Fort Sill soldier convicted of sex with foster child


The smallest good deed is better than the grandest good intention.   Duguet



 FORT SILL — A Fort Sill soldier approved as a foster parent by the Department of Human Services has been convicted after impregnating his foster child.
Sgt. Jason M. Harrod’s conviction marked the second time in less than a year that a soldier has been sentenced at Fort Sill for sexual relations with a minor. In October, Sgt. Daniel H. Gaskins was convicted of having sex in 2007 with the 12-year-old daughter of a fellow soldier during a party in Italy where he was assigned to a NATO command. His original court-martial, conviction and sentencing took place in Italy. He appealed. A rehearing on his sentencing took place at Fort Sill. Gaskins was reduced in rank to private, forfeited his pay and allowances, received a dishonorable discharge and nine years confinement.
A military judge sentenced Sgt. Jason M. Harrod to reduction in rank to private, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, a dishonorable discharge and 28 years of confinement.
The abuse occurred between April and June 2011.
Harrod and his wife were approved as foster parents in October 2010 after undergoing criminal background checks, a home inspection, interviews and training, a DHS spokeswoman said. The department closed the Harrod’s home to foster children Aug. 22.
The Harrods cared for four foster children, but it’s unclear how many were in the home at one time. DHS would not disclose when children were placed in or removed from the household.
The state pays foster parents different rates based on the age of a child, ranging from $365 a month for those 5 years old and younger to $498 for those age 13 and older.
“Sadly, background checks and a myriad of safeguards are not fail-proof predictors of human behavior,” DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell said.
“In these situations, DHS faces the same difficulties as schools, day cares, nursing homes and other entities where adults are responsible for children or vulnerable adults.”
In the last 12 years, DHS placed 75,032 children in foster care.
Of those, 97 experienced some form of sexual abuse by their foster parent. In 32 cases, the abuse was by a family member serving as a foster parent.
Powell said the agency has made several changes in those years to emphasize the safety of children in foster care. More changes will continue after approval of a reform plan last month that resulted from a federal lawsuit that exposed failures in the state’s child welfare system.
“We will continue to do everything we can to ensure no child suffers abuse or neglect in our system,” Powell said.



THE TRIAL
In November, Harrod went absent without leave from Fort Sill, which is about 85 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.
The victim was five months pregnant.
He returned to his hometown in another state, where he was arrested by local authorities in March and returned to military control. In addition to aggravated sexual assault of a child and being AWOL, Harrod, a member of 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery, was convicted of adultery and indecent liberties with a child.
A DNA test identified him as the father of the baby.
At last week’s court-martial, the Army prosecutor told how Harrod portrayed himself to the victim as “her knight in shining armor who was going to take her out of the system.” The catch was that the victim had to have sex with him.
He manipulated her,” the prosecutor said.
A caretaker of the victim testified that the girl has spent the majority of her life in foster care. She described the victim as having few friends and being behind in her class work and uninvolved in extracurricular activities.
She said the girl is doubtful of her skills as a mother and fears her baby will be taken away. “The only way I can describe her is broken,” the woman said. “She doesn’t view herself as normal. She’s a teen mom with the stigma of being a teen mom.”
The victim did not testify.
Large segments of the trial testimony were inaudible to spectators because of a poor courtroom sound system. The fort’s command staff also did not respond to several post-trial requests for information, including the names of the prosecutor and judge and Harrod’s age and military occupation. Testimony indicated that Harrod was 31 at the time of the assault.

SOLDIER’S TESTIMONY
Harrod, his shaved head often bowed, told the judge that he was the son of a single mother and that he had been sexually abused when he was young.
He said he acknowledged his responsibilities and planned to financially support the child.
He said he had a job waiting for him whenever his sentence ended and that he would work toward redeeming himself for the rest of his life.
A prior enlistee who rejoined the Army three years ago, he wore his dress green uniform with three rows of ribbons across the chest in the courtroom.
His defense lawyer, Capt. Michael Townsend Jr., argued that Harrod deserved credit for not making excuses for his actions, being honest and not contesting the charges.
He asked that Harrod be sentenced to no more than six years and that he not forfeit his pay so that it could go toward raising his daughter.
Harrod had faced a maximum sentence of more than 37 years.
Under a pretrial agreement, he pleaded guilty in return for the possibility of a lesser sentence.
In arguing for a long sentence, the prosecutor said Harrod’s childhood history should not be a mitigating factor.
“He knows the effects on someone who has been abused in the past … knows exactly the kind of effect it has on the abused,” she said.
“Allow these children to grow up before this man becomes a free man again,” the prosecutor said.
The sentence imposed by the military judge must be approved by Major Gen. Mark McDonald, Fort Sill’s commanding general, who could lessen the sentence.He manipulated her,” the prosecutor said.
A caretaker of the victim testified that the girl has spent the majority of her life in foster care. She described the victim as having few friends and being behind in her class work and uninvolved in extracurricular activities.
She said the girl is doubtful of her skills as a mother and fears her baby will be taken away. “The only way I can describe her is broken,” the woman said. “She doesn’t view herself as normal. She’s a teen mom with the stigma of being a teen mom.”
The victim did not testify.
Large segments of the trial testimony were inaudible to spectators because of a poor courtroom sound system. The fort’s command staff also did not respond to several post-trial requests for information, including the names of the prosecutor and judge and Harrod’s age and military occupation. Testimony indicated that Harrod was 31 at the time of the assault.
SOLDIER’S TESTIMONY
Harrod, his shaved head often bowed, told the judge that he was the son of a single mother and that he had been sexually abused when he was young.
He said he acknowledged his responsibilities and planned to financially support the child.
He said he had a job waiting for him whenever his sentence ended and that he would work toward redeeming himself for the rest of his life.
A prior enlistee who rejoined the Army three years ago, he wore his dress green uniform with three rows of ribbons across the chest in the courtroom.
His defense lawyer, Capt. Michael Townsend Jr., argued that Harrod deserved credit for not making excuses for his actions, being honest and not contesting the charges.
He asked that Harrod be sentenced to no more than six years and that he not forfeit his pay so that it could go toward raising his daughter.
Harrod had faced a maximum sentence of more than 37 years.
Under a pretrial agreement, he pleaded guilty in return for the possibility of a lesser sentence.
In arguing for a long sentence, the prosecutor said Harrod’s childhood history should not be a mitigating factor.
“He knows the effects on someone who has been abused in the past … knows exactly the kind of effect it has on the abused,” she said.
“Allow these children to grow up before this man becomes a free man again,” the prosecutor said.
The sentence imposed by the military judge must be approved by Major Gen. Mark McDonald, Fort Sill’s commanding general, who could lessen the sentence.