July 16, 2009 -- Federal prosecutors have charged a former KBR employee with sexually assaulting a female co-worker in Iraq last year.
Charles Breda, 34, of Pearland, Texas, was arrested last week and charged with abusive sexual contact of another employee of Texas-based government contracting giant KBR in October 2008 at Camp Al Asad. Breda, who left KBR earlier this year, was arrested last week at a Houston-area barber college. He has pled not guilty. He appeared in court Wednesday for a detention hearing.
KBR hired the musclebound Breda in 2007 to work in a gym for government personnel in Iraq.
In sometimes-graphic testimony in a Houston federal courtroom Wednesday, Naval Criminal Investivative Service agent Kelly Barcino described how Breda's alleged victim said Breda forced himself on her. After helping move her into new quarters, Breda tried to kiss the woman, exposed his penis, and pushed the alleged victim onto the bed, according to Barcino's testimony.
"KBR immediately reported the allegations of assault against Mr. Breda to the NCIS and cooperated fully with their investigation," said KBR spokeswoman Heather Browne in an emailed statement Wednesday. "KBR in no way condones or tolerates unethical or illegal behavior. The safety and security of our employees, subcontractors and customers is our top priority."
Thursday morning, Breda's attorney Roderick White said that "it wouldn't be appropriate for me right now to comment on the specific facts of the case."
Present at Wednesday's hearing was Jamie Leigh Jones, a former KBR employee who alleged in 2007 she had been a victim of a gang rape while working in Baghdad. No charges were ever brought in her case, although a 20/20 investigation of her story brought worldwide attention to the plight of sexually assaulted U.S. workers in war zones.
"I wanted to be here and I just can't believe it is finally happening that one of us does get justice," she said outside the hearing.
Iraq Sex Crimes Rarely Prosecuted, Say Experts
Despite several reported incidents of rape and sexual assault of U.S. civilians working in Iraq, few if any are prosecuted, say experts. "We are encouraged by the indictment in this case, and hope that this development isn't simply an aberration," said Scott Berkowitz, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
In her testimony, NCIS agent Brancino said that Breda had been separated from the Army in 2001 after officials discovered he had sex with and bought alcohol for an 18-year-old female recruit.
The Army found Breda used a government vehicle to have sex with an 18-year-old female he was recruiting to join the Army, Brancino said. He also used the car to take the woman to buy alcohol, and go to a motel for a sexual encounter, the agent said. The findings were part of an Army administrative investigation which led to Breda's separation, according to the agent.
Breda's lawyer declined comment on the matter. "That's also potentially evidence that could be dealt with at our trial," he said, but emphasized that the findings involved no criminal charges or conviction.
The company did not know of Breda's background at the time he was hired, a spokesperson confirmed Tuesday.
At Wednesday's hearing, a judge set Breda's bond at $100,000. Upon release, Breda will be required to wear an electronic monitor and live with his aunt. His trial is set for late August.
This story has been updated.