Court martial for ‘racial slur,’ striking superior begins at base
An army reservist who allegedly referred to a civilian worker’s hair as “nappy” and struck his superior officer’s hand the next day is facing a court martial in Nova Scotia.
Retired Cpl. Garett Rollman pleaded not guilty Monday to two charges of “conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline,” with prosecutors saying he’d made an inappropriate comment to Cheryl Richard about the hair styles of black people.
During her testimony, Richard said her co-worker had entered the kitchen in late February 2016 and told her about a video that he’d viewed where a black woman was sponging her hair due to it being “nappy.”
“I said, ‘Excuse me,’ and he said, ‘Nappy hair, you know like yours,” she said, adding she immediately left the area, upset by the comment.
Richard testified the term is “a racial slur they used a long time ago saying that black people have knotty hair because they didn’t have the means of working with their hair. It’s a racial slur that white people use.”
The prosecution alleged that the following day Rollman was standing near Richard at the military base in Aldershot, N.S., when he pushed garbage containers across the kitchen and shouted insults and profanities at her.
Richard testified she went from the kitchen area to a room where Sgt. Earl Smith - the second in command of the area - was sitting and told him about the incident.
The prosecution alleges that at that point, Smith stood up, and “Cpl. Rollman hit the sergeant’s hand out of the way and took up a boxer’s stance,” before more yelling ensued and Rollman left Smith’s office.
Capt. Greg Moorehead, the military prosecutor, told the court during his opening statement that Rollman’s behaviour breached military law.
“None of this behaviour is acceptable, your honour, particularly in a disciplined and professional military,” he said.
During defence cross examination, Richard told the court that she had “sometimes” complained about Rollman’s behaviour in the past, and that he had launched a workplace harassment case against her prior to the incident.
During opening statements, military defence lawyer Brent Walden had asked for the case to be adjourned. He said the court needed time to find Smith, who has left the military and hasn’t responded to emails from the prosecution requesting his presence.
The presiding military judge ruled that the case could proceed, noting a week has been set aside for the case.