YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan – A former USS Bonhomme Richard sailor who slashed a shipmate with a hatchet pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to three years in prison by a court-martial jury Thursday night.
Seaman Apprentice Delzhea M. Chatman, 20, also pleaded guilty to an obstruction of justice charge after tossing the hatchet into the ocean at Sasebo Naval Base in July.
Witnesses at the sentencing hearing said Chatman became enraged after Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Moreno insinuated that Chatman was gay, and then used gay slurs before pushing him at a barbecue on July 6.
Chatman told military judge Cmdr. John Maksym that he left the barbecue, went to the base exchange store and bought a hatchet.
Chatman then stored the hatchet in a locker inside the Brodie’s/Chili’s restaurant building. When he saw Moreno standing outside, he grabbed the hatchet and sliced Moreno near the knee, in front of mutual acquaintances.
“It was a lot of blood gushing out,” Moreno testified. “It was split open wide, (a) deep gash.”
Moreno said he is still rehabilitating his leg but is expected to make a full recovery. Moreno added that he had forgiven Chatman.
In an unsworn statement, Chatman apologized to the court, Moreno, his Navy mentors and his family for letting them down.
“Every time someone mentions my name, [my grandmother] starts crying, because of the expectations she had for me,” Chatman said. “Delinquency has been an ongoing problem in my family, and I wanted to end that cycle.”
The jury also sentenced Chatman to a reduction in rank to E-1, gave him a bad-conduct discharge and ordered to forfeit all pay and allowances. The plea agreement, struck shortly before the trial was set to begin, would have sentenced Chatman to as much as four years in prison.