A Kentucky judge took the unusual step of sentencing a man convicted of sexually assaulting an inmate to re-enlist in the armed forces or go to jail. Now, 28-year-old Brandon Scott Price, an Army veteran and former prison guard, is attempting to rejoin one of the armed services, according to his lawyers.
Last week, Price was given the sentence in Kentucky county court and offered a choice: either re-enlist or go to jail for 12 months.
"If you don’t enroll in 30 days, you can report to the Franklin County Regional Jail… You are under the gun, young man. You gotta do it,” county judge Thomas Wingate said in court on Friday. "You’re getting a huge break.”
In 2019, a woman incarcerated at Franklin County Regional Jail accused Price of sexually assaulting her during a medical emergency. The wrongdoing allegedly began on the way to the hospital. Price broke prison rules when he transported the woman alone for treatment, according to officials. From there, Price made “sexually charged comments,” before assaulting the shackled inmate inside a van on the side of the road, and propositioning her for other sex acts, insinuating he could help her get early release from prison.
Following reports of the assault, Price told officials he “made a stupid mistake” and “let a female inmate touch me inappropriately,” before he was arrested after an investigation by prison authorities.
He was later charged with a felony count of third-degree sodomy, before pleading down to a charge of second-degree assault.
Despite the judge’s request, it’s unclear Price will actually be able to re-enlist. The Army, for instance, bars recruits who are seeking to join as a condition of a criminal sentence.
However, some recruits with criminal pasts are allowed to obtain waivers and join up anyway. The practice was widespread in the years after 9/11.
"It is not uncommon for judges to put unique conditions like this based on the defendant that is in front of them and create conditions that will best serve them to stay on the straight and narrow," Whitney Lawson, an attorney for Price, told Insider.
"The problem is, you can ask 10 people whether he can reenlist and in what branch, and they’ll give you nine different answers, so we’re trying to work through that.”
The US armed forces have struggled with pervasive sexual assault and harassment for years, with at least one in four servicewomen facing harassment during their time in service. Women are more likely to be sexually assaulted by a fellow servicemember than shot by an enemy combatant, and their claims are processed in an opaque military justice system at the control of their commanders.
In September, the Department of Defense announced an eight-year plan to strengthen the military’s handling of sexual harassment.
“We will build back the trust of our personnel through demonstrable progress, clear and enduring implementation mechanisms, increased transparency, and continued senior leader involvement,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memo at the time.