Navy Cook Convicted of Indecent Assault
Feb. 28, 1996
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ A Navy cook accused of groping and harassing an enlisted woman aboard a commercial airline flight was convicted Tuesday in military court of indecent assault.
Chief Petty Officer George Powell had pleaded guilty Monday to simple assault, but the prosecutor sought a conviction on more serious charges. Military court allows prosecutors to continue with a trial even after a guilty plea.
Powell, an admitted alcoholic, had told military judge Cmdr. Nels Kelstrom that he was so drunk on the Oct. 27, 1995, commercial flight that he couldn't remember anything that happened.
``This accident started when Chief Powell elected to drink,'' said Lt. Cmdr. John Hannink, the prosecutor. ``The women have the right as sailors not to be exposed to conduct of this sort.''
He had pleaded guilty to simple assault, drunk and disorderly conduct and disrespect to a commissioned officer. He was convicted on five counts of indecent assault.
Powell was to be sentenced Wednesday morning.
Hannink recommended two reductions in rank to petty officer 2nd class, 90 days in prison with loss of two-thirds pay, and a bad conduct discharge when he is released from prison. Powell's attorney, Lt. Andrew Henderson, wanted one drop in rank to petty officer 1st class, no jail time and no bad conduct discharge.
``This is not the crime of the century,'' Henderson said. ``Indecent assault is not a nice thing, but let the punishment fit the offense.''
Powell was accused of groping a 23-year-old 3rd class petty officer sitting next to him on the 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.
She has acknowledged that she declined other passengers' offers to switch seats, saying she could handle the situation.
One count of the indecent assault charges stemmed from accusations Powell grabbed 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.