A Navy judge scolded the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy yesterday for e-mails sent to the school community insinuating the guilt of star quarterback Lamar S. Owens Jr., who faces court-martial next week on a charge of raping a female midshipman.Note the bold. Here is the kicker.
Cmdr. John A. Maksym said the e-mails -- written by the academy staff, approved by Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt and sent to faculty, students and alumni -- represent the "appearance of unlawful command influence."
"The reality is some of these are rather damnable e-mails," Maksym said from the bench, after Rempt testified at the hearing at Washington Navy Yard. "They insinuate guilt. They suggest it. They're simply badly written."
"I am disturbed by these e-mails," Maksym said. "This is not the way this is supposed to be done."
"Your primary duty . . . as convening authority is to be completely impartial," Maksym told the admiral. "Didn't you see an inherent conflict?"
In his testimony, Rempt said the e-mails, including one sent by his chief of staff in February as the accusations were becoming public, were meant to set the record straight and combat "the rumor mill" in the student body.
"I viewed it as the admiral's call to make sure the community understood the context," Rempt said on the witness stand. "I was concerned it was going to break in the press, and the command would look like we didn't know anything about it or were keeping quiet."
The Feb. 22 e-mail, sent by Capt. Helen Dunn, referred to the woman who is accusing Owens as the "sexual assault victim" but did not preface the phrase with "alleged" or other qualifying language.
Rempt pointed out that language elsewhere in the e-mails emphasized that Owens is innocent until proven guilty and said that there was no intent to imply otherwise.
Maksym said the e-mails leave the impression that the admiral was more concerned with public relations and how the incident would be received by Congress and the Pentagon than in ensuring that Owens gets a fair trial.CDR Maksym; Bravo Zulu. You have brought honor to the Navy, the Officer Corps, and the system of justice that should function to serve us all.
"This is almost like a trial by . . . public affairs," he said. "He didn't need to send these out."
We are going to see more of this coming up, especially in LT Blacks turn on stage at the Carnival of Courts Martial this summer. We will see a similar pattern of emails and discussions that have gone on at the Severn School for Wayward Boys and Girls. Not our finest hour.
Cross posted at MilBlogs.