A U.S. Coast Guard seaman will spend 14 months in military prison followed by a bad conduct discharge for his part in the death of a fellow crew member in late January 2019.
A general court-martial concluded Sept. 17 that Ethan Tucker was not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide, according to Senior Chief NyxoLyno Cangemi.
However, the judge did find Tucker guilty of the remainder of his charges: making a false official statement, assault consummated by a battery, consuming alcohol underage and for doing or failing to do certain acts that contributed to a Coast Guard member’s death.
According to the Coast Guard, Ethan Kelch, 19, was reported missing Jan. 26, 2019, while the Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro was in port receiving repairs. He was found unresponsive the following day on the west side of Amaknak Island.
Charges were announced days later by the Coast Guard. Investigators initially alleged Tucker beat Kelch and dragged his body to the water where he was left to drown.
Tucker’s defense attorney told a different story, saying a bystander’s video of the night shows Tucker’s effort to get Kelch out of the water before Tucker collapsed, exhausted and intoxicated.
This week, Tucker was sentenced to a bad conduct discharge, reduction to pay grade to the lowest in the Coast Guard and 14 months confinement in a military prison. He will be serving his sentence in the Naval Consolidated Brig, in Miramar, California, according to Cangemi.
“Once he’s done finishing his sentence, he’ll receive a bad conduct discharge and will be dismissed from serving in the U.S. military,” Cangemi said. “When he receives his discharge papers, if he were to go apply for a job and they find out that he has any type of military service, and they look into it, they could see that he had a bad conduct discharge, they could see the court-martial on there, the reduction of pay grade, and the confinement — so it’s a big deal living on the outside, in the civilian world, with a bad military record.”
Cangemi said Tucker can appeal the ruling.