YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan -– The day after a federal class-action lawsuit was filed to force the Pentagon to change the way it handles rape and sexual abuse charges, the captain who oversaw a Navy doctor’s controversial sexual assault trial was removed from command for failing to preserve victim rights, the Navy confirmed Thursday.
Capt. Rex Guinn, commander of the Navy Region Legal Service Office Japan, was personally removed by Naval Legal Service commander Rear Adm. Nanette DeRenzi at Yokosuka Naval Base on Thursday, Navy spokesman Lt. Justin Cole said.
DeRenzi’s statement cited a “loss of confidence in his ability to command” after Guinn’s handling of the case against Lt. Commander Anthony Velasquez, a doctor who had been charged in 2010 with sexually assaulting at least 23 female patients while serving at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, and Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
“The relief is a result of his failure to adequately resource, supervise, and oversee the Velasquez case,” DeRenzi said in her statement.
Velasquez spent only seven days in the brig after pleading guilty to two counts of wrongful sexual contact and two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer. In exchange for those guilty pleas, prosecutors dropped 29 other counts of sexual misconduct and related charges.
After the case’s conclusion, multiple victims expressed outrage to Stars and Stripes over what they said was a lenient sentence.
In handling the case, Guinn’s office did not properly follow guidelines set down by the Victim and Witness Assistance Program, according to an investigation initiated Dec. 27 by the Office of the Judge Advocate General. That investigation stemmed from an August probe by the Commander Navy Installations Command Inspector General that found similar faults with Guinn’s office, Cole said.
The Victim and Witness Assistance Program was introduced to the Navy in 1996 to keep victims informed and solicit their input on prosecutions.
In the Velasquez case, the victims’ views on the plea deal “were not obtained and forwarded to the convening authority in any meaningful degree,” Cole said.
Victims were also sent misleading information regarding Velasquez’s sentence, according to an e-mail obtained by Stars and Stripes last year.
The e-mail sent to the victims, which included Guinn as the senior officer on the distribution list, told victims that a military judge had sentenced Velasquez to 24 months in prison, a $28,000 fine and pay forfeitures. The e-mail made no mention of the plea agreement that limited Velasquez’s brig time to seven days and exempted the financial penalties.
Seven other members of Guinn’s office received administrative action for their failure to uphold victim rights. Administrative actions vary, but often include reprimands, counseling and additional training. The Navy considers such actions as personnel matters protected by privacy laws and did not elaborate.
Guinn has been reassigned in the Yokosuka Naval Base area pending further action, Navy officials said.
When reached Thursday by Stars and Stripes, attorneys at the Navy Region Legal Service Office Japan in Yokosuka declined comment.
Guinn is being replaced by Capt. Dawn Tompkins, Cole said. Tompkins served as Special Assistant for Transformation at the Office of the Judge Advocate General.
Guinn is the second commanding officer to be relieved of command this year, following USS Enterprise commanding officer Capt. Owen Honors.
Guinn is a native of Fort Gibson, Okla., and attended the Boston College and George Washington University schools of law, according to a profile posted at classmates.com.
In 2007, Guinn prosecuted the conviction of Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Diaz, a Navy lawyer who leaked classified information about detainees at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The federal class-action suit was filed Tuesday by a group of U.S. veterans who say they were raped and abused by their comrades. They say servicemembers get away with rape and other sexual abuse, and that victims are too often ordered to continue to serve alongside those they say attacked them. The suit, which names Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, requests that an objective third party handle such complaints.