Resignations in lieu of courts-martial can be a way for the military to avoid adverse publicity from a public and potentially sensational trial.

Days before the court-martial of the nation’s first female B-52 pilot on adultery and other charges in 1997, the Air Force Secretary suggested she’d consider allowing 1st Lt. Kelly Flinn to resign with an honorable discharge in order to avoid “further spectacle of a high-profile court-martial,” according to the New York Times.

An honorable discharge under those circumstances would have been highly unusual.

Flinn was facing charges of adultery, fraternization, disobeying a direct order and making a false sworn statement.

The Air Force was concerned not only because the prosecution was unpopular but the court-martial could have exposed other cases of adultery, fraternization or other crimes under military law that have not been prosecuted, the Times said.

In the end, Flinn resigned with a general discharge.

Earlier this year, the Army offered a resignation in lieu of court-martial to an Iraq-deployed lieutenant with a previously spotless record who, in an apparent episode of psychotic depression, had pulled a gun on another officer and then shot herself in the stomach.

Maj. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, then head of Walter Reed Medical Center and now the Army’s surgeon general, said a resignation in lieu of court-martial was too harsh for 1st Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside.

“Resignation in lieu of court-martial eliminates all of the benefits of medical support this officer deserves after 7 years of credible and honorable service,” Schoomaker wrote in his dissent, according to the Washington Post.

In the end, charges against Whiteside were dismissed after she attempted suicide again.

Three years ago, an Air Force lieutenant charged with bribery, extortion, rape, assault, larceny, adultery, dereliction of duty, making false statements and conduct unbecoming an officer — all said to have occurred while he headed a military police patrol of the district of bars, restaurants and other businesses just outside Osan Air Base in South Korea — asked to resign instead of going to court-martial.

That request was blasted by local civic groups, and the resignation was not allowed.

In the end, 1st Lt. Jason D. Davis was convicted and sentenced to two years’ confinement and dismissal from the Air Force.

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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