Marine Convicted of Sexual Harassment, Gets Light Penalty
PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) _ A Marine drill sergeant found guilty of sexually harassing Navy women was sentenced Wednesday to a penalty even lighter than what his own defense lawyers had suggested.
A prosecutor had pushed for Gunnery Sgt. Michael E. Wallace to be sentenced to two years imprisonment, loss of all pay and a bad-conduct discharge.
″In the military it’s not good enough that you can fight in a foxhole, that you can lead men,″ said Navy Lt. Carol Lynch, the prosecutor. ″This conduct needs to stop.″
But the judge at Wallace’s court-martial, Marine Maj. John Walsh, ordered a reduction in rank of two grades to sergeant and forfeiture of $250 per month for three months. The defense had suggested the same rank reduction and a pay loss of $500 per month for four months.
Wallace, 34, was accused of making advances and physically touching female officer trainees ″to satisfy his own sexual desires, his own sexual needs or lust,″ Lynch told the judge.
In one instance Wallace allegedly put his hand and a piece of ice down the pants of a woman student during a party at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.
A second Marine drill instructor at the Aviation Officer Candidate School, Gunnery Sgt. Clifton W. Ford, is scheduled for court-martial Monday on the same charges plus disrespect toward a superior.
The Pensacola cases are among numerous sexual harassment complaints that have surfaced this year in the Navy. They include allegations that aviators fondled and removed clothing from at least 26 women, including fellow officers, during the annual Tailhook Association convention last year in Las Vegas.
Walsh, stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., found Wallace guilty of dereliction of duty through failure to obey orders or regulations, cruelty and maltreatment and indecent assault. Wallace had waived a jury trial.
Before his sentencing, Wallace apologized for bringing dishonor on the Marines and the officer school and asked Walsh to permit him to stay in the corps at any rank. ″The Marine Corps is my life,″ he said.
Wallace has numerous decorations, including one for saving the life of a women who testified against him. He used the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge a piece of pancake that was choking Stacy Holland, now an ensign and a supply officer in Athens, Ga.
The Navy also has charged Ensign Traci Fischer, now a flight student in Pensacola, with perjury and fraternization with Wallace, her former drill instructor. Her commanding officer is awaiting an investigatory report before deciding on what, if any, disciplinary action to take.
Wallace’s wife had complained to her husband’s superiors, alleging he had been having an affair with Ms. Fischer. She later recanted her charge and Wallace, who did not testify at his court-martial, denied it during a pretrial hearing Monday.
The wife’s allegations, however, triggered an investigation that began in January, prior to publicity about the Tailhook scandal, and led to the charges against her husband, Ford and Ms. Fischer.
Wallace’s defense presented no testimony to rebut most of the charges but contended regulations on fraternization and sexual harassment were unclear and unenforced.
One defense lawyer, Marine Maj. Charles Jones, argued that witnesses and sworn statements attesting to Wallace’s upstanding character were sufficient to create a reasonable doubt about the allegations.
Seven women testified during the three-day trial. Several said they were afraid to report Wallace’s actions because they feared retribution.