WIESBADEN, Germany - He was a sexual predator who preyed on young women in his unit.

Now former Staff Sgt. Gabriel C. Garcia is a private with a dishonorable discharge and serving five years confinement for his crimes including rape and other offenses. Garcia, who committed the offenses while serving with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 66th Military Intelligence Brigade, was found guilty in a court martial hearing on Wiesbaden's Clay Kaserne July 18-19.

"Most perpetrators use alcohol to get to their victims, but this guy used kindness," said Julie Wahlers, victim advocate coordinator for U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden's Family Advocacy Program. "In the trial it was shown that he had a pervasive pattern of targeting new Soldiers -- seeing how far he could go -- until he raped one of them."

Staff Sgt. Linda McCoy*, a former member of the unit, and now a 27-year-old reservist serving in Washington, was 23 and a specialist when she first encountered Garcia. Like several of her fellow female Soldiers in the brigade, she mistakenly trusted the senior noncommissioned officer to do the right thing.

"She was new to the company -- reaching out to friends and wanting to see new places," said Wahlers.

Instead she was raped and forcibly sodomized.

In shock and disbelief, McCoy carried the trauma of the incident deep inside for several years. Then, while serving at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington she finally was able to come forward and report the crimes committed against her.

"I heard a radio commercial, like the ones they air on AFN in Germany, about there being support for Soldiers and family member victims of sexual assault. And I also watched 'The Invisible War' (part of the Army's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program)," McCoy said.

"They say that I told one of my friends at the time, but I was in such shock I couldn't remember. It wasn't until I was ACAPing (going through the Army Career and Alumni Program in preparation for leaving active duty service in 2012) that I confided in one of my friends," she said.

During the court martial hearing, those present heard testimonial evidence from McCoy and fellow individuals who came forward to share details of their own experiences with Garcia.

"The guilty verdict is a testament to the great work by the CID, the special victim prosecutor and the victim herself, for having the courage and intestinal fortitude to travel from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to Wiesbaden and testify," said James Rickards, special agent in charge of the 481st Military Police Detachment (CID).

"The important thing is that she came forward years later and told her story," said Larry Cannon, a SHARP victim advocate with USAG Wiesbaden's Army Community Service.

"Our job is to empower survivors of sexual assault," said Wahlers. "A big part of recovery is telling your story. That in itself -- even if there isn't a conviction -- is part of moving forward. … We want and encourage people to report sexual assault -- we will believe you."

"The victim advocates and legal system are here to support you," added Cannon. "We'll do our best to help you get justice."

"Don't keep it a secret," said Wahlers. "Tell someone. … The important thing is to tell that story."

"You don't have to deal with this yourself," added Cannon. "There are resources; there is assistance."

Underscoring the fact that most rapes are perpetrated by people familiar to the victim, the victim advocates said it's crucial that friends, coworkers and leaders take action to prevent wrongful behavior from escalating into criminal behavior. Describing how Garcia was known for giving pet names to the women in his unit, Wahlers said, "the takeaway for leaders is that this guy got away with a lot of inappropriate behavior.

"Don't let anyone in the workplace call you sexy or call you gorgeous -- report it," she said.

"Ultimately, no means no," said Cannon. "If something happens to you and you said no -- come forward -- regardless of the situation."

While McCoy may never fully recover from the mental anguish of what happened to her, she said she was "very happy with the results of the trial.

"I think for me, it wasn't so much about closure -- it doesn't make me feel better personally. But what brings me more peace is knowing that he won't be able to do this to anyone else in the future," she said.

Help is available 24 hours a day online at www.safehelpline.org. To reach the Victim Advocacy Hotlines for Sexual Assault call civ (0162) 296-6741 or Domestic Violence at civ (0162) 297-5625. (*The victim's name was changed to protect her identity.)

Page last updated Wed July 31st, 2013 at 00:00