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Homosexual Advance Described in Case That Brought Down ‘Ethics Admiral’

January 13, 1993

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ A sailor testified Wednesday that a petty officer made a homosexual advance to him during a long car trip, an incident that led to the ouster of the Navy’s ″ethics admiral,″ who allegedly covered it up.

Vice Adm. Jack Fetterman had been the official responsible for rooting out sexual bias in the Navy. He was appointed to the post after the scandal over sexual harassment at the Tailhook convention of Navy aviators.

His career ended after he allegedly covered up allegations against his aide, Chief Petty Officer Edmond Bonnot.

In a hearing Wednesday that could lead to court martial proceedings, Navy prosecutors’ first witness, Petty Officer 3rd Class Timothy C. Cole, testified that Bonnot fondled his chest as they drove to Pensacola in November 1991.

Cole said he was driving the car and Bonnot was sitting in the back seat when he felt Bonnot’s hand on his chest.

″Did you assume it was a homosexual advance on you?″ asked Cmdr. Eldon D. Risher III, the hearing officer.

″That’s what I assumed, yes,″ Cole replied.

Cole, who testified he had been drinking when the alleged activity occurred, said another sailor told him that Bonnot offered to perform oral sex.

Bonnot faces five indecent assault charges, two charges of assault with intent to commit sodomy and one charge each of communication of indecent language and solicitation to commit sodomy. The actions allegedly took place in San Diego on Oct. 27, 1987, and in Pensacola on Nov. 2, 1991.

At the end of the Article 32 hearing - the Navy’s equivalent of a grand jury proceeding - Risher will decide whether to recommend that Bonnot face a court martial, whether the case should be handled in another manner or whether the charges should be dismissed.

This is the second Article 32 for Bonnot, who has said he will deny the charges again.

Allegations that Fetterman tried to protect his aide after the first Article 32 hearing led him to resign as Chief of Naval Education and Training at Pensacola Naval Air Station and seek retirement.

Fetterman developed the Navy ethics training program prompted by the scandal surrounding the September 1991 Tailhook Association convention, at which naval aviators stripped clothing from and fondled at least 26 women, many of them fellow flyers.

After the charges were leveled against Bonnot, Fetterman ordered Bonnot’s supervisor, Cmdr. Wayne Hurst, to investigate. Hurst requested an Article 32 hearing that resulted in a recommendation last February that Bonnot face court-martial.

Instead, Hurst ordered a reprimand for Bonnot and a requirement that he go through alcohol counseling. Fetterman went along with the lower-ranking officer’s decision without review. He later said he was abiding by the Navy’s tradition of trusting the judgment of a commanding officer.

In April, about the same time the charges were dismissed, the Navy received an anonymous call that accused Fetterman of protecting his aide.

An Inspector General’s report concluded that Fetterman should have turned the matter over to Naval Investigative Services. The admiral said an investigation would have taken too long and he needed a quick solution.