Report on Tailhook to expand charges of sex acts

February 06, 1993|By Melissa Healy and H. G. Reza | Melissa Healy and H. G. Reza,Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The final report on the Pentagon's Tailhook investigation, expected to be released later this month, alleges an assortment of sex acts by Navy officers that go beyond grabbing and fondling female aviators and expands the potential targets for prosecution and discipline.

In confidential memorandums expected to accompany the long-awaited report, Inspector General Derek J. Vander Schaaf is expected to recommend that about 15 officers face courts-martial on charges of assault or indecency, according to knowledgeable sources. Mr. Vander Schaaf also identified a similar number of officers for discipline in less formal proceedings for lesser offenses.

The investigation grew out of the 1991 Tailhook convention in Las Vegas.

Tailhook is a fraternal organization of Navy and Marine aviators; it takes its name from the device on the underside of aircraft that allows it to stop short on a carrier deck.

The report, roughly 300 pages long and illustrated with explicit photographs taken by those attending the convention, offers a much more detailed account of the lurid incidents than has emerged so far. It also indicates that punishment may extend well beyond those who harassed or assaulted female colleagues or mishandled the subsequent investigation.

The investigation, which included interviews with more then 2,100 Navy and Marine Corps officers, found that the conduct of the aviators went beyond earlier reports of drunken males groping female officers in a hotel hallway "gantlet" at a party on the final day of the convention.

The new findings include allegations that some males exposed themselves in the hotel.

In another incident, a male was said to have engaged publicly in oral sex with women, sources said. Under a military law prohibiting sodomy, oral sex could be prosecuted as a criminal offense.

"There was a lot of public sex," said one source who had seen an early draft of the report. "It's a pretty tawdry picture," the source added.

Navy leaders are girding for what several described as a final and devastating assault on their image, and they are eager to move beyond a scandal that has preoccupied the service for more than a year.

Some Clinton administration officials said they expected that the new revelations of sexual misconduct, combined with recent reports of military troops' attacks on gays, would help erode public support for the military leaders' fight to maintain a long-standing ban on homosexuals in the armed forces.

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