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Sailor's lawyer says Navy report on USS Wyoming sets up more problems

Little could have been done to prevent crewmembers aboard the submarine USS Wyoming, seen here, from secretly recording women showering on board, the Navy said in an investigation released Tuesday.

REBECCA REBARICH/U.S. NAVY

By GORDON JACKSON | The Brunswick News, Ga. | Published: November 18, 2015

ST. MARYS, Ga. (Tribune News Service) — A recently released Navy investigation into the videotape scandal aboard the USS Wyoming makes no new recommendations regarding the use of electronic devices aboard the ballistic missile submarine.

And to one Camden County lawyer, that’s disappointing and risky. Jim Stein, who defended one of the men charged in the scandal, said the Navy is setting itself up for more problems.

The report concludes the ship was following established procedures and recommended no further action be taken regarding the improper use of personal electronic devices aboard submarines.

“It was the deliberate and illegal activity of a handful of abhorrent sailors who have been properly held accountable,” the report said.

The investigation revealed seven videos were made of three female officers undressing and showering aboard the ship, but they never found videos of female midshipmen who were allegedly recorded when they were aboard the ship during a deployment from March to June 2014. A total of 53 female passengers were aboard the ship during that deployment, the report said.

“All other videos or pictures of officers or riders were reported to have been deleted,” the report said. “It cannot be determined who was improperly recorded and to what extent.”

Navy investigators learned about the videos when a sailor aboard the USS West Virginia informed the chief of the boat that a sailor from the Wyoming had told him about the videos. The chief reported the information to the chief staff officer and command master chief of Submarine Squadron 20, the report said.

The sailors took the videos from a storage area nicknamed the “wine cellar,” located adjacent to the women officers’ bathroom which they share with male officers aboard the ship. The sailors convicted of recording the women on their cellphones took the images through gaps in the foam covering the pipes leading into the bathroom.

Three sailors received prison sentences and were discharged for their roles. Three other sailors were court-martialed, fined and reduced in rank for their roles. One sailor was found not guilty of conspiring to share the videos.

Members of both crews were issued “Standards of Conduct” instruction requiring all crew members to acknowledge understanding the rules regarding the respect for privacy of individual crew members.

“No amount of barriers will be able to prevent all illegal attempts to record personnel and the upholding of standards and holding personnel accountable is the best method to prevent recurrence,” the report said.

Rear Adm. Charles Richard, commander Submarine Group 10, said the boat’s command staff was not responsible, but he expressed disappointment in those who were.

“In this case, several members of the crew should have come forward with this as soon as it becomes known to others,” Richard wrote.

While it’s impossible to stop a sailor intent on this type of misconduct, Richard said there are things that can be done to minimize the possibility it could happen again.

“I will provide recommendations to do this through separate correspondence to the type commander for action across the force,” he said. “These recommendations will primarily focus on bystander intervention and early reporting of known violations.”

Stein, a St. Marys lawyer, helped represent Petty Officer 2nd Class Charles Greaves, who was sentenced to two years in prison and given a dishonorable discharge. Stein said he was disappointed because the Navy is not recommending any changes to its personal electronic device policy.

“Leaving it as it is is a plan for disaster,” he said. “There is no question in my mind it’s a whitewash.”

gjackson@thebrunswicknews.com

©2015 The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Ga.)
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