An Air Force soldier challenges the army on the different treatment of complaints of aggression

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New Zealand Defense Force servicewoman facing court-martial for assault and drug use, says she was also assaulted – but the sergeant who shot her inner thigh was treated differently.

Nicole Rene Leger, 35, pleaded guilty to charges of using a drug known as ecstasy and assaulting a fellow student at a party.

Leger holds the rank of leading airman in the Royal New Zealand Air Force and pleaded guilty when the court-martial began at Trentham Army Camp, Upper Hutt, on Monday.

The charges date back to June 20, 2020, when Leger was charged with using MDMA, a Class B drug, and assaulting a woman. The court-martial was told that her drink had been spiked, but she continued drinking after being told of this.

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Leger’s voice shook as she upheld the guilty plea to the assault charge. The victim’s name has been removed, as has the unit in which Leger served.

In a statement read for the victim, the woman said Leger’s actions caused her grief and pain, and she asked Leger to be careful in the future.

“I wish you all the best and hope you get the support you need.”

Leger also read a statement in which she said she was the sober driver for another function a few months earlier. A sergeant – whose name has been withheld – touched her shoulders and waist, and in the vehicle later placed his hand on her inner thigh twice, she said.

Michael Bott was the lawyer for the first airman Léger, during a court-martial at the army camp of Trentham, with the prosecutor Major Grant Fletcher.  (File photo)

KEVIN STENT / Stuff

Michael Bott was the lawyer for the first airman Léger, during a court-martial at the army camp of Trentham, with the prosecutor Major Grant Fletcher. (File photo)

He was not charged, yet she was in connection with the subsequent incident, and she questioned the difference. It was not a criticism of the Defense Force, but it was held up as an example and punished long and hard, she said.

She said that even before the June 2020 party leading up to the charges against her, she was seeing a counselor about work-related stress, was seen as different from other members of her unit and a job evaluation revealed that she had no resilience.

One of the prosecutors, Lt. Ty Hart, said at a housewarming and birthday party that Leger was given a drink containing MDMA and told about the drugs halfway through. -way of its consumption. She continued to drink.

The comrades noticed that she had become disinhibited and she told them that she was on drugs.

Chief Justice Kevin Riordan presided over the court martial.  (File photo)

Murray Wilson / Stuff

Chief Justice Kevin Riordan presided over the court martial. (File photo)

A woman at the party felt tired and asked to lie down in Leger’s room.

Leger came into the room, touched the woman’s shoulder and face, and said, “Your lips.”

Asked about the incident, Leger said she had no intention of causing distress.

Hart said Leger now wants to leave the Defense Force and pursue another career. She was saddened that her time in the military was ending under these circumstances. She had suffered mentally, emotionally and financially since being charged, had self-harmed and spent time living in her car.

In Leger’s statement, she offered the victim’s “deepest and most sincere apologies” and was sorry for putting her in the position to relive past trauma.

Chief Justice Kevin Riordan said he was concerned about some unspecified issues she had raised and would write to the defense chief asking for an explanation. His statement did not go unnoticed, he said.

Three soldiers and the chief judge will decide on his sentence.

The prosecution requested that Léger be removed from his post. Leger’s attorney, Michael Bott, said she should be reprimanded. She was new to using MDMA and had no idea of ​​its effects, he said.

What is a Court Martial?

A court martial is the military equivalent of a civilian court and hears cases where a breach of military discipline or other offenses may have occurred.

Possible penalties include jail and dismissal from the forces, detention, demotion, severe reprimand or fine.

A judge presides over the court martial and a military panel is appointed to decide whether the accused is guilty or not guilty. The military and the judge decide on the sentence, if the accused is guilty.

Court martial decisions can be appealed.

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