Camp Foster Marine jailed for desertion
Stars and Stripes June 16, 2007
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A Marine was sentenced to nine months in jail after pleading guilty to desertion, forgery and other charges Thursday.
Pfc. Christopher L. Dutton, 20, with Marine Wing Communication Squadron 18, also received a bad-conduct discharge, reduction to private and forfeiture of $860 a month for nine months for charges that included forging a leave slip, unauthorized absence and desertion for more than a month.
Personnel are required to present travel orders or leave authorizations to commercial airlines at Naha International Airport in order to board airplanes. But, Dutton said, other Marines had told him airline personnel were not familiar with English and just looked for a destination on any paperwork.
The unsigned document he created looked official enough “to allow me to leave the island,” he said. He had been on Okinawa for about 50 days when he flew to Rochester, N.Y., in January.
In an unsworn statement, Dutton said his parents were going through a difficult divorce in the States and he was unhappy here.
After phone and e-mail conversations with his unit’s sergeant major and repeated urgings from his father, Dutton on Feb. 12 turned himself in at a Reserve unit near his home in Hamlin, N.Y., he said.
The Reserve unit gave Dutton travel orders to return to Okinawa on Feb. 27, but he decided the day before not to return, said Dutton, who joined the Marines in March 2006.
“I wasn’t going to go back despite his (father’s) efforts or my unit’s efforts. It was a permanent thing,” Dutton said.
Local authorities arrested him April 3 and returned him to the Marine Corps.
Dutton also pleaded guilty to distributing a controlled substance to his roommate in January.
Following dental surgery, Dutton received a prescription for OxyContin, a painkiller. He said he shared a pill or two of the narcotic with his roommate, he said.
He also pleaded guilty to a general orders violation relating to the unlawful use of a controlled substance.
Prosecutor Capt. Robert Eckert asked the court to make an example of Dutton.
“In a time when 156,000 Americans are serving in Iraq, [Dutton] wasn’t happy here, so … he left and though his parents begged him to come back, he didn’t,” Eckert said.
Defense counsel Capt. K. Milton asked the court for clemency regarding confinement saying “he chose the wrong course.”
Dutton faced a maximum sentence of a year in jail, a bad-conduct discharge, and forfeiture of two-thirds pay for a year.