Staff Sgt. John Robert Watkins from the Virginia Army National Guard told a judge, “I’m here to plead guilty for the crimes I committed. I just want this to be over.”He admits to stealing gear meant for his fellow soldiers while they were deployed to Iraq.
Samantha Koon at the Daily Progress reports Watkins pleaded guilty to theft while he was stationed in Iraq from September 2007 to April 2008. U.S. Attorney Ramin Fatehi says the stolen gear has a combined worth of $10,000 to $30,000.
Watkins planned to use the stolen equipment for personal use, and got at least two comrades in on the scheme. Mark Wayne Tutwiler was arrested earlier this year and admitted to having a machine gun. Company member James Tucker Creamer also pleaded guilty as a co-conspirator.
It all started when Watkins was deployed with the 3rd Company of the 116th Infantry Regiment, known as America’s Stonewall Brigade. He was responsible for keeping inventory of his company’s supplies and it was also his job to make sure the next rotation of soldiers got the equipment they needed during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He took the opportunity to lift over 100 high-tec Surefire flashlights, which soldiers would have attached to their rifle barrels, allowing them to carry out mission-critical night operations.
Back in the States, Watkins stole more from an armory in Charlottesville where he was stationed and traded some flashlights at a gun shop for a shotgun and revolver.
Local newspaper the Daily Progress also reports the judge presiding over the trial told Watkins he was free to plead not guilty, in accordance with his rights, but Watkins refused. Chief Judge Glen E. Conrad pointed out that as a convicted felon, Watkins will no longer have the right to vote — nor the right to bear arms.
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