Up to 150 may face punishment from Tailhook convention scandal

April 20, 1993|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon's top investigator later this week will urge that up to 150 military personnel be punished for their roles in the sexual harassment scandal at the Navy's 1991 Tailhook convention, officials say.

"It won't be a pretty picture," a Pentagon official familiar with the report by acting Defense Department Inspector General Derek J. Vander Schaaf said yesterday. "There's enough stuff there for more than one X-rated movie."

Several dozen women, including many Navy officers, have told investigators they were groped by drunken aviators at the Las Vegas Hilton gathering in September 1991.

In addition to fondling women as they walked a gantlet of male Navy and Marine officers in a hotel corridor, some officers exposed themselves and shaved women's bodies in hospitality suites that featured free-flowing liquor and X-rated movies, a Navy official said.

The aftershocks of Tailhook focused public attention on the military's treatment of women and has given gay groups ammunition to say that heterosexual -- not homosexual -- misconduct is the military's top sexual harassment problem.

Although no names will be contained in the report that is expected to be released Friday, they will be made public later if formal charges are brought. A senior Navy officer and a senior Marine officer will decide who should be charged after reviewing the evidence.

Alleged offenders could face courts-martial for serious crimes, or less severe administrative actions. One official said he expected about 15 aviators to face court-martial proceedings.

While some officers could face five-year prison terms, even minor punishments in such a high-profile case effectively will end Navy careers, one officer said.

In addition to seeking to punish officers charged with abusing women, the report will recommend action against senior officers who tolerated such behavior, defense officials said.

In a report released last September, Mr. Vander Schaaf said the Navy had botched its initial investigation of the scandal, a determination that led to the firing of two admirals.

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