A midshipman guilty of sexual assault plans to appeal his conviction as his family looks to sue the Naval Academy over what they say is unfair pretrial treatment and jury selection.

A seven-member panel found Midshipman Nixon Keago guilty of sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, obstruction of justice and burglary. The panel found him not guilty of one charge of attempted sexual assault, with the judge also finding him not guilty of a second charge of attempted sexual assault.

The panel, the military’s equivalent to a jury, sentenced Keago to 25 years confinement and dismissed him from the service on Friday.

Keago, a Black man, plans to appeal his conviction, citing the all-white member panel and inconsistencies with testimony that were not challenged by the government, said Nancy Moraa, Keago’s sister.

Keago’s family also plans to file a civil lawsuit against the Naval Academy over issues with the member selection and pretrial treatment of Keago while he was held in the City of Alexandria’s jail. They also allege maltreatment while in custody including a 14-day stay in a receiving area and constant illumination preventing sleep. Government officials said the alleged misconduct were policy changes due to COVID-19 protections.

Moraa and Keago’s family has not filed a lawsuit against the academy, as of 1 p.m. Saturday. It is unclear if Keago has filed his appeal.

Keago was convicted of sexually assaulting two women and attempting to sexually assault the third. In all three cases, the women, who were midshipmen at the time, woke up to Keago attempting to or sexually assaulting them.

Keago claims two of the incidents were consensual, the same story used by his defense attorneys.

With one of the midshipmen, Keago claims that he went to check on her after he noticed she was drunk, according to a letter sent to The Capital by Moraa.

Keago’s claims vary drastically from the woman’s testimony during his court-martial. The midshipman told the court that she woke up to Keago in her bed, sexually assaulting her. She pushed him off of her and ran out of her room, telling a midshipman on watch that Keago sexually assaulted her.

In arguing for a 40-year period of confinement, Lt. Cmdr. Chris Cox told members that they needed to stop Keago from being able to sexually assault another woman.

Unlike a civilian court, potential members are not found using the voter registry. Instead, Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck, as the head of the academy, is the convening authority, which means he is in charge of selecting the potential members, the military equivalent of jurors.

Some convening authorities may pick potential members in advance, said retired Maj. Gen. John Altenburg, Jr.,who served as an Army Judge Advocate General officer under a convening authority. The convening authority he served under would call potential members for a four-month period.

Some would be called for a trial. Others would serve the four-month period without ever being called, Altenburg said. Like with civilian court, military cases can go to a judge instead of a jury. They can also end in a plea.

But not all convening authorities will pick members ahead of knowing there is a court-martial, said military expert Eugene Fidell.

Even those who do will likely have to amend the selection before the trial, he said.

When selecting potential members, the convening authority has to follow six criteria, according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The six criteria are education, training, experience, length of service, age and judicial temperament, according to the UCMJ.

Race and gender are not part of the criteria, Altenburg said, although they can be considered.

In the case of a Black defendant, the convening authority can make sure there is not a “lily-white” jury, Fidell said.

Keago, in a letter sent to The Capital by his sister, focused on the all-white panel, as well as the fact that they outranked him.

Members who sit on a panel must be a higher rank than the defendant, according to the UCMJ. There are circumstances where members may be of lower rank, but the situation should be avoided.

Race and gender can also be considered during a process called voir dire, or questioning. Both sides will question potential members and then can challenge those they feel cannot be fair and objective.

In Keago’s trial, the only Black potential member was challenged by the defense. There should have been more than one potential member that was Black, Moraa said.

Keago was always going to be found guilty because he is a Black man before an all-white member panel, Moraa said.

 

StratCom Strategic Command teaser (copy)

U.S. Strategic Command Headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base.

A Navy chief petty officer who formerly worked at U.S. Strategic Command faces court-martial in Virginia on charges that he leaked classified information to a Russian national, Navy officials disclosed Thursday.

Chief Petty Officer Charles T. Briggs served as an information systems technician at Offutt Air Force Base from April 2018 to July 2019, according to Navy documents. He has been held since August 2019 at a Navy brig in Virginia near his last duty station at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.

Briggs is accused of sending an email containing classified information to a Russian national “with reason to believe the information could be used to injure the United States or benefit a foreign nation” while working at Offutt in January 2019, according to a charge sheet.
Other charges include:
  • Relaying U.S. national defense information to a Russian national from October 2018 to January 2019.
  • Obstructing justice by telling the Russian national about an ongoing investigation into their relationship in January and February 2019.
  • Failing to disclose on a security clearance questionnaire about whether he had maintained a “close and continuing relationship” with a noncitizen.
  • Lying on a leave-request form by falsely claiming he would be staying in Nebraska during an 11-day leave in late 2018.
  • Violating a general regulation by failing to report a monthlong trip to Serbia in December 2018.
  • Failing to report connections to Italian and Russian nationals.
  • Possession of and attempting to view child pornography.

