Support our mission

NAPLES, Italy — A five-member jury acquitted a Navy chief petty officer Wednesday on allegations that he had fondled a girl last year.

Chief Petty Officer Felix Correa let out a sigh of relief as the jury foreman announced the not guilty verdict on the charge of indecent acts with a minor.

The jury of three officers and two senior enlisted sailors deliberated for nearly two hours.

“The Correa family obviously is very happy with the verdict, and it reflects a fair deliberation by the panel,” his civilian defense attorney, David Sheldon, said after the Wednesday general court-martial session.

The not guilty verdict, however, does not mean an end to the legal turmoil for Correa.

On Monday, the 23-year veteran pleaded guilty to two unrelated charges of sexual harassment and fraternization, and faces a maximum sentence of four years’ confinement, reduction to the lowest pay grade of E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a dishonorable discharge.

The same panel of jurors, who were not told in advance that Correa had pleaded guilty to two other charges, now must decide what sentence to impose for the guilty pleas to sexual harassment and fraternization. They showed no reaction Wednesday afternoon as the military judge informed them of the other charges.

Before the jury withdrew shortly after 2 p.m. to decide Correa’s fate, Wednesday’s hearing consisted mostly of closing arguments in which lawyers for the two sides presented drastically different accounts of the girl’s stay with the Correas in the spring of 2005.

The girl, 13, who is not being named because of her age and because the case is of a sexual nature, stayed with the Correa family for several weeks between March and May 2005 while her mother, also a sailor, was in the States for training.

The defense told the jury a story of an angry girl, with a history of lying in order to get out of trouble. They argued the girl fabricated the allegation in order to get out of staying with the Correas so she could spend a weekend with her family and escape the restrictions the Correas had placed on her.

The prosecution presented a case of a trusted family friend who took advantage of a young girl and changed a bright, articulate, charismatic honor student into one who suffers nightmares and who sat hunched on the witness stand, speaking meekly, and never so much as glanced at her accused attacker.


stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up