FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — An officer will decide whether a Fort Hood sergeant will face a court-martial for allegedly setting up a prostitution ring of cash-strapped female soldiers.
Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen faces 21 criminal charges that include pandering, adultery and sexual assault.
During the two-day, Article 32 hearing — similar to a grand jury — three women testified that McQueen recruited or attempted to recruit them to sell sex to higher-ranking soldiers.
One female private, who was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony, said she assisted McQueen in approaching young women.
"I didn't necessarily want to do it, Sir, but I did," she told the court's investigating officer.
McQueen was a noncommissioned sexual-assault prevention and counseling officer when the solicitations allegedly occurred.
The outcome of the high-profile case will be closely watched amid growing criticism of the military's treatment of sexual assault within its ranks.
"We know there's a problem in the military right now with commands coming to grips with sexual assault," said Lory Manning, a retired Navy captain and a fellow at the Women's Research and Education Institute. "The military is trying hard, but first somebody has to have the courage to blow the whistle. Secondly, the people who receive the report have to take it seriously, and we know they aren't all doing that."
The first witness to testify in McQueen's hearing was a female private who accused McQueen of recruiting her for prostitution. She was 20 at the time and said McQueen suggested the arrangement after she confided in him that she was experiencing money problems after her husband left her and her 3-year-old son and drained the couple's bank account.
She also testified that McQueen had sex with her and took photos of her naked to show potential clients.
Another soldier at the Army base in central Texas, Master Sgt. Brad Grimes, already has been demoted and reprimanded in the case for conspiring to patronize a prostitute and solicitation to commit adultery.
Grimes testified during McQueen's hearing that he had met the female private at a La Quinta Inn near the army base but did not have sex with her, which is what he maintained during his court-martial trial last December.
The private testified that McQueen arranged for her to have sex with Grimes for $100 and used his position as head of Fort Hood's Sexual Harassment, Assault and Response Program to evade scrutiny.
She also testified that she followed McQueen's instruction to find another female soldier for the prostitution ring, advising the woman of the sexual acts that were "the moneymakers."
Another female soldier testified that McQueen sexually assaulted her and attempted to recruit her to join the prostitution ring, but she declined.
Sgt. Jennifer Dice, McQueen's successor at SHARP, testified Wednesday that the criminal investigation had "compromised" the program.
"Now soldiers don't want to come forward; they don't trust leaders," she said.
The names of the female soldiers who were allegedly approached by McQueen — three in all — have not been released. Fort Hood spokesman Tyler Broadway said it's to protect the women.
McQueen made no statement during the hearing, and Fort Hood officials declined a request by The Associated Press to speak to the defendant.
McQueen's hearing comes in the wake of the court-martial of Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, who in March was fined $20,000 and spared jail time after acknowledging an affair with an officer under his command and carrying on inappropriate relationships with two other women.
A recent Pentagon report showed that there were an estimated 26,000 incidents of sexual assault and unwanted sexual contact in 2012, and that just slightly more than 10 percent of those were reported.
Men outnumber women in the military 4-to-1. At Fort Hood, the male to female ratio is closer to 6-to-1.
In March, the U.S. Senate blocked a bill that would have stripped military commanders of their authority to prosecute or prevent charges for alleged rapes and other serious offenses.