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Navy Commander Can Stay in Service

July 3, 1999

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ A Navy officer who was relieved of command on a destroyer after a female sailor accused him of sexual misconduct is being allowed to remain in the service.

A Navy Board of Inquiry concluded last week that, while wrong, Cmdr. Thomas Rossi’s behavior did not warrant a discharge. The board also noted his 19 years of outstanding service.

Rossi, removed last October from his post on the USS John Hancock, is now stationed at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., and will be eligible to retire with full pension when he completes his 20th year in the service.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Laura Solomon, a former gunner’s mate on the Hancock, accused Rossi of harassing her.

Mrs. Solomon, 23, said that after bumping into Rossi last October at a Navy club in Virginia, while their ship was docked at Yorktown, she was summoned to Rossi’s cabin on the Hancock and found him lying down, wearing shorts and a T-shirt.

Mrs. Solomon said he asked her about her marriage, suggested that she lie down, and kissed her. She said she left and immediately reported what had happened to the ship’s senior enlisted member and executive officer.

She said Rossi later apologized.

Mrs. Solomon’s lawyer, Jay Howell, questioned the decision to let Rossi retire with full benefits.

``The message is not enough to deter this kind of conduct in the future,″ he said. ``The Navy has an obligation to protect its sailors.″

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