EL PASO -- Pfc. Christian Alvarado has begun serving an 18 year, three month sentence for sexually assaulting fellow solider Asia Graham and another woman. He was aquitted for sexually assaulting two other women. Judge Robert Shuck sentenced Alvarado on Friday after a week of emotional testimony from victims and Alvarado who took the stand in his own defense during the court-martial.
Extra military police were on guard during closing arguments Friday and all the seats were filled in the small courtroom for closing arguments. “He has lied and manipulated women so long he thinks he can convince anyone,” the prosecutor, LTC Shanna Cronin, said during closing arguments.
But Alvarado’s defense said the allegations were nothing more than fabrications. “People lie, including the women who say they were sexually assaulted,” said Sherilyn Bunn, Alvarado’s defense counsel.
A total of five women reported they were sexually assaulted by Alvarado. One woman declined to participate in the court martial and her charges were dismissed before the proceedings. The accusers include two fellow soldiers. Pfc. Asia Graham, the only woman named in the charges, died months after she reported the sexual assault. Their names were used in court, but KTEP does not identify living victims of alleged sexual assault without their consent.
The military trial comes at a time when the Army is facing heavy criticism and pressure to do more to prevent and prosecute sexual assault after several high profile cases.
Graham died on New Year’s Eve. This week, Army officials released the results of autopsy that found Graham her cause of death was an accidental drug overdose from a mix of fentanyl and synthetic marijuana. Her mother and two brothers were in the courtroom for closing arguments and offerred victim impact statements.
"I lost my best friend, my only daugther," said Nicole Graham.
"The recruiter who came to the house told me Asia would be protected. She would be part of a familly. I got my daugther back in a box with a flag, " said Graham.
Anthony Graham moved to El Paso to be close to his sister while she was at Fort Bliss and said she told him she had been sexually assaulted. "I watched my happy sister turn into a trapped soul in darkness," Graham said.
The five-day court martial started with prosecutor Capt. Thomas Lewis presenting opening argments. He said Alvarado's accusers had three things in common: “They liked private Alvarado. They trusted him and that trust was betrayed.”
Alvarado took the stand in his own defense and testified the sex was consentual. Two of the women who testified gave detailed accounts of the alleged sexual assaults. One said she had a brief sexual relationship with Alvarado. She said he choked her while trying to sexually assault her as her two children slept in another room.
“He got on top, pushed me down, put his hand around my throat,” she said. She testified things got “blurry and dark” and she worried about her two children asleep in the house in another room.
Alvarado testified the woman liked rough sex and told him, “Girls like it when you’re rough with them.” The woman denied saying that during the cross examination by Alvarado’s defense counsel.
The woman's neighbor and a friend, testified she saw neck injuries that night including bruising and swelling.
The oher witness, Alvarado’s ex-girlfriend from his hometown Mesa, Arizona, testified he sexually assaulted her twice at her home. “I wish in the moment I had screamed for my family,” she said and burst into tears.
She testified that after an argument, Alvarado “tackled me” and then “grabbed me by my ponytail and lifted me off the ground.”
During her testimony, Alvarado was visibly upset and seemed to be quietly crying at the table where he sat with his defense attorneys. When he testified, he denied sexually assaulted her and said instead it was consensual “makeup sex" after they argued.
Prosecutors raised the question of whether some of the women who reported the sexual assaults were able to consent, as Alvardo claimed they did. A soldier who took the stand said she woke up “drunk and confused” in a hotel room as Alvarado was leaving. She testified she met him at a shooting range earlier in the day and invited him to a party that night.
Pfc. Jovan Elliott testified he was at the party and witnessed the two drinking heavily “going shot for shot” and then leaving together. He later caught up with Alvarado at the hotel after missing a curfew established by Fort Bliss during the pandemic. When he arrived he said the female soldier had “drunk eyes” and “the smell of alcohol on her breath when she talked.” Alvarado testified “she did not pass out” when they were having sex.
Alvarado is charged with sexually assaulting Graham when she was unconscious. His roommate at the time, Pfc. Marzel Pancarte , testified that Alvarado, Graham, and another female soldier were drinking heavily in their quarters. He said Graham was “having trouble walking” and Alvarado had to “hold her up” as they left on the night Graham said she was sexually assaulted.
Alvarado told Army Criminal Investigation Command agents that Graham was awake but later said during a polygraph interview that maybe she passed out “half-way through.”
Judge Robert Shuck asked Alvarado again during his testimony if Graham was unconscious. “She was never unconscious,” Alvarado answered.
His defense attorneys brought in an expert witness to testify that a series of long interviews and polygraph tests that took more than 10 hours could have led to a false confession.
Alvarado’s defense attorney, Capt. Pace Jaworski, asked his client why he thought he was brought in for questioning. Alvarado said he believed it involved Graham allegedly selling drugs in the barracks. Jaworski asked if the reason he didn’t report the alleged drug sales was because he was “concerned about the impact on her career?” Alvarado answered, “Yes, sir.”
Defense counsel also asked Alvarado about questions from investigators about his sexual history. Alvarado testified the line of questioning was disturbing because he’d been molested as a child by one of his mother’s friends and cried on the witness stand.
During cross examination, government prosecutor Cronin listed a series of statements Alvarado gave to investigators and defense counsel that Cronin said were either half true or outright lies. They ranged from attending college on a football scholarship to his top-level security clearance in the Army.
She also questioned him about whether he had a book where he kept a tally of many of his sexual partners. He verified he did but said his wife found it and destroyed it. “Was Asia Graham in that book?” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” Alvarado replied. Cronin asked about Graham’s accusation at the barracks where they both lived.
“Asia actually called you a rapist?” Cronin asked. "Yes, ma'am," he answered.