An Anchorage man who admitted to sexually abusing a girl in the 1990s while stationed in the Lower 48 and Germany was sentenced Wednesday to serve 15 years in federal prison.
But Antonio Bates' sentence comes 16 years after the former Army sergeant and ex-Alaska National Guard member was apparently investigated by the Army, which found evidence of sexual abuse on which it failed to act, according to documents filed in federal court.
Bates, now 46, began molesting the girl and forcing sex acts on her when she was 6, according to a sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutors. As the abuse continued for years, he would call her his "girlfriend," whip her with a belt -- to the point of drawing blood -- and torture her dog "to let her know that denying sex to him had consequences," the court papers say.
The abuse occurred between 1990 and 1996 while Bates was stationed in Kansas at Fort Riley, at an Army installation in Germany, and in California at Fort Hunter-Liggett, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
According to his own sentencing memorandum, Bates was himself the victim of longtime child sexual abuse. He escaped by joining the military and eventually became a tank gunner in the Army. Bates' job was to man a machine gun on an M1 Abrams tank and load shells into its 120 mm gun, the court documents say.
He fought in the first Iraq War and had a vulnerable position in a gun turret atop the tank. He says, in the court papers, that the war traumatized him, and he began drinking and doing drugs after returning to the United States.
In early 1996, Bates told a drug-and-alcohol counselor at Fort Hunter-Liggett that he had sexually abused the girl, and the Army began an investigation, according to the prosecution's memo.
"But the Army did not charge (Bates), instead choosing to let his term of duty expire in July 1996," the memo says. "After his departure from the Army, (he) moved to Alaska. At this time, the defendant was unable to sexually abuse the victim as he had done in the past, because the victim, now 13, was old enough to resist."
The abuse continued, though not to the extent as before, the memorandum says. Meanwhile, Bates' wife opened a day care in their Anchorage home, proof that Bates didn't acknowledge the seriousness of his past actions, the prosecutors wrote.
Fort Hunter-Liggett's public affairs office did not return a call Thursday seeking comment on why Bates was not charged or arrested earlier. The Army's Criminal Investigation Command, which investigated Bates in 1996, was unable to connect a reporter to the proper authorities for comment Thursday, a spokeswoman said.
Bates, in his sentencing memorandum, says he is now sober, aside from a brief drug relapse in 2010. He has also found God and attends church, the court document says.
As a teenager, the victim was distrustful of people, angry, aggressive and got into fights as a result of the years of abuse, according to the prosecutors' memorandum. At the age of 24, she reported the years of molestations and forced sex to the Anchorage Police Department, which, apparently because the abuse occurred on military bases, sent the case to federal authorities.
Later, in a phone call recorded by the FBI, the victim confronted Bates.
"... Whenever I wouldn't do things that you wanted sexually, you would try to whip me and stuff like that? What was right about that? How was that trying to be my friend," she asked Bates.
"I, I, I, I didn't say that was right," Bates said.
A grand jury ultimately indicted Bates on a total of 11 felony counts related to the sexual abuse. He pleaded guilty in California federal court to one count of aggravated sexual abuse of a minor under the age of 12 in May 2011.
On top of the 15-year prison sentence, a judge ordered Bates to pay more than $26,000 restitution to his victim.
Reach Casey Grove at email@example.com or 257-4589.
By CASEY GROVE
Anchorage Daily News