Judge OK's ouster of middie who lied

September 21, 1990|By Kelly Gilbert | Kelly Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

A fourth-year midshipman has been dismissed from the Naval Academy for falsifying two muster reports and lying twice to academy officials in an attempted cover-up of his violations of the institution's honor code.

The dismissal of Midshipman 1st Class Andre M. Williams, 21, of Tacoma, Wash., became official yesterday a few hours after a federal judge in Baltimore denied his request for a preliminary injunction that would have stayed the ouster pending a civil suit Williams filed Sept. 10 in U.S. District Court here.

Judge Joseph C. Howard said in an oral decision from the bench that the dismissal, approved by Navy officials in Washington, appeared to be "appropriate" disciplinary action for Williams' TC violations of the academy's honor code, officially known as the Honor Concept. "At best, the harm to the plaintiff is at least equal to the harm to the defendants," the judge said. "This court should not be in the position of second-guessing legitimate disciplinary actions without ample justification."

Howard said Williams' arguments for the injunction fell short of such justification.

Williams' lawsuit names Navy Secretary H. Lawrence Garrett 3rd and Rear Adm. Virgil L. Hill Jr., the academy superintendent, as co-defendants.

William M. Ferris, Williams' lawyer, contended in the suit and a court hearing yesterday that Navy officials violated his client's constitutional due process rights by subjecting him to administrative hearings without counsel.

Ferris also contended that the Navy violated Williams' equal protection rights by dismissing the plaintiff, who is black, and letting a white midshipman involved in the honor code violations stay at the academy.

Cmdr. Ronald J. Burro, a Navy lawyer, countered that Williams had violated one of the academy's main missions, to "ingrain an ethical reflex" in the more than 4,000 midshipmen there and "instill in them a high sense of duty, honor and personal integrity."

"The Honor Concept is a part of the daily life of more than 4,000 men and women at the academy," Burro told the judge.

"It would damage the academy and the integrity crucial to their [midshipmen's] ability to function as Navy officers" if Williams were allowed to return to classes and graduate with an officer's commission next spring, Burro said. "They [other midshipmen] would see him and feel that the Honor Concept is bogus."

Williams was dismissed because he marked two midshipmen, Third Classmen Trip W. Armstrong and Willard J. Cox 3rd, present at two musters the night of Feb. 11 after they had told him they would not be there. The violations were discovered when Cox and Armstrong returned to the academy early the next morning.

Burro and Assistant U.S. Attorney Juliet A. Eurich said in court papers that Williams lied twice to academy officials who asked him to explain the muster sheets he signed that said the two missing middies were there, but finally admitted the violations after Cox and Armstrong did.

Armstrong was later dismissed for violating the honor code, but Cox was reprimanded and allowed to stay at the academy.

Williams got a temporary restraining order from another federal judge within hours of the time he was to be dismissed from the academy 11 days ago.

Howard's decision yesterday left the lawsuit open, along with the possibility of reinstatement for Williams if he wins it. But the injunction denial meant immediate dismissal for Williams pending resolution of the suit in further court proceedings.

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