Navy captain won't be punished for academy investigation role

Pentagon accused lawyer of interfering with probe of misdeeds by Mids

January 28, 1999|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

The Navy says it will not punish the Naval Academy's former lawyer, who was accused last year by the Pentagon of interfering with criminal investigations at the academy.

Capt. Joseph D. Scranton was the staff judge advocate at the Naval Academy in 1995 and 1996 when the Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigated a number of misdeeds by midshipmen, including drug use, car theft, child molestation and homicide.

In response to complaints from Navy investigators and Sen. Strom Thurmond, a South Carolina Republican, the Pentagon inspector general launched an investigation into Scranton's role in the investigations.

The investigation exonerated Scranton's boss -- Adm. Charles R. Larson, then academy superintendent -- but said Scranton "acted improperly" in two of the investigations and recommended the Navy "take appropriate action" against him. Scranton is now director of operations/vice commander for the Navy's judge advocate general and one of the Navy's highest-ranking lawyers.

Former Navy Secretary John H. Dalton turned the case over to Adm. Jay Johnson, chief of naval operations.

Months later, Rear Adm. Donald Guter, the commander of the Legal Service Command, decided that "no further action was necessary or appropriate."

Guter made his decision Oct. 28, 1998, but it wasn't made public until this week, Navy officials said.

Through a spokesman, Scranton declined to comment. Last July, he said he "did not violate any rule or regulation." Larson also said last year that he and Scranton "did the right thing."

"We handled things properly in each of these cases," Larson said.

Thurmond, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, asked the inspector general's office for the investigation after hearing complaints from Stewart Thompson, a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent based at the academy.

Thompson said top academy officials were interfering with or improperly influencing criminal investigations.

Thompson, now an NCIS agent in Baltimore, said yesterday he was "surprised" that the Navy chose to ignore the Pentagon's call for action against Scranton.

"No amount of dwelling upon the leadership values of personal responsibility and accountability means a thing unless the Navy itself demonstrates those values," he said.

The Pentagon report said Scranton acted improperly by telling academy officials to dismiss a midshipman who was cooperating with Navy agents in an undercover drug investigation, even though Scranton was told the midshipman's dismissal could harm the investigation.

The report also faulted Scranton for dismissing a midshipman and for arranging his arrest with Texas police on child molestation charges there, even though that midshipman was under investigation on similar charges by Navy agents and Annapolis police.

Scranton never informed the agents or police about his actions, the report said.

Navy rules require officers to report any criminal activity to Navy agents.

Pub Date: 1/28/99

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