By the Associated Press, November 28, 2006
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — A soldier from Eugene who went AWOL right before a second tour of duty in Iraq, charging that she was sexually harassed by supervisors, will be tried in January, after negotiations that could have resolved the matter reportedly broke down.

The Eugene Register-Guard reported in its Tuesday editions that Eugene resident Suzanne Swift, a military police specialist, is scheduled for a special court martial on Jan. 8. The court date follows two months of failed negotiations aimed at an agreement on a lesser punishment or early release from the military. Swift is charged with failing to deploy and being absent without leave.

A special court martial, with maximum punishment of confinement for a year, is less severe than a general court martial, which handles the most serious offenses. But it is tougher than a summary court martial, where maximum punishment is 30 days confinement.

Keith Scherer, Swift’s attorney, told the newspaper that prosecutors invited him to submit a proposal for a resignation in lieu of court martial, but that the two proposals he submitted were rejected.

At one point, Scherer and Swift’s mother, Sara Rich say, the military proposed a deal stipulating that Swift sign a statement saying she had not been sexually assaulted in Iraq in exchange for a summary court martial. Swift refused, her mother told The Register-Guard.

Officials from Fort Lewis, Wash., where Swift was based, declined to comment on any pretrial negotiations. But they said there has never been a request that Swift sign such a statement, Fort Lewis spokesman Joe Piek said.

Swift served with the 66th Military Police Co. and was in Iraq from February 2004 to February 2005. But just days before her new unit, the 54th Military Police Co., was to deploy in January 2006, Swift decided not to go back. She remained in Oregon until she was arrested by Eugene police at her mother’s home June 11.

Swift has said she was sexually harassed by her platoon leader in Iraq, coerced into a sexual relationship by her squad leader during her first deployment, and that a third sergeant made sexually suggestive comments to her after she returned to the United States. She said she couldn’t face the thought of further harassment and went AWOL instead.

An investigation into her allegations completed last summer supported the stateside incident, noting that it had been properly probed and the sergeant admonished and transferred to a different unit. The investigator failed to find witnesses who could back up Swift’s allegations.

But the report did find people in her unit who believed Swift, and at least one person who confirmed that some male soldiers continuously made sexually suggestive comments.

The Register-Guard obtained a copy of the report through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Swift’s case, which has been widely reported in the national media, may soon become an international story. On Saturday a team of broadcast journalists from Al Jazeera spent the day in Eugene with Rich and Swift. The Middle East TV channel based in Doha, Qatar, recently launched an international English-language version.