A Spartanburg County employee accused of deserting the Army more than a decade ago was arrested on the job Tuesday.
Joseph Andrew Champion, 42, of Spartanburg, was taken into custody by the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office after the FBI requested that deputies attempt to locate a military deserter the federal agency believed was in the area.
According to a written statement from the sheriff's office, a deputy went to Champion's home, where his wife told the officer that Champion was at work. A deputy responded to his place of employment – the Spartanburg County Maintenance Shop on Broadcast Drive – and arrested Champion.
Champion was booked Tuesday morning at the Spartanburg County jail, where he remains while awaiting transfer to Army authorities.
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Champion is an automotive mechanic for the county. He was hired June 20, 2005, and remained employed as of Wednesday morning, a Spartanburg County Personnel Department employee said.
Mark Edwards, chief of media relations at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command in Fort Knox, Ky., said in an email that records indicate Pvt. Champion joined the Army Reserve in January 2001, went to basic training at Fort Jackson, and then went to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for training as a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear specialist. While at Fort Leonard, Champion is accused of going Absent Without Leave in March 2001, and he was listed as a deserter in April 2001.
Without knowing the specifics of this case, Edwards said that while being processed on AWOL or desertion charges, soldiers are given the opportunity to explain their cases, and based on the facts of each case, action is taken.
The maximum punishment for desertion with intent to avoid hazardous duty or shirk important service is a dishonorable discharge, five years confinement, forfeiture of all pay and reduction in rank to private. The maximum punishment for "desertion terminated by apprehension" is a dishonorable discharge, three years confinement, forfeiture of all pay and reduction of rank to private, according to a fact sheet provided by the Army. If not terminated by apprehension, the maximum punishment is the same, but the term of confinement is reduced to two years.
The Army, according to the fact sheet, does not typically "actively look for deserters, but that decision is ultimately up to a commander's discretion. Deserters are often apprehended when a police officer checks IDs during routine traffic stops."