HONOLULU – The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet on Friday told the former captain of the USS Greeneville he will not face a court-martial over the Feb. 9 sinking of the Ehime Maru but will instead receive a nonjudicial punishment as early as Monday, sources close to the case said.
Adm. Thomas Fargo is expected to order former Greeneville Cmdr. Scott Waddle to undergo a disciplinary hearing without a court-martial for his role in the sinking of the 499-ton Ehime Maru, which left nine Japanese missing at sea, including four high school students, the sources said.
In the hearing, known as an admiral’s mast, Waddle could be asked to submit a letter of resignation to end his nearly 20-year navy career with an honorable discharge and his rank and pension intact.
In that event, Waddle would probably leave the service with an honorable discharge after he reaches 20 years’ service on May 27.
The decision by Fargo to skip a court-martial follows a recommendation by a U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry, which investigated the incident from March 5 to March 20.
In a report presented April 13, three admirals who presided over the court recommended that Fargo evaluate the case through an admiral’s mast rather than a court-martial.
Waddle’s attorney Charles Gittins said Waddle will attend the hearing and is entitled to present evidence and call witnesses.
“An admiral’s mast punishment is a significant punishment for a military officer/commander/submarine captain, and Scott will agree to such a punishment and accept it without dispute,” Gittins wrote in an e-mail.
Gittins said an officer cannot be punished in an admiral’s mast if he or she objects to it. He said his client plans to leave the navy after the procedures are complete.
The punishment Fargo decides upon may range from a one-month confinement to a forfeiture of pay and a letter of reprimand. It will probably be determined in a meeting that is not expected to take more than one hour.
Only the final disciplinary judgment will be disclosed following the closed hearing.
While Gittins feels the procedure itself is sufficient punishment, retired Rear Adm. Eugene Carroll said he believes it is too lenient for an incident that left nine people dead. Carroll, who serves as vice president of the Center for Defense Information, a Washington think tank, also expressed concern over the message such a light sentence may convey to the navy.
Fargo is also expected to determine punishments for other Greeneville crew members, including Petty Officer 1st class Patrick Seacrest, who was the sub’s fire control operator at the time. Seacrest reportedly failed to inform the crew that the Ehime Maru was on a collision course with the sub. Seacrest is expected to attend an administrative hearing in which a punishment will be determined.
Expected to face less severe forms of disciplinary action are Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Pfeifer, the sub’s executive officer; Lt. j.g. Michael Coen, the deck officer at the time of the crash; Capt. Robert Brandhuber, the sub fleet’s chief of staff; and Lt. Cmdr. Dave Werner, a public affairs officer who arranged the VIP cruise.
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