Soldier Returns To Fight Legal Battle At Home - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Soldier Returns To Fight Legal Battle At Home

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Master Sergeant Jim Starek Master Sergeant Jim Starek

by Nick Beres

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - Master Sergeant Jim Starek survived three tours of duty overseas with Army Special Forces, but it was a young girl's claim of sexual misconduct back home that nearly destroyed the decorated soldier's life.

"It was horrible," said Starek.

Starek took pride in service to his country in Somolia and Iraq.  Back in the states, he doted on his wife and two step-daughters, but he said something changed when he returned from his last tour of duty two years ago.

Starek said his 15-year-old step-daughter started to rebel against him and she seemed to refuse discipline and wanted him gone.

"So we get information from the school that some students told her if you want to get rid of your stepfather you just come up with allegations that he touched you or something," said Ed Farmer, Starek's attorney. 

Farmer said the step-daughter reported the alleged touching one day after Starek had grounded her from attending a dance because she was talking back.

"She said I came into the kitchen and touched her breast and touched her rear," said Starek. He strongly denied the claims.

Still, the District Attorney took the case to a grand jury which indicted Starek on four counts of sexual battery by an authority figure.

"Absolutely very serious charges. If convicted he could face up to twenty years in prison," said Farmer.

Starek declined a plea offer that could have lessened any jail time and insisted on a trial and taking a chance with the jury.

"I won't confess to a crime I did not commit," said Starek.

For two years he lived with the cloud of the allegations hanging over his head.  He said his wife sought a divorce, he couldn't hold a job and many friends stopped talking to him. 

Starek said with sex crimes there seems to be a rush to judgment and everyone just assumes you are guilty.

The case finally went to trial this week, and after a full day of detailed testimony the jury deliberated for less than 20 minutes before finding Starek not guilty on all counts.

"I started tearing up and felt so relieved," said Starek.

Farmer and co-attorney Carrie Gasaway said they understand all claims of child abuse must be taken seriously, but they said the district attorney and police did a very poor job of investigating this claim before deciding to take the case to the grand jury.

Starek said he is glad the whole ordeal is over.  He faced death in conflict overseas, but said that didn't compare to facing the unfounded criminal charges.

"I think the two years with the dark cloud over my head was even worse," said Starek.

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