Courts & Crime

Woman beaten at Fort Lewis finds the limits of military justice

TACOMA, Wash. — Taylor Mack woke up choking.

She retched blood, spat out a tooth, and squinted through a fog of swollen pain. Her face was broken. She didn’t know it yet.

Slow recognition. Empty apartment, fast-food bag on the bedside table . . . Fort Lewis.

The barracks. Here with Andre, the night before . . . and he had wanted to, but she said no . . . and then something flying at her face — a foot, a fist? She couldn’t remember, and Andre was gone.

It was 2:30 a.m. on June 19, 2007. Mack, then 20, was about to stumble into a Catch-22: a legal snafu, excused by the gods of procedure, footnoted with official sympathy.

Mack made one mistake. She got herself assaulted on military property by a soldier who wasn’t a soldier anymore – a man who slipped between the layers of military and federal authority.

Her attacker, Andre John Roberts, 26, had just been discharged. Hours after admitting his crime, Roberts left the base, escorted by military personnel. Officially, he was a civilian, beyond military control. Unofficially, he was free.

More than two years later, Mack is still waiting for justice. Roberts’ whereabouts are unknown. He did not respond to voice mail messages.

Military officials now say the case was mishandled.

“Clearly this is not the best we can do,” Joseph Piek, Fort Lewis spokesman, said in a written statement. “Mistakes were made, and those mistakes resulted from a genuine misunderstanding by the military police of Roberts' status at the time of the incident.”

Mack, a Lacey resident, doesn’t think much of that. For two years, she and her mother, Kim Johnson, have sought action on the case. They blame Roberts, but they also blame what they see as a tepid response from Fort Lewis officials.

“It’s been two years, and he’s never gotten in trouble for it,” Mack says. “All they’re trying to do is save themselves.”

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