SAPR SITREP – Update on sexual assault court-martials

U.S. Coast Guard Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program logo. U.S. Coast Guard illustration by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelly Parker.

Written by Cmdr. Chris O’Neil, Public Affairs Officer, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Military Campaign Office.

Accountability – defined in Webster’s as, “the quality or state of being accountable, especially an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions,” – is the mechanism by which our Service ensures that those who commit the crime of sexual assault, and other criminal acts, are held accountable for their action.

The objective administration of military justice, governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Manual for Courts-Martial, provides the Coast Guard with the means of adjudicating criminal charges, and holding accountable those who are found guilty.

Very few of us have the opportunity to observe a court-martial, and unless the trial happens near our unit, local media is unlikely to carry stories about Coast Guard courts-martial. The administration of military justice is for the majority of servicemembers, a process that happens out of our line of sight.

As part of our efforts to help Coast Guardsmen better understand the military justice system and to bring awareness to the military justice system’s handling of cases involving charges of sexual assault, this blog post summarizes information about recent and ongoing trials – information that has already been released to the public via the media.

Remember that charges are accusations against an individual and that the accused is presumed innocent. The Coast Guard is committed to a fair proceeding in compliance with the UCMJ. While names of the accused are released, it is Coast Guard policy to withhold the identity of sexual assault survivors.

The following is a summary of recent cases that have made headlines.

The commander of Coast Guard Atlantic Area announced Nov. 29, that a Coast Guardsman charged with sexual assault would face a court-martial Dec. 2, at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Charleston, S.C.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Omar Gomez, 35, formerly assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Gallatin, is charged with Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for allegedly engaging in a broad spectrum of sexually related misconduct ranging from rape to inappropriate comments, involving two civilians and six Coast Guard women.

Gomez is also charged with:

• Article 92 – Failure to obey a lawful order and regulation
• Article 93 – Cruelty and Maltreatment
• Article 107 – False official statement
• Article 134 – General Articles (offenses not specifically covered in any other article of the UCMJ)

An investigation began immediately after a sexual assault aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Gallatin was reported Sept. 16, 2012. The crimes for which Gomez is charged allegedly occurred between August 2011 and September 2012 while Gomez was assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Gallatin. Locations of the crimes include aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Gallatin, in Honduras, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Charleston, S.C.

Vice Adm. Robert C. Parker, Atlantic Area Commander and the court-martial convening authority, decided to refer the case to a general court-martial. The decision was made after an investigation by the Coast Guard Investigative Service, a pretrial investigation under Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Article 34 pre-trial, legal advice from the Atlantic Area staff judge advocate.

The commander of Coast Guard Atlantic Area, announced Nov. 8, that a Coast Guard officer charged with sexual assault and maltreatment will face a court-martial scheduled to begin March 24, 2014.

Lt. Wayne Barfield, formerly assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Gallatin where he served as the engineering officer, is charged with:

• Article 93 – Cruelty and Maltreatment
• Article 120 – Sexual Assault
• Article 133 – Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman
• Article 134 – Fraternization and Drunk and Disorderly conduct

Parker made the decision to convene a court-martial based upon the recommendation from an Article 32 investigation completed in September. The Article 32 investigation reviewed evidence related to charges of maltreatment and sexual assault made against Barfield. The Article 32 investigation does not result in a verdict or a sentence; it only provides a recommendation on how to proceed with the charges.

Barfield was reassigned to Marine Safety Unit Savannah, Ga., while awaiting trial.

The commander of the 8th Coast Guard District announced Oct. 11, that a petty officer charged with sexual assault and possession of child pornography will face a court-martial scheduled for February 2014.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Bush, formerly assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Wyaconda, has been in pre-trial confinement since June 2013 at the Navy Consolidated Brig, Chesapeake, Va.

Rear Adm. Kevin Cook made the decision to try this case at a general court-martial based on the recommendation from an Article 32 hearing completed Oct. 6, 2013, that reasonable grounds exist to try Bush.

The investigation that led to the charges began May 30, 2013, and were the result of allegations of misconduct uncovered through a separate investigation. In this case, the command was unaware of any misconduct until the Coast Guard Investigative Service uncovered the alleged criminal acts.

The 8th Coast Guard District and Atlantic Area public affairs staffs contributed to this blog post.

If you have been, or think you may have been, sexually assaulted, contact your sexual assault response coordinator, or call the Safe Helpline at 1-877-995-5247. Information about reporting options and resources for survivors of sexual assault can be found on the U.S. Coast Guard Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program website.

 

 

Correction: Paragraph nine of this post was corrected. Charges against Gomez related to an incident in Seattle, Wa., were dropped prior to completion of the Article 32 process and were not part of his court-martial.

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  • Sarah Foster

    Thank you for being transparent in the way these cases are being handled and for listening to survivors and concerned members. Transparency and timeliness of prosecution is a good sign that will restore faith in the military justice process.