In the News

Victim of Rape on Fort Bragg Sues Army for Negligence

COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE
By IULIA FILIP, Tuesday, August 16, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) – An enlisted man at Fort Bragg repeatedly told officers that he wanted to kill a dozen men in his unit, and himself, but they discouraged him from seeking help “because it would ‘mess up’ his military career,” a woman says. After months of this negligence, she says, he broke into her home on base and raped her under threat of killing her children.

Plaintiff M.N.D. sued the United States of America for negligence, in Federal Court. The United States is the only defendant.

M.N.D. says she was raped by “Specialist Pernell.” The 6-page complaint does not state his first name. News-14 Carolina, a Time Warner station, reported in December 2010 that Army Specialist Aaron Pernell pleaded guilty to raping a woman at Fort Bragg and was sentenced to 50 years in military prison. He also pleaded guilty to battery and burglary, according to the Dec. 9 TV news report.

A specialist is an enlisted rank, just above private first class.

According to M.N.D.’s complaint: “In March 2009, Specialist Pernell informed Staff Sergeant Rangel that he wanted to kill 11 current or former members of his unit, and that he also wanted to kill himself. Sergeant Rangel responded by telling Specialist Pernell that he should not seek mental health assistance because it would ‘mess up’ his military career.”

M.N.D. says Pernell renewed his threats in August and October 2009, and got the same response from his superiors.

“In September 2009, Specialist Pernell informed Specialist Scott he had been using drugs and drinking excessively, and that he needed help. Specialist Pernell was again discouraged from seeking help and was told not to ‘mess up’ his career,” the complaint states.

M.N.D. claims that Pernell was charged with burglary and assault in September 2009, and served jail time, and the Army knew it.

“On or about Oct. 22, 2009 Specialist Pernell was released from the Cumberland County Jail where he had been detained based on the Sept. 11, 2009 burglary and assault charges, all of which was known to the employees of the defendant who were acting within the course and scope of their employment,” according to the complaint.

M.N.D. says Pernell was allowed to return to Fort Bragg, where he again threatened to kill several members of his unit.

She claims that one of Pernell’s superiors, “Captain Wiltse issued an order on or about Oct. 22, 2009 to Specialist Pernell’s platoon, that Specialist Pernell must have a noncommissioned officer (NCO) escort at all times and that his Charge of Quarters (CQ) should check every hour to make sure Specialist Pernell was confined to his barracks, the purpose of which was to make sure that Specialist Pernell would not cause harm to others.”

Wiltse ordered that Pernell could not leave Fort Bragg without an escort, the complaint states.

“These specific and non-discretionary direct orders were violated in that Specialist Pernell was not escorted at all times while on post or checked on every hour while in his barracks,” the complaint states. “In violation of these orders, he was permitted to leave his barracks at night to use drugs and drink alcohol, and one or more of Specialist Pernell’s superior officers had actual knowledge of the violation of said orders.”

Finally, M.N.D. says: “On or about Dec. 13, 2009 Specialist Pernell entered the home of plaintiff M.N.D. in Fort Bragg’s St. Mere Eglise neighborhood through an unlocked window. Specialist Pernell removed plaintiff M.N.D. from a bedroom where she was asleep with her two children. Specialist Pernell has publicly admitted that he told plaintiff M.N.D. that she had three options, two of which were sex acts and the third was that she and her children would die. Specialist Pernell forced plaintiff M.N.D. to perform sex acts and forced her to remove her clothing at which time Specialist Pernell forcibly raped plaintiff. Part of this course of conduct occurred in the presence of one or more of the [plaintiff's] children.”

M.N.D. says the Army failed to supervise Pernell and failed to protect base residents from his “known criminal and dangerous propensities.”

She says she timely filed a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act, and it was denied.

She seeks damages for negligence, and for the emotional and physical injuries of her assault, battery and rape.

She is represented by Joseph Anderson with Anderson Pangia & Associates of Winston Salem and Washington, D.C.

The Pentagon has repeatedly been accused of discouraging soldiers from seeking help for mental problems, particularly post-combat stress, telling soldiers that it is a sign of weakness.

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