updated 10/10/2008 6:26:24 PM ET 2008-10-10T22:26:24

An Army trainee will face nonjudicial punishment rather than criminal charges for beating a Jewish soldier so badly he was treated by a hospital, the military said Friday, in a move that keeps many details of the attack secret.

Fort Benning commanders decided not to seek a court-martial in the attack on Pvt. Michael Handman and will resolve it as a personnel matter rather than a crime.

“I’m infuriated,” Jonathan Handman, the beaten soldier’s father, said Friday. “The Army’s continuing to do what they tried to do from the beginning, which is just shovel this under the carpet. It should be treated and charged as a hate crime.”

Fort Benning spokeswoman Monica Manganaro said the Army would not release the name of the soldier responsible for the attack, the punishment he received or the results of a military police investigation because nonjudicial punishments are protected under the federal Privacy Act.

Handman, 20, of Atlanta says he was beaten by a fellow trainee Sept. 24 in a laundry room next to their barracks. He was treated at the Army hospital on Fort Benning in Columbus for a concussion and bruising to the left side of his face.

Four days before the attack, Handman was interviewed by commanders of his basic training unit about complaints he’d made in letters to his parents that he had been harassed by two drill sergeants because he’s Jewish.

The Army later acknowledged one drill sergeant had ordered Handman to remove his yarmulke, which he wore with his uniform, as he ate in a dining hall. Another drill sergeant had called him “Juden” — the German word for Jews.

Manganaro said military police concluded the attack on Handman wasn’t motivated by religious bigotry, but she would give no other details.

“There isn’t anything more that I can add,” Manganaro said. “The investigation is not public information and the results are not public information.”

Handman’s father says he believes his son’s religion was a factor in the attack because it followed too closely behind his son’s harassment complaint to be coincidental.

'Turned into a punching bag'
Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, agreed. He called the Army’s denial of a religious motive in Handman’s beating “complete garbage and an absolute cover-up.”

“Michael Handman was turned into a punching bag for the Army because of his religious faith,” said Weinstein, who has helped the Handmans pursue the case with the Army.

Army commanders have the discretion to forward investigations into violations of military law to a court-martial or to handle them administratively, as happened in Handman’s case. Manganaro said the decision to pursue nonjudicial punishment was made by Handman’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Anthony Benitez.

While Fort Benning officials would not say what punishment Handman’s attacker received, Manganaro said the maximum allowable would be 45 days restriction where he would be unable to leave his unit buildings, 45 days of extra duty, a reduction in grade and forfeiture of pay.

Fort Benning officials transferred Handman to a new training battalion of about 900 soldiers a week ago to separate him from his attacker and the two drill sergeants, who were reprimanded for religious discrimination.

Handman began basic training Aug. 29 and soon wrote a letter to his parents in which he said, “I have just never been so discriminated against/humiliated about my religion.” He said he feared some of his fellow trainees “wanted to beat the (expletive) out of me... And the only justification they have is because I’m Jewish.”

Handman’s parents contacted U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., who forwarded their concerns to the Army. Four days after commanders interviewed Handman about being harassed, he was beaten.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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