Former commander of Guantanamo Bay Navy base sentenced to federal prison
A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a former commander at the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba naval base to two years in prison for attempting to cover up a drunken fight with a commissioner who was later found dead in the bay.
Testimony during the trial indicated that the fight at the official residence of the now retired Navy Captain John R. Nettleton, 54, followed a night of drinking during a ceremony at the base's private officers' club. At the party, 42-year-old Christopher Tur Nettleton loudly accused of having an affair with his wife.
US District Judge Timothy J. Corrigan pronounced the verdict on six cases, including obstruction of justice, after a nearly day-long hearing in Jacksonville. During the hearing, Tur's mother and siblings were emotionally pushing for a severe sentence, while three former military officers identified Nettleton as a seasoned attack helicopter pilot who had lived a life of integrity.
"Any period of incarceration is anything but a slap on the wrist," the judge said as he passed the verdict through a mask at the largest hearing of the pandemic in the courthouse. Some people attended or listened by phone, others watched the video feed. "Capt. Nettleton will be held accountable and I think it is appropriate and I hope it can be seen in that light. "
The Federal Prosecutor's Office had requested a prison sentence of 37 to 46 months, citing the guidelines for the conviction. Defense attorneys had not requested time or house arrest.
Tur was found dead and swimming in Guantánamo Bay on January 11, 2015, two days after the fight and after Nettleton ordered the military and other residents to conduct a full search for him. Tur had four broken ribs, an injured forehead, and potentially fatal amounts of Prozac and alcohol in his system. A medical examiner ruled his death was caused by drowning, likely an accident.
Before pronouncing the verdict, the judge said, “This is not a murder case. This is not a murder case. It is not a case of Captain Nettleton being accused or convicted of causing Mr. Tur's death. "
Rather, a civil jury found that during the search, Nettleton did not report that he had fought with Tur, denied another officer that Tur had come to his house, and lied about the affair with Lara Tur, who runs the grassroots social service headed department.
Tur's family members urged the judge to violate the guideline for sentencing and deliver a message to other military personnel about the cost of drunkenness, infidelity and lying. Some argued that if Nettleton had called the base police after the fight, Tur would be alive.
"What message will it send to other members of the military if the sentencing are guidelines?" said Ann Tur, his mother. "If you are not of high rank, are you not entitled to justice? Senior officers in the Navy, the Justice Department, will be watching this closely. A good man, my little boy, is dead."
Prior to sentencing, Nettleton told the judge that he had been "humiliated" by the support of his friends and family, including his ex-wife, and that "I honestly don't know what I would decide" if he were in the position of judge would.
"Command is an honor and a responsibility," he said. "I have failed and I know that I am responsible for my actions."
Nettleton was sentenced on Jan. 17 after a week-long trial that rarely saw the spotlight on the small-town nature of the base of 6,000 people.
John Bogdan, a retired Army Colonel who served as overseer of Guantánamo Prison, described Nettleton as a bridge builder who, after years of rivalries and sharpness, fostered a climate of respect and cooperation between base residents and soldiers who, in the short term Tours in prison work.
"It took a lot of effort and a lot of personal courage on John's part to claim the Navy was there to support the army," said Bogdan, adding that Nettleton had sent the message, "taking a contrary opinion have "mission was ineffective. "
To illustrate the captain's integrity, Bogdan personally recalled that one night in Guantánamo police arrested her two 16-year-old sons and Nettleton withdrew from the case and his deputy, the base executive officer, was conducting an investigation.
The retired Heckadm. Greg Nosal, a former fighter pilot now with Lockheed Martin who was Nettleton's commanding officer aboard the Persian Gulf USS Enterprise in 2005, told the judge the captain was a man of "integrity, character, charisma". who took care of his people and advocated “what is right?”.
A Nettleton attorney, Colby Vokey, asked if his client could surrender to serve his sentence after Christmas. The judge, who previously said that "the risk of Captain Nettleton committing a crime in the future is as close to zero as any case I have seen," replied that the Bureau of Prisons will deal with the pandemic, the U.S. marshals service would notify them when the sentence would begin.
This article was produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
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