The Supreme court has confirmed the conviction of a lieutenant colonel for a consummate crime of abuse of authority, in its modality of sexual and professional harassment on subordinate, to the sentence of two years and three months in prison and to compensate the victim, a first corporal, as direct civil liability for moral damages caused.
The Fifth Room (of the Military) The high court has rejected in its entirety the appeal of the Army officer and has ratified all the extremes of the sentence of the Central Military Court December 2020. The magistrates consider proven the facts already ratified by their colleagues in the military court. It is about the systematic harassment that the Lieutenant Colonel JAA G., head of the Logistics Group of the Defense General Staff since 2016, carried out on the corporal first for two years through WhatsApp.
According to the ruling, it was a communication characterized “by excessive familiarity and confidence given the difference in military employment between the two.” Among others, the head of the unit called her with the affectionate nickname of “witch”, mentioned her profile picture changes in this mobile messaging system, asked her about the health of her three children or offered her some day off or facilities hours if needed to reconcile. The content of the messages was increasing in tone until in September 2017 he sent him a naked video masturbating.
These communications occurred outside working hours, at untimely hours and on non-working days and without any relation to the service. In some cases they were not answered by the corporal first or they were answered by pure courtesy or deference to your superior, who always treated you in his answers, despite feeling uncomfortable. The sending of telephone messages was joined by a peculiar form of greeting consisting of grabbing the victim from behind by the shoulders and shaking her, or patting her on the back.
“She told her to leave her husband”
On February 8, 2017, when the corporal first found herself in the Logistics Group’s premises visibly upset and tearful due to disagreements with her husband, the convict convinced her to go together to have a drink at the cafeteria in order to try encourage and comfort her. During this dialogue, she told him “that she was very pretty, very smart and a very good worker, that a woman like her could have the man she wanted and that she would leave her husband.”
At the same time, at the request of the lieutenant colonel, the military installed the Telegram messaging application on her mobile phone, which allows to send secret messages with programmed self-destruction by means of a timer set by the sender. Around 6:00 a.m. on September 12, 2017, when the first corporal was still in bed, he received a message from the accused, to which he did not reply, in which the sender said: «How are you? Did you spend the night, little witch? How did the children sleep?
Immediately afterwards, he sent her a new one-minute programmed self-destruct audio and video message via secret chat, in which he said: “Good morning, little witch, how was your night?” and where he was seen in front of a bathroom mirror with a wide T-shirt, which he immediately stripped off to be completely naked, then adding: “The time has come for you to know that this is yours if you want it”, at the same time that he touched his genitals and masturbated.
That same day, the soldier deleted from her mobile phone the secret chat that served as the framework for the forwarding of the two messages just described, which did not appear on the telephone terminal that at that time belonged to the accused, which was later formatted when he acquired a new phone and passed the old one to a son of his.
As soon as she arrived at the military offices that same day, the complainant went to the defendant’s office, faced him and told him never to send him messages of such content and that he had made a mistake about her, to which the officer replied that the video was not directed at her and that she had mistaken the recipient, asking her forgiveness and assuring her that nothing similar would happen again.
Immediately afterwards, the corporal first told a teammate what had happened to her, with details of the specific content of the video, declining the offer that the superior made to try to recover the images, since she did not want to report and all she wanted was have no problems.
Following a conference on sexual and workplace harassment given in December 2017 by the Lieutenant Colonel Moreno Santos, assigned to the Defense General Staff, the victim told him the specific content of the video that he had received from the accused. The officer appreciated that the subordinate was in a state “of anguish, great fear and great suffering, on the verge of collapsing psychologically,” so he started the support measures provided for in the Action protocol against sexual harassment in the Armed Forces.
Anxiety and depression
The now condemned, seeing the turn of events, radically changed his treatment with the corporal first, to whom he stopped speaking to address her through third parties, and ordered a drastic reduction of the functions that until then she had been exercising, that were limited to those that strictly correspond to him due to his military employment. Simultaneously, between October 2017 and February 2018, it adopted a series of decisions that negatively affected its working conditions.
From June 14, 2018 until at least November 7 of the same year, the corporal first attended the consultation of the clinical psychologist María Aránzazu López, which she diagnosed as suffering from a mixed adjustment disorder with anxiety and depressed mood, for which she was treated.
Between February 7 and 22, 2019, the complainant was subjected to a study and recognition by specialists of the Psychiatry and Mental Health Service of the Central Defense Hospital, to whom he stated that he was following psychopharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatment since October 2018. The specialists appreciated that he presented “a depressive state of mind, with apathy, intense anxiety, lability and affective incontinence, as well as feelings of hopelessness and guilt about his situation.”
According to the clinical report, there is a labor conflict maintained from 2016 to 2018, in which initially a command of his unit made comments and sent messages to his mobile of allegedly inappropriate content, which later led to alleged attitudes or decisions on the part of this person, who, according to her, had a negative influence on the performance of her work activity “.
The complainant’s attorney, Antonio Suarez-Valdes, has pointed out after hearing the Supreme Court ruling that it represents a “great advance” for the eradication of any type of harassment through social media and messaging tools in the field of the Armed Forces. As always, first the Central Military Court and then the Fifth Chamber of the high court, “in respective exemplary sentences, have once again set a zero tolerance margin when prosecuting this type of crime, which will surely serve to deter to those military personnel who may even consider committing labor or sexual harassment ”.