Court upholds jail sentence for sergeant who forced soldier to wear heavy chains

Court sends sergeant to prison, and orders payment to the victim

Sergeant Roberto B. believes that forcing someone to wear two heavy chains weighing six kilos for two days during off-duty hours is not a humiliating or scornful act.

He thinks that it isn't serious enough to be considered "degrading." In fact, he believes it is a fair punishment measure for any soldier.

But the Supreme Court has not sided with him. In a recent ruling, which was made public on Wednesday, the top court upheld a four-month prison sentence that had been handed down to Roberto. The sergeant has also been suspended from duty and ordered to pay 2,000 euros to his victim.

According to the case file, Roberto B. decided to impose this unusual punishment on a solider in his regiment so that he could pay more attention to his duties.

It all began in February 2009, during training exercises at the Cid Campeador military base outside Castrillo del Val in Burgos. The solider, Cristian G. A., was helping to set up a Dornier bridge when he let go of a chain hoisting one of the bridge ramps, which crashed down and subsequently broke the tailgate of a truck.

That gave Roberto an idea. He would force him to wear "two intertwined chains, each with a weight of 3.1 kilos, on his shoulders, across his chest and over his neck and under his arms on opposite sides." The soldier would have to wear the chains when he went to lunch so that everyone would see him.

Cristian complied with the instruction, because he was unable to complain or appeal the against it. But he said that he felt ridiculous walking around in chains and wearing them while he ate with his fellow soldiers. One sergeant began calling him "Mister T," in reference to the actor on The A-Team who was famous for his many gold neck chains.

Cristian said he was subjected to "public ridicule and had to endure the barbs" of the other soldiers. The soldier also ended up with a neck injury from carrying all that weight, leading him to take 13 days sick leave.

Top officers of the army engineering unit, to which both Roberto and Cristian were assigned, punished the sergeant with a jail term. His supervising officer, a lieutenant, was also sanctioned even though he said that he was unaware of the corporal punishment that Roberto doled out to Cristian.

"The sergeant imposed corrective punishment outside the regulatory provisions, which far exceeded the limits of his authority to correct the standards of conduct on his subordinates. He chose a punishment that involved direct ridicule and, at the very least, assumed the risk of physical injury, which indeed actually occurred," the Supreme Court's military chamber said in its December 4 ruling.

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