Lieutenant Colonel Justin Putze has been found guilty of entering a relationship with a subordinate.
A veteran of 25 years and five deployments, Putze was also found guilty of not disclosing the relationship to his superiors, engaging in a public display of affection, and lying to his superiors.
He had denied all charges.
The three senior military members who heard the trial were unanimous in their decision.
Putze had been on trial at Trentham Military Camp since Monday,and while he denied he had formed a relationship with Captain Carolyne Cappola, admitted the pair had a “one night stand” while on deployment. They are now engaged.
Thirteen witnesses were called by the prosecution including Putze’s ex wife, Cappola and the country’s highest ranking officer, Chief of Army Major John Boswell, who said Putze did not disclose the relationship to him when asked.
Much of the case hinged on whether the sexual intercourse between Putze and Cappola, on the night of March 16, 2018, could be described as a sexual relationship.
On Thursday, Putze described it as a “one-night stand” and said the pair did not have a close, personal or sexual relationship, and knew it couldn’t happen again.
It wasn’t the start of a relationship, he said.
A few months later they were at a bar in Dubai’s Radisson Hotel with their contingent for a debrief when witnesses described the pair hugging, and one said he saw them kissing.
On Thursday, Putze said the hugs were to console Cappola and denied the kiss. Public displays while in uniform in a service environment are forbidden by the New Zealand Defence Force unless it is a greeting or farewell.
In summing up, Prosecution Counsel Colonel Craig Ruane told the panel of military members if they found Putze not guilty they accepted a “meaningless sexual encounter with a subordinate” was acceptable.
“That is simply not the case.”
While Defence Counsel Commander Christopher Griggs had previously told the court the pair had fallen in love in the Sinai but, despite the “one night stand”, did not have a close, personal relationship, Ruane disagreed.
“Being in love, by definition, involves a strong emotional attachment.”
The court martial will continue on Friday where Putze’s fate will be decided.
The maximum sentence for each charge is two years in prison. Dismissal, demotion or reprimand are also potential sentences.
As an officer Putze would not be sent to military prison.