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Fort Leonard Wood soldier gets 30 years for killing another soldier's wife
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Aug. 28, 2009) — Spec. Jermaine Johnson, 26, will spend 30 years in military prison following his guilty plea during a Friday court-martial for killing another Fort Leonard Wood soldier’s wife last year while her husband was deployed to Iraq.

Johnson, 26, admitted to having an affair with Myria Silva, who was 23 at the time of her death and was married to Pfc. Benjamin Silva of the 94th Engineer Battalion at Fort Leonard Wood. Silva was deployed to Iraq when his wife was killed on Oct. 10, 2008, in an abandoned farm shed in Webster County, about an hour west of the installation.

Johnson was a member of the Alabama National Guard who had been called to active duty and assigned as a medical specialist at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital.

In addition to spending 30 years in a military prison, Johnson will receive a dishonorable discharge, forfeit all pay and benefits, and be dropped three ranks down to E-1, the lowest rank of private. He’ll also receive credit for 320 days of time already spent in jail since his Oct. 14 arrest.

Johnson opted for a bench trial without a jury. The military judge, Col. Charles Hayes, spent about an hour reviewing the case after Johnson’s guilty plea and had decided to impose a 38-year sentence. However, a pretrial agreement worked out between military prosecutors and Johnson’s military defense attorneys specified that in return for his guilty plea, any prison time imposed by the judge in excess of 30 years would be waived. If the judge had imposed a penalty of less than 30 years, that lower sentence would have been used instead of the pretrial agreement of 30 years.

Johnson’s defense attorney, Capt. David Koon, had asked the judge to give consideration to a lower sentence, recommending a range of 10 to 20 years of confinement with no punitive discharge on the grounds that his guilty plea to a federal felony of murder made a dishonorable discharge unnecessary. Koon told the judge that Johnson had spent his entire adult life as an alcoholic, began drinking at the age of 16, already had received effective counseling while in pretrial confinement, and would have a strong family support system if released from prison.

“Just locking him away doesn’t do the Army any good, doesn’t do the community any good, and doesn’t do Spec. Johnson any good,” Koon said. “This is the first time in his adult life that he has been alcohol-free… rehabilitation goes along with punishment.”

Prosecutors had asked for a much higher sentence of 50 years in military prison, even though the pretrial agreement would have made their request irrelevant.

“He admitted the intentional murder of Myria Silva. Do we want this many out on the street to potentially do this again?” asked Capt. Mark Gardner, the lead military prosecutor.

“For the sake of society, Spec. Johnson needs to spend a lot of time behind bars. He doesn’t need to get out until he is too old to do this to someone else.”

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