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Panel: Officer in raunchy-video case can stay in Navy

- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 24, 2011

NORFOLK (AP) — A Navy panel on Wednesday said the former commander of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier who produced raunchy videos aboard the USS Enterprise can remain in the Navy.

Earlier, during closing arguments at a board of inquiry, Capt. Owen P. Honors' lawyer said the only reason Capt. Honors was appearing before the board was because of political pressure that came to bear after media outlets blew the videos out of proportion.

"The only reason we are sitting in this room is because the press made a big deal about it," Charles Gittins told the three rear admirals who make up the board.

Capt. Honors was relieved of command as the ship's top officer days before a scheduled deployment in January after several videos were leaked to media outlets. Capt. Honors said that the videos were never meant to be shown to the public and that he believes they were leaked by an officer aboard the ship whom he recently had disciplined.

Capt. Honors is one of a number of commanding officers fired from the job by the Navy this year, but his case has drawn by far the most attention. Clips of the videos have appeared on national television, providing a significant source of embarrassment for Navy leaders.

Among other things, the videos included simulated same-sex shower scenes, anti-gay slurs and references to prostitution in foreign ports.

The videos frequently starred Capt. Honors, and they were made when he was the ship's executive officer — the second in command — between October 2005 and December 2007. They were shown to crew members on closed-circuit television each Saturday night before a feature-length film that Capt. Honors had selected. By all accounts, the videos were wildly popular with the ship's young crew members.

As executive officer, Capt. Honors was tasked with maintaining morale aboard the aging ship. He contends the videos were produced to provide some humorous relief and to teach important shipboard lessons, such as conserving water.

But Navy lawyers who effectively are acting as prosecutors said Capt. Honors frequently crossed the line of appropriate behavior. In several videos, Capt. Honors insults the ship's female combat systems officer and acknowledges in another video he had to say, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," to her.

The board of inquiry was determining whether Capt. Honors committed any one of three violations, whether he should be forced out of the Navy, and if so, at what pay grade. The government recommended that Capt. Honors be honorably discharged

The violations the panel considered were whether he committed conduct unbecoming of a naval officer, whether he failed to demonstrate acceptable leadership and whether he had substandard performance.

Cmdr. Michael Luken said during closing arguments that Capt. Honors clearly committed conduct unbecoming of a naval officer when he mocked the ship's combat systems officer in front of thousands of sailors viewing the videos aboard the ship. In one video, a toy parrot says he couldn't drink enough alcohol to go get a massage with that officer.

"It is unrefutable that this was inappropriate material for an executive officer to put across the ship," Cmdr. Luken said.

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