FORT HOOD — First Lt. Karneisha Rossom faces disciplinary action and possible prison time from the Army for fraternizing with the man she married.
The lieutenant from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command, was for a time in the same unit as Sgt. 1st Class Luis Rivera Jr., the father of her child and now her husband.
Both are facing prison time if convicted of charges related to fraternization. Rossom faces at least two years if her charges are referred to a court-martial. Rivera could face a dishonorable discharge and one year in prison.
Lawyers representing the Army and Rossom met Thursday in an investigative hearing similar to a grand jury proceeding known as an Article 32.
A major will recommend to the Judge Advocate General’s office whether enough evidence exists to proceed with criminal charges against Rossom.
“When we go after things like this instead of going after the real problems, it’s a problem, it’s absurd,” said Rossom’s civilian counsel, retired Col. John Galligan.
In April 2012, Rossom had a conversation with her commanding officer, Capt. Amanda Dodd, in which the captain asked about the noticeably pregnant Rossom in small talk. Rossom then revealed Rivera was her husband and the father of the child.
Dodd said her response surprised her.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe she just told me this,’” Dodd said during sworn testimony. “She could lose her job. I can’t believe she would tell her company commander this.”
With about one month at her new assignment, Dodd contacted her superiors. Months later she learned Rossom had been charged.
Dodd claimed their relationship contributed to an atmosphere of distrust in the company. Women were afraid to report instances of sexual assault and harassment.
However, when pressed, Dodd could not name any time a soldier in her command referenced Rossom’s relationship in any manner, negative or otherwise. She also testified that Rossom’s work performance was in the “top quadrant.”
Army regulations governing relationships between officers and enlisted soldiers allow for an exception for a married couple. However, getting married does not preclude charges being filed if evidence exists of fraternization prior to the marriage.
The regulation urges the minimum amount of appropriate action in those cases.
Testimony from a midwife at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center showed that Rossom became pregnant about two months prior to her Dec. 30, 2011, marriage.
“There’s a rule, and she broke it,” said Capt. Carl Moore, who is prosecuting the case.
Galligan said the charges resembled a “witch hunt.”
“(The Army) has aggressively sought to create a crime where one does not exist,” he said. “The simple fact that two people are married or do marry is not a crime.”
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553