Navy officials: Ex-Guantanamo commander repeatedly lied about drunken brawl that left civilian dead
By ANNE SCHINDLER | The Florida Times-Union | Published: January 10, 2020
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — The third day of testimony in the criminal trial of a former Jacksonville, Fla.-based Navy captain is a sea of brass, including another captain and two sitting admirals.
The senior officers are being called to testify that John "J.R." Nettleton lied to his superiors and investigators following the disappearance and death of civilian contractor Christopher Tur in 2015.
Nettleton, 54, is not charged in the 42-year-old's death, but he is charged with obstruction of justice and lying to federal investigators.
Capt. Alonza Ross, who was Nettleton's second in command at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, testified Thursday that then-Cmdr. Nettleton lied twice when directly asked if Tur came to his house the night he went missing. His body was later recovered from the waters of Guantanamo Bay.
When asked a third time, Ross said Nettleton admitted Tur came to his house but didn't acknowledge the pair got in a bloody fistfight.
"I asked," Ross testified. "He said no, he didn't come to the house."
Ross also testified Nettleton refused to tell his boss, Navy Adm. Mary Jackson, about his drunken confrontation with Tur at the base's officers club that same night, or Tur's shouted allegations that Nettleton "f----- my wife."
"I was prompting him: You need to tell her all the details about the 'Hail and Farewell' [party] and the argument that ensued after that, so she's aware of everything that happened," Ross said. "He said she didn't need to know all that."
Thursday's testimony included Adm. Christopher Gray, who was Jackson's chief of staff in 2015 when he was removed from command.
Gray testified that Nettleton initially provided very little information about the matter. He reported Tur as a missing person without saying anything about his affair with his wife, the explosive confrontation they had at the officers club or the fight at his home.
Nettleton did eventually acknowledge Tur came to his house, Gray testified. "He said, 'I didn't say anything [sooner] because I didn't think it was particularly relevant,' which was stunning to me. It was incomprehensible that he thought I would feel this was in no way relevant — that a man had gone missing and shown up dead and he was the last person to see him at his house, and the greater implications because of that."
Even after Nettleton acknowledged Tur came to his house the night he went missing, he never said the two fought.
"My jaw dropped to the ground," Gray said. He testified if he'd known that information, "it would have dramatically turned the situation."
Jackson, who removed Nettleton from his command Jan. 21, 2015, testified he misdirected her and other officials to conceal his confrontation with Tur and the fact that he was the last person to see him.
Nettleton could face up to 100 years in prison if convicted of all counts against him.
There is no court Friday. The trial, which is expected to last three weeks, resumes Monday morning.