co-workers couldn't go into the back office,
because that's where we remember him best," Zachary said.
According to his former supervisors, on a professional level, the loss of Brown also has had negative consequences to the 82nd LRS mission.
"His loss was especially impactful because of his continuity," said Master Sgt. Douglas Hirschfield, former superintendent of cargo at the 82nd LRS and now stationed at Whiteman AFB, Mo., referring to how civilians help maintain a constant presence in the unit despite the military personnel rotating because of deployments, permanent change-of-station moves and other duty assignments.
During the second day of proceedings, character witnesses and family members were called to the stand to testify on Faul's behalf in regards to her upbringing that was marred with drugs and alcohol by her biological mother.
Those testifying included her father, half-sister and Tech Sgt. Jessica Watkins, who supervised Faul's work as a dental technician.
"One of the best Airmen who worked for me," the NCO said. "I never had to question her work ethic. She's a good person, and good people can make bad decisions."
Before closing arguments on the second day of the trial, Faul read an unsworn statement, standing in front of the bench facing the judge in her full service-dress uniform.
"Every time I get into a vehicle, I think about (Mr. Brown)," Faul told the judge as she tearfully choked through the words. "Every time I see a motorcycle, I think of him. ... I'm deeply sorry. I am determined to be the best person I can be."
Both sides came to a pretrial agreement that included a condition that a sentence of confinement would not exceed five years. Under the terms of the plea agreement, if the judge had sentenced Faul to more than five years in jail, the convening authority would only have been authorized to approve a five-year sentence. Because the judge sentenced her to 30 month's confinement, the pretrial agreement will not impact Faul's actual sentence served.