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Navy Cook Pleads Guilty to Assault Aboard Jet

February 27, 1996

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ A Navy cook accused of groping and harassing an enlisted woman aboard an airplane pleaded guilty Monday in military court to simple assault. The prosecutor vowed to seek a conviction on more serious charges.

Chief Petty Officer George Powell said he was so drunk on the Oct. 27, 1995, commercial flight that he couldn’t remember anything that happened.

``I was in a blackout,″ he told military judge Cmdr. Nels Kelstrom. Powell has admitted in the past that he is an alcoholic, and has said he is receiving treatment.

He pleaded guilty to simple assault, drunk and disorderly conduct and disrespect to a commissioned officer. He pleaded innocent to one charge of failing to obey an order.

Prosecutor Lt. Cmdr. John Hannink said he would try to prove Powell committed indecent assault _ a more serious charge.

``I intend to show not only that these assaults were consummated with battery but they were indecent assaults,″ Hannink said. ``They were done with the intent to gratify his lust or sexual desire.″

Powell also pleaded innocent to one count of indecent assault involving a separate incident in January 1995.

He faces a maximum sentence of six months in prison, a loss of two-thirds pay and a bad conduct discharge.

Powell was accused of groping a 23-year-old 3rd class petty officer sitting next to him on a flight from Virginia to California, where they had attended the decommissioning of the USS Samuel Gompers.

The woman testified Monday that Powell ignored her repeated pleas for him to stop. She moved away from him and at one point slapped his face. Once when she fell asleep, she awoke to find his hand between her legs near her crotch.

She has acknowledged that she declined other passengers’ offers to switch seats, saying she could handle the situation.

Powell also is accused of grabbing the breast of another woman, also a 3rd class petty officer, in January 1995 as she helped prepare breakfast aboard the Samuel Gompers. The woman testified Monday that she never reported the incident because she knew that Powell, who was drunk, was an alcoholic and she pitied him.

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