Briggs, who is originally from Wisconsin, enlisted in the Navy in October 1998. If convicted, he could face up to 64 years of confinement and a dishonorable discharge.

A trial date hasn’t yet been set, a Navy Region Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman said.

StratCom officials referred questions to the Navy. Briggs’ civilian attorney, Frank J. Spinner, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Major Gregor Beaton, 33, accused of raping a female captain after a drunken night, was found not guilty by a court martial
Major Gregor Beaton, 33, accused of raping a female captain after a drunken night, was found not guilty by a court martialCredit: Solent News

He and the woman, who cannot be named, said they could not remember having sex after downing beer, wine, prosecco, port and whisky.

The captain had said she was horrified when she woke up naked next to Maj Beaton, of the Royal Artillery.

He insisted the pair had no sexual contact, then claimed he was the victim of an assault when investigators found DNA proof.

Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett at Bulford military court, Wilts, said it was “an unusual case”.

He also added : “You have been found not guilty by this board. It is intolerable that this case has taken so long to get to court.”

Lockheed Martin contractor Rick Rodriguez, a 20-year Army veteran and Green Beret, was pronounced dead Jan. 4, 2019, after a physical altercation involving multiple active-duty servicemembers on New Year's Eve in Iraq. (COURTESY FACEBOOK)
Lockheed Martin contractor Rick Rodriguez, a 20-year Army veteran and Green Beret, was pronounced dead Jan. 4, 2019, after a physical altercation involving multiple active-duty servicemembers on New Year’s Eve in Iraq. (COURTESY FACEBOOK)

Ten Marines have been disciplined administratively following an investigation into the death of a former Green Beret who was working as a contractor in Irbil, Iraq, according to Marine Forces Special Operations Command.

Rick Anthony Rodriguez died at Landstuhl, Germany, on Jan. 4, 2019. Two Marine Raiders and a Navy corpsman have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with his death.

Washington Post reporter Dan Lamothe first revealed that 10 other Marines had been punished.

“The investigation into this case revealed collateral misconduct resulting in administrative punishments of 10 Marines,” said MARSOC spokesman 1st Lt. Justin Cox. “Since these issues were handled via administrative measures vice courts-martial, we are unable to release additional information.”

None of these 10 Marines are MARSOC critical skills operators or special operations officers, Cox told task & Purpose.

The Marines come from various Military Occupational Specialties that support Marine Special Operations Forces, he said. No further information about the Marines was available.

Separately, three members of the 3rd Marine Raider Battalion face general courts-martial for Rodriguez’s death: Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Draher, Gunnery Sgt. Joshua Negron, and Chief Petty Officer Eric Gilmet.

On Jan. 1, 2019, Rodriguez allegedly got into a fight with the three men following an argument with Gilmet at a bar in Irbil. Rodriguez, who was working for Lockheed Martin at the time, was seriously injured after Negron allegedly punched him in the head.

The three men initially returned Rodriguez back to his on base-quarters, but when it became clear that he was having problems breathing, they took him to the base’s trauma center, Draher’s attorney Phillip Stackhouse told Task & Purpose in December.

Gilmet’s trial is scheduled to take place from Oct. 13-23, followed by Negron’s general court-martial, which is slated to occur between Nov.9-20. Draher is expected to stand trial between Dec. 7-18, Cox said.

“During this process, it is imperative that the rights of the service members are protected, and the integrity of the military justice system is maintained,” Cox said. “It is also imperative to remember that these charges are merely accusations and the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty. MARSOC is committed to ensuring this legal process is conducted in a fair and impartial manner.”

An Army warrant officer was sentenced Thursday to 25 months in prison and ordered to repay $250,000 for stealing military equipment and for aggravated identity theft, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Louisiana native CW2 Bryan Craig Allen, 35, used his position as property book officer to steal 43 unique AN/PSQ-20s night vision devices from two companies within 4th Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, federal prosecutors say.

Allen would cover the thefts by decreasing the electronic inventory in the unit’s property books and at times explained the decrease by saying that the items were transferred to another unit, according to court records.

He also forged the signature of other personnel on receipts for the items to falsely document the equipment transfers to a phony unit, the court records state.

The NVGs were stolen between April and June 2018. Some of them were later sold to Stratton “Mac” Beaubien, the owner of Red Horse Military Surplus in Fayetteville, the town outside Fort Bragg, according to a criminal complaint.

Army CID agents honed in on Beaubien when they found an eBay user selling military equipment with some of the transactions tied to Beaubien’s shop.

The soldiers embezzled a combined total of $90,000 between July 2009 and January 2010.

A search warrant was executed on Red Horse Military Surplus in late February 2019. Beaubien consented to a search of his cell phone by federal agents, revealing text messages from Allen offering to sell the NVGs for $2,500 each.

Kyle Rempfer