Court mar­tial for ‘racial slur,’ strik­ing su­pe­rior be­gins at base

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC -

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.

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