Fort Lewis, Wash. – A Fort Lewis investigating officer will convene an Article 32 hearing here at 2 p.m., Tuesday, May 19, to examine evidence regarding the charges preferred against Private (E-2) Timothy E. Bennitt, who is accused in the February death of Leah King. The hearing will continue on Wednesday, May 20, at 9 a.m.
Charges against PV2 Bennitt include:
- Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Article 119 – Involuntary Manslaughter
- UCMJ, Article 112a – Wrongful use and distribution of controlled substances
- UCMJ, Article 81 – Conspiracy to use controlled substances
The maximum punishment, if convicted of all charges and specifications, is reduction in rank to private (E1), forfeiture of all pay and allowances, confinement for 82 years, and a dishonorable discharge. Fort Lewis officials emphasize that the charges constitute an accusation and that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Officially known as an Article 32 pretrial investigation, the hearing is similar to a grand jury investigation. For this Article 32 hearing, an investigating officer has been appointed to look into the charges of: involuntary manslaughter, wrongful use and distribution of controlled substances, and conspiracy to use controlled substances. The investigating officer will review the evidence presented by defense and prosecution attorneys in order to make a recommendation regarding the sufficiency of the charges and the appropriate level of court-martial.
Bennitt, 19, is a heavy construction equipment operator assigned to the 864th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade, on Fort Lewis. He entered the military in June 2007 and reported to Fort Lewis in December 2007, after receiving initial entry training and advanced individual training at Fort Sill, Okla., and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., respectively.