Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Army Denies Enlistment To Man Given Choice Of Military Or Jail

The Army has denied enlistment to a man who was given the chance by an upstate New York judge to join up instead of facing a jail sentence, his attorney said. Michael Guerra, of North Tonawanda, outside Buffalo, was sentenced to three years probation, said Robert Graff, a Niagara County Court official. Guerra pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge for hitting a woman who came between him and his girlfriend during a fight. In January, a judge gave Guerra 30 days to join the Army after Guerra said he wanted to enlist but did not think he could if he were sentenced to probation.
Michael Guerra was facing up to a year in jail when a judge told him he could avoid incarceration by joining the Army.
Queried by Stars and Stripes at the time, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty said that the Army does not accept people who want to join to get out of pending charges. When Guerra asked about joining the Army, recruiters told him he was ineligible as long as charges against him were pending, said Sgt. Andrew Patterson, commander of the Army recruiting station in Tonawanda. Still, Guerra said he believes the Army chose not to take him because of the publicity surrounding the case, said his attorney, Matthew P. Pynn. “It was disappointing that he didn’t get in,” Pynn said.
“His father was in the military and died when he was 11, and he always wanted to get in, but it didn’t work out for him, so if he’s going to have a future he’s got to have a different dream.” Hilferty said that the Army sets the bar high for potential recruits. “Not everyone is qualified to join this team,” Hilferty said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “To enlist you have to both meet our high standards and be motivated to serve your country — motivation or qualification alone is not enough.”

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