A 1st Armored Division soldier at Fort Bliss, Texas, has been formally accused of three sexual assaults in the past year, including the alleged 2019 rape of a soldier from his unit who was found dead this New Year’s Eve.
Pfc. Christian G. Alvarado was arraigned Thursday during a general court-martial at Fort Bliss on three specifications of sexual assault, two specifications of making false statements and one specification of aggravated assault in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Alvarado is accused of raping 19-year-old Pfc. Asia M. Graham while she was unconscious Dec. 30, 2019, at Fort Bliss, according to his charge sheets. Graham was found dead in her barracks room this New Year’s Eve, roughly one year after the alleged assault took place.
Graham had been assigned to Fort Bliss, her first duty station, for only one month before the incident. Her cause of death has not been released, but Army CID agents don’t suspect foul play.
The accusations follow a year in which sexual assault and harassment in the Army garnered increased public scrutiny and revealed chronic failings at Fort Hood, another Texas military post, that an independent committee said could mirror problems at other installations.
Maj. Gen. Sean C. Bernabe, 1st Armored Division commander, “personally ordered the referral of charges against” Alvarado to court-martial on Jan. 8, unit spokeswoman Lt. Col. Allie Payne said in a statement.
Alvarado is also accused of committing two other sexual assaults on May 8 and Aug. 26. Those victims’ names were redacted from the charge sheets, though Graham’s name was not.
Military police officers are "trying to run CID units like normal Army units, and that is absolutely impossible to do," one special agent said.
In the May 8 accusation, Alvarado allegedly had sex with a woman who was too intoxicated to consent. On Aug. 26, he allegedly sexually assaulted another woman by penetrating her with his finger without her consent. The aggravated assault charge stems from Alvarado unlawfully strangling someone, whose name is redacted, also on Aug. 26.
Graham reported her Dec. 30, 2019, assault to her chain of command on June 1, and an investigation was immediately launched, according to Payne.
Charge sheets show Alvarado was interviewed June 11 by CID agents, which is when he allegedly made false statements to investigators.
Alvarado told a CID agent that Graham had been on top of him during sex, which the agent said was false and that Graham had been unconscious. Another allegedly false statement involved one woman whose name was redacted. Alvarado said the woman performed oral sex on him, which was “totally false,” the charge sheets read.
Details of who was interviewed and other facts of the case were not provided. Payne said the investigation, which ran from June to October, found enough evidence to pursue action through the military justice process.
Alvarado’s company commander preferred charges against him Oct. 22, which began the process to bring the case to a court-martial. An Article 32 hearing was appointed Nov. 3 and took place Dec. 1. The hearing officer provided his findings to Graham’s brigade commander Dec. 11 and that officer’s recommendation was forwarded to Maj. Gen. Bernabe.
“As a reminder to the Fort Bliss community, charges are merely accusations and Pfc. Alvarado, like all Americans, is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” a Fort Bliss press release stated.
Fort Hood leadership knew or should have known of the high risk of harm to female soldiers, according to the report.
A trial date has not yet been set for Alvarado’s court-martial. He is assigned to the 1-501st Attack Battalion, 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade. He enlisted in July 2018 and arrived at Fort Bliss in February 2019.
Graham was assigned to the same battalion as Alvarado. She enlisted in July 2019 and arrived at Fort Bliss the month of her alleged assault. Her mother, Nicole Graham, told a local television station in their home state of North Carolina that her daughter was “a beautiful soul” whose “smile lit up the room.”
“I was with the military life. I spoke very highly about the military, but in her situation, I think the leadership failed her,” Nicole Graham said Jan. 5. “Do I think she was murdered? No. But do I think if it would have handled better from the beginning, I think she would have had the proper help before and she would have been OK.”
The issue of sexual assault and harassment in the Army was put under a spotlight this summer after the Army secretary and chief of staff were handed the results of an independent committee’s lengthy report on Fort Hood’s handling of sex crimes, homicides and suicides.
Fourteen leaders at that central Texas installation, from the deputy commander down to the squad level, were relieved or suspended in the wake of the review.
The report raised concerns about how Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention programs are conducted across the force, as well as how the Army investigates soldiers’ deaths and disappearances beyond Fort Hood.
But Army CID agents charged with investigating these cases regularly find themselves assigned to understaffed field offices, inundated with high caseloads and mismanaged by their leadership, four career special agents told Army Times following the release of the Fort Hood report.
“Everything they put in that report was said on a daily basis by actual case agents,” said one CID agent who was previously assigned to Fort Hood. “The real problem with the MP [officers] is that they’re trying to run CID units like normal Army units, and that is absolutely impossible to do.”