Lawyers: Navy brass med­dled in sex as­sault case

Suit claims ad­mi­rals quashed the ex­tent of mil­i­tary in­ci­dents

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

De­fense at­tor­neys for a dec­o­rated Navy SEAL have filed new ev­i­dence to bolster their al­le­ga­tion that the sea ser­vice’s top lawyers at the Pen­tagon il­le­gally in­ter­vened to make sure the sailor’s sex­ual as­sault con­vic­tion stuck.

The ev­i­dence, in the form of a sworn af­fi­davit, comes in the case of Se­nior Chief Petty Of­fi­cer Keith E. Barry. His ac­cuser de­scribed en­coun­ters over two months of “crazy sex” that ended in an as­sault. Chief Barry con­tends the woman con­sented.

A mil­i­tary judge in San Diego con­victed the chief in 2014, with a sen­tence of a dis­hon­or­able dis­charge and three years in prison.

It turns out that the of­fi­cer over­see­ing the case, now-re­tired Rear Adm. Pa­trick J. Lorge, held deep reser­va­tions and was plan­ning to over­rule the con­vic­tion in 2015. Alarmed amid Congress’ in­ter­est in mil­i­tary sex­ual as­sault cases, his le­gal ad­vis­ers no­ti­fied the Navy high com­mand.

What hap­pened next is now the ba­sis for Chief Barry’s two at­tor­neys — a civil­ian and a Navy judge ad­vo­cate — to ac­cuse two ad­mi­rals of un­law­ful com­mand in­flu­ence. They have asked the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the Armed Forces, the mil­i­tary’s high­est, to or­der an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

First, the Navy’s top lawyer (or judge ad­vo­cate gen­eral), thenVice Adm. Nanette M. DeRenzi, com­mu­ni­cated with Mr. Lorge, who was serv­ing as con­ven­ing au­thor­ity.

“She con­veyed the im­por­tance that the con­ven­ing au­thor­i­ties held and how ten­u­ous the abil­ity of an op­er­a­tional com­man­der to act as a cov­er­ing au­thor­ity had be­come, es­pe­cially in find­ings or sen­tences in sex­ual as­sault cases due to the in­tense pres­sure on the mil­i­tary at the time,” Mr. Lorge later re­called in a May 5 sworn af­fi­davit. “She men­tioned that ev­ery three or four months mil­i­tary com­man­ders were mak­ing court-mar­tial de­ci­sions that got ques­tioned by Congress and other po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary lead­ers, in­clud­ing the pres­i­dent. This con­ver­sa­tion re­in­forced my per­cep­tion of the po­lit­i­cal pres­sures [they] faced at the time.”

Next, Vice Adm. James W. Craw­ford III, then-Adm. DeRenzi’s deputy and now her suc­ces­sor, told Mr. Lorge by tele­phone that over­turn­ing the con­vic­tion would kill Mr. Lorge’s ca­reer.

It is that phone call for which de­fense at­tor­neys say they have new cor­rob­o­ra­tion in a June 5 sworn state­ment from Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan Dowl­ing. He was deputy staff judge ad­vo­cate for Mr. Lorge when he com­manded Navy Re­gion South­west and was con­sid­er­ing the Barry case.

Cmdr. Dowl­ing quoted thenAdm. Lorge as telling him, “Jim told me don’t put a tar­get on my back. He said I have smart lawyers; let them fig­ure it out.”

Cmdr. Dowl­ing asked who “Jim” was, and Mr. Lorge replied, “Jim Craw­ford.”

To David Shel­don, one of Chief Barry’s at­tor­neys, this is in­de­pen­dent proof that Adm. Craw­ford med­dled in a crim­i­nal case, an ac­tion out­lawed by the Uni­form Code of Mil­i­tary Jus­tice.

“This af­fi­davit re­moves any doubt that the very top lead­ers in the Navy JAGC [Judge Ad­vo­cate Gen­eral’s Corps] com­mit­ted un­law­ful com­mand in­flu­ence,” Mr. Shel­don told The Wash­ing­ton Times. “It con­firms that not only is there smoke, there is a con­fla­gra­tion burn­ing out of con­trol. It is, with­out ques­tion, time for the con­vic­tion of Se­nior Chief Barry to be over­turned and for the Judge Ad­vo­cate Gen­eral of the Navy to re­sign.”

Navy pub­lic af­fairs has de­clined to com­ment on the case.

Navy lawyers have filed rebuttal briefs. They told the ap­peals court that, in­stead of ap­point­ing a spe­cial mas­ter, it should send the case to a new con­ven­ing au­thor­ity in San Diego and let that ad­mi­ral de­ter­mine whether il­le­gal com­mand in­flu­ence hap­pened.

Mr. Lorge’s ex­tra­or­di­nary sworn state­ment ac­cus­ing two ad­mi­ral-lawyers of mis­con­duct con­tained re­gret that he did not fol­low­ing his in­stincts in 2015: “On a per­sonal note, I would ask you to for­give my fail­ure in lead­er­ship and right the wrong that I com­mit­ted in this case against Se­nior Chief Barry; en­sure jus­tice pre­vails and when doubt ex­ists, al­low a man to re­main in­no­cent.

“Upon my re­view of the record of trial from this case, I did not find that the gov­ern­ment proved the al­le­ga­tion against Se­nior Chief Barry be­yond a rea­son­able doubt. Ab­sent the pres­sures de­scribed above, I would have dis­ap­proved the find­ings in this case,” he said.

Chief Barry, a com­bat vet­eran of Iraq, has prison time re­main­ing to serve but is free pend­ing the ap­peal.

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