Roommate, Fort Bliss investigators testify in court-martial for soldier accused of rape

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The court-martial of a Fort Bliss soldier accused of multiple sexual assaults, including that of the late Pfc. Asia Graham, began Monday on-post.

Pfc. Christian Alvarado was arraigned on two charges of making a false official statement, three charges of sexual assault, and one charge of aggravated assault in violation of three articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) in January.

In March, a subsequent investigation of Alvarado by the Army Criminal Investigation Command revealed new evidence of alleged misconduct that resulted in more charges to a general court-martial. 

Maj. Gen. Sean C. Bernabe, senior commander of the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, ordered the preferral that includes four additional charges of sexual assault and two alternative charges of abusive sexual contact. 

On Monday, Alvarado faced five charges on multiple counts that ranged from unlawful strangulation to sexual assault and abusive contact at Fort Bliss, as well as in Mesa, Arizona, court documents show.

Inside the courtroom, teary-eyed audience members in the gallery sat stoically as charges were laid out: 

Charge 1 (Fort Bliss)

  • Violation of UCMJ, Article 120 
    • Sexual assault of Asia Graham (December 2019)
    • Sexual assault (May 2020)
    • Sexual assault (August 2020)

Charge 2 (Fort Bliss)

  • Violation of UCMJ, Article 128 
    • Unlawful strangulation (August 2020)

Charge 3 (Fort Bliss)

  • Violation of UCMJ, Article 107
    • Made a false official statement with the intent to deceive (June 2020)

Charge 4 (Mesa)

  • Violation of UCMJ, Article 120 
    • Sexual assault (2018)
    • Sexual assault (2018)

Charge 5 (Mesa)

  • Violation of UCMJ, Article 120 
    • Sexual assault (January 2019)
    • Sexual assault (January 2019)
    • Unwanted sexual contact (December 2020)
    • Unwanted sexual contact (December 2020)

At the beginning of the trial, the defense informed the court that charges related to one accuser were being dropped because the individual decided not to testify. According to the prosecution, the accuser stopped responding to subpoenas and her mother later called to say she did not wish to pursue the charges.

And, the prosecution did not wish to arrest her to compel her testimony.

But other accusers remain.

During opening statements, the attorneys for the prosecution noted that although the accusations were separated by time and space, they share three things: They knew Alvarado; they trusted him; and they were betrayed by him.

The opening statement by the prosecution alleged Alvarado “continued to have sex with Asia [Graham] while she was passed out […] bragged in the coarsest terms possible […]” and that there were texts to confirm “he choked and digitally penetrated another victim.” 

The defense eschewed an opening statement, going straight to cross-examining witnesses. 

The first witness called was Alvarado’s former roommate, Marzzio Plancarte. 

Plancarte’s testimony affirmed he saw Alvarado, Graham, and another woman drinking and playing games in the common area of the two men’s barracks during the holiday break of 2019.

At one point, Plancarte said he took a few shots with the party-goers and that Graham and Alvarado eventually left for her barracks. 

He testified that Graham was visibly intoxicated: she was leaning on the wall to support her weight, she was slurring her words, and appeared sluggish.

Plancarte said Alvarado returned and gloated that he “d*cked her down” while gesturing at his penis.

During cross-examination by the defense, attorneys questioned Plancarte as to whether he was of age to consume alcohol the night of Graham’s alleged assault (he was), and asked if he purchased “vape juice” for a cannabis pen from Graham and her friend (he did). 

The next witnesses called were special agents from the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) who interviewed Alvarado about the Fort Bliss charges last summer. 

Special Agent James Diamond interviewed Alvarado about two alleged separate assaults (Graham and another woman), and Alvarado attested he had similar sexual experiences with both of them: drinking, kissing, oral sex, and multiple intercourse positions. 

He met the other woman (not Graham) at a party off-base and took her to a hotel because he said he had family staying with him. 

“He had no problem remembering,” Diamond testified. 

Diamond says that Alvarado said they would talk like they were friends.

“He said it was like I was one of his boys,” Diamond said. 

According to Diamond, Alvarado lied about having a Top Secret Clearance during the course of their first interview.

During the course of the testimony, Alvarado did little to acknowledge the proceedings around him. 

He sat with the defense, eyes glued to a doodle he was busily scribbling in a circle on a legal notepad. He rarely looked up unless to glance at his attorneys but his face grew flushed as the testimonies were given, jaw muscles clenching bum bum bum in rhythm with a heartbeat. 

At a few points, he sniveled.

Like Plancarte before him, Diamond was subject to discreditation attempts by the defense.

Diamond was asked if it’s challenging for people to open up to him because of his “baby face,” (he’s 29) and his level of education (he has a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Safety). 

Special agents like Diamond use a multitude of techniques when questioning someone: minimizing, rapport building, and suggestibility. 

Diamond says it took about half an hour to establish a rapport with Alvarado, and that he told him “people who commit crimes in the military are not bad people” and “people who lie get it significantly worse.” 

Over the course of the conversation, Alvarado told Diamond that at one point he picked up Graham’s female friend from Graham’s home because the two women were having an alleged domestic dispute between lovers. 

According to the CID, Alvarado’s testimony changed between interviews. 

Special Agent Aaron Postma, a senior interviewer, was called to testify upon Diamond’s recommendation.

Postma testified that he interviewed Alvarado on July 28, 2020, when Alvarado was read his rights.

According to Postma, Alvarado “did not understand the offense of sexual assault” but did not want to invoke right to counsel. 

Defense attorneys entered “Prosecution Exhibit 1” into evidence, which was Alvarado’s signed rights waiver form. 

Postma said that initially, Alvarado reported the sexual encounter with Graham included a multitude of activities, like Graham asking him to remove her shorts, performing oral sex on him, and that the tryst involved complex sexual positions.

Alvarado said that Graham did not ask him to take her clothes off; she did not perform oral sex on him; and they only had sex in one position — him on top of her. 

The defense entered “Prosecution Exhibit 2” into evidence, which was Alvarado’s sworn statement attesting to the original sequence of events.

Alvarado admitted to Postma that Graham became unconscious during sex, but that he continued to have sex with her until he reached climax. 

“He also said that she was very intoxicated and changed,” added Postma but said that Alvarado would not elaborate on the “change.”

“Next. he said he ‘must not be remembering correctly,’” said Postma, marking the first time in testimony that either CID agent recalled Alvarado saying he had a memory lapse. 

Alvarado later told Postma that he “should’ve asked her [Graham]” if she was coherent enough to consent to sex, then backpedaled.

“I should not have asked,” Postma testified that Alvarado told him, “I shouldn’t have done it.”

Postma asked Alvarado to sign a revised statement, to which he declined.

“He said it would be the icing on his cake,” said Postma.

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