Stars and Stripes

Staff sergeant who claimed she had an associates degree knocked down to E-3 status

By Jimmy Norris, Stars and Stripes
October 27, 2007

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — An 8th Army soldier Thursday lost more than the rank she was convicted of stealing.

However, Staff Sgt. Nekeda Gundy dodged a bad-conduct discharge.

bestmilitarydefensedefenseattorneys10.59.24AMAn audible sigh — and several exclamations of “Praise Jesus” — passed through the audience when the head of the six-member court-martial panel read Gundy’s sentence: reduction in rank to private first class, forfeiture of one month’s pay of $1,152, a fine of $2,500 and 45 days restriction.

Gundy was convicted of larceny, conspiracy and making false official statements during a general court-martial on Wednesday.

After the trial Gundy, 23, said she was happy with the sentence, and still hopes to make the Army a career.

“This is a chance to redeem myself,” she said.

Prosecutor Capt. Blake Williams had asked the court to sentence Gundy to one year confinement, reduction in rank to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, a fine of $5,000 and a bad-conduct discharge.

Defense attorney Michael Waddington said Gundy didn’t need to spend time in jail, because she was a nonviolent first offender who is five months into a high-risk pregnancy.

He didn’t ask the panel for a specific sentence, but he told panel members they were like “tribal elders” and should use their collective wisdom to arrive at a punishment that did not include confinement.

Gundy faced a maximum 10-year prison sentence, a bust to E-1, forfeiture of pay and allowances, a fine and a bad-conduct discharge.

By falsely claiming she had an associate’s degree, Gundy had pushed past the 770 points needed to earn the rank of staff sergeant,Williams said.

Before sentencing, Gundy’s parents told the jury about how she joined the Army when she was 17 and that she had been a good student and was a caring person, who currently has custody of her mentally ill sister-in-law’s two children.

Larry Gardner, Gundy’s father, spoke in a near whisper and choked back tears when he took the stand. But when Waddington asked him if he was prepared to help his daughter readjust to civilian life if she were kicked out of the Army, he spoke loudly and began to cry.

“If you guys don’t want her, give her back to me,” he said. “Give her back to me.”

Gundy’s husband goes to trial on similar charges next month.

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