Did admirals conspire to falsely punish a Navy SEAL?

A military judge ruled Oct. 24 that the Navy Judge Advocate General illegally intervened in the sexual assault trial of a decorated Navy SEAL.

Air Force Col. Vance H. Spath ruled Oct. 24 that Vice Adm. James Crawford, the Navy’s top lawyer, exerted unlawful command influence in the case of Senior Chief Keith E. Barry in 2015.

The naval officer overseeing Barry’s judge-only court-martial had planned to overturn his 2014 conviction, having decided the SEAL was not guilty of sexual assault against a girlfriend with whom he had an intense sexual relationship.

But the now-retired Rear Adm. Patrick Lorge was persuaded not to act by Adm. Crawford, who was the Navy’s second-ranking lawyer at that time.

Vice Admiral James W. Crawford III, Navy Judge Advocate General. Photo from US Navy.

Vice Admiral James W. Crawford III, Navy Judge Advocate General. Photo from US Navy.

“Actual or apparent unlawful command influence tainted the final action in this case,” Col. Spath wrote in his opinion Oct. 24.

The Air Force judge also bemoaned the effect the intervention has brought to the military justice system.

“As the judge who conducted the … hearing, it appears the final action taken in this case is unfortunate as it does not engender confidence in the processing of this case or the military justice system as a whole,” said Col. Spath, the Air Force’s chief trial judge.

Mr. Lorge, who was the convening authority in the Barry case in San Diego, stayed silent for two years. But last summer he swore out an affidavit saying he was riven by guilt and should have stuck by his guns.

Rear Adm. Patrick J. Lorge. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kiona Miller.

Rear Adm. Patrick J. Lorge. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kiona Miller.

The Washington Times first reported on the extraordinary action by Mr. Lorge, a former combat pilot.

David Sheldon, Chief Barry’s civilian defense counsel, said: “This morning a Military Judge made extraordinary findings in a case that will shake the very foundations of the military and the Navy JAG Corps. The court found that the current Judge Advocate General of the Navy committed unlawful command influence when he advised and persuaded a Convening Authority to approve the findings of a court-martial against a US Navy SEAL for political reasons, despite the Convening Authority’s firm belief the SEAL was not guilty of the charge and had not received a fair trial.”

Also Read: Reports of sexual assault in the military increase

The military justice system has been under intense political pressure from Congress to convict those charged with sexual assault.

The next step is for the case to go back to the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which had ordered the inquiry by Col. Spath. The military’s highest court decreed that no Navy or Marine Corps judge be involved.

A gavel sits on display in a military courtroom Jan. 29, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class William Johnson.


A gavel sits on display in a military courtroom Jan. 29, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class William Johnson.

Col. Spath oversaw a two-day hearing last month at the Washington Navy Yard. His opinion depicts an anguished Adm. Lorge wanting to overturn the conviction but being pushed by his legal adviser to affirm it and being persuaded by Adm. Crawford.

Then-Adm. Lorge reviewed the trial record in April and June 2015.

“RAM Lorge developed significant concerns about the case,” Col. Spath wrote. “His particular concerns were related to his perception the trial judge was not objective, his belief that the appellant may not have committed the crime for which he stood convicted, and his belief that the appellant had not received a fair trial.

During Adm. Lorge’s deliberations, Adm. Crawford had two conversations with him, one by telephone the other in person.

USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse.

USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse.

Col. Spath wrote about the first conversation: “RADM Lorge’s ultimate impression was that VADM Crawford believed RADM Lorge should approve the findings and sentence in the case. While VADM Crawford may not have said these actual words, based on the conversations during the meeting, RADM Lorge was clearly left with that belief after the meeting. The meeting confirmed the pressures on the system at a minimum.”

“What seems evident is RADM Lorge believes pressure was brought to bear on him to take particular action in this case,” the colonel wrote.

Related: Anonymous reports reveal military sexual misconduct truths

The Navy Judge Advocate General at that time, Vice Adm. Nanette DeRenzi, also spoke to Adm. Lorge, but well before the Barry court-martial. She talked about the intense pressure the Navy was under from Congress in sexual assault cases.

Col. Spath explained her discussion: “She told RADM Lorge that every three or four months decisions were made regarding sexual assault cases that caused further scrutiny by Congress and other political and military leaders. She also told RADM Lorge that a good deal of her time was being taken up with testimony and visits to both Capitol Hill and the White House.”

Vice Adm. Nanette DeRenzi (right), U.S. Navy’s judge advocate general, talks to sailors who work at the Justice Center in Parwan, Nov. 6, 2012. DOD photo by Army Sgt. Katie D. Summerhill.

Vice Adm. Nanette DeRenzi (right), US Navy’s judge advocate general, talks to sailors who work at the Justice Center in Parwan, Nov. 6, 2012. DOD photo by Army Sgt. Katie D. Summerhill.

President Obama had ordered the Pentagon to launch a comprehensive campaign to wipe out sexual harassment and assault.

“VADM DeRenzi was simply discussing the realities of the current environment in which she and commanders were operating at the time, particularly in relation to sexual assault,” Col. Spath wrote.

“RADM Lorge did not take the action he wanted to take in this case; RADM Lorge was influenced by conversations with senior military leaders; specifically VADM DeRenzi and VADM Crawford when taking action in this case,” the Air Force judge concluded.

Patty Babb, a spokeswoman for Adm. Crawford, issued a statement: “On October 24, 2017, the military judge presiding over the DuBay hearing in US v. Barry issued findings of fact in the case. Those findings will now be considered by the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. As always, the Navy wishes to preserve the integrity of the court’s deliberation, and it will therefore refrain from commenting on matters related to the case at this time.”

TOP ARTICLES
US Navy helps search for submarine lost for nearly a week

On November 19th, the United States Navy joined NASA and other countries in the search for an Argentinian submarine that went missing November 15th.

Sexual assault at Fort Bragg up 28 percent over last year

A summary released by the Department of Defense shows reports of sexual assault from Fort Bragg increased by 28 percent in 2016 over the year before.

ISIS' last town in Iraq falls to Iraqi security forces

Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition retook Rawah on Nov. 17, the last town in the country that was held by the Islamic State group.

Why Chinese bombers suddenly flew so close to Okinawa

China just sent a set of H-6 bombers and and intelligence gathering aircraft through international airspace between Okinawa and Miyoko. Here's why.

That time Politifact took Duffel Blog seriously

Duffel Blog finally holds their heads up high as the "The American military's Most Trusted news source" was given the dubious honors of being ranked as "Pants on Fire" by Politifact.

This amazing Air Force cadet is now a Rhodes Scholar

An Air Force Academy student has been named a Rhodes Scholar, winning a full ride scholarship to the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Watch this bomber's rare low-level flyover of powerful Navy carriers

The B-1B may be a strategic bomber with a lot of firepower, but it is the type of plane that can fulfill a pilots' need for speed in the air.

This is why enlisted Marines should wear rank on their sleeves

The rank on U.S. Marine Corps utilities has only been on the collar since 1959. It's actually more traditional to wear rank on the sleeve.

6 simple reasons the cook should always be your best friend

There are three people you should always be friends with. The cook. The medic (or Corpsman.) And whatever the MOS of the person repeating the phrase.

Why marijuana's potential benefits for vets outweigh the risks

Marijuana may get more use as a treatment for PTSD and other medical issues as more than 90 percent of veterans support marjuana use and development.