MILITARY

BELTON — Bell County Attorney Jim Nichols is responsible for handling cases where crimes were allegedly committed by juveniles, and that includes any cases referred to his office by Fort Hood, Nichols said in an email earlier this month to the Temple Daily Telegram.

Since 2005, Nichols’ office prosecuted only five referred felony cases from Fort Hood. Of those, two cases were for sexual assaults and/or indecency with a child, and those cases were referred in 2005 and 2007, Nichols said.

“From our collective memory, there were only two cases that were rejected and not prosecuted. These numbers are a bit rough and subject to revision because we do not make any special designation on those cases referred to us by the U.S. attorney’s office,” he said.

An investigation reported in November in the Austin American-Statesman found several incidents at Fort Hood were not prosecuted because of jurisdiction issues. According to an internal Fort Hood memo, only a “handful” of 39 juvenile sexual assault cases between 2006 and 2012 were referred for prosecution.

Nichols’ response seems to corroborate the lack of prosecutions. “My office can only become involved when the U.S. attorney cedes jurisdiction to us for offenses occurring in Bell County,” he said. “In the past we have always reviewed those cases when asked, proceeded to prosecution where warranted and we will continue to do so.”

The U.S. attorney’s office is responsible for prosecuting all criminal acts committed by civilians, adult or juvenile, on Fort Hood, including felonies and misdemeanors.

Fort Hood officials previously said there is no formal agreement between state or local agencies about handling juvenile offenses that happen on post. The officials said coordination among various agencies is necessary to dispose of those offenses, which may include criminal prosecution or other proceedings.

In a previous response, Daryl Fields, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, said appropriate cases involving juveniles are referred to Bell or Coryell counties for prosecution either by federal law enforcement, the military or their office. Juvenile cases in Coryell County are handled by the district attorney’s office, Coryell County Attorney Brandon Belt said.

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