- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 2, 2006

The Navy has handed a letter of counseling to a Naval Academy instructor who once faced court-martial for using salty language in front of a female midshipman.

Charles Gittins, attorney for Navy Lt. Bryan Black, said his client appeared yesterday at an closed-door “admiral’s mast” in the District. Mr. Gittins said Rear Adm. Terence McKnight, commandant for the Naval District of Washington, imposed a nonpunitive letter of caution, rather than a punitive letter of reprimand.

Unlike a reprimand, a caution letter does not go into an officer’s personnel file and will not stop promotion in rank, meaning Lt. Black can continue his naval career.

Vice Adm. Rodney Rempt, Naval Academy superintendent, had moved to court-martial Lt. Black. The Navy had already conducted a pretrial hearing, which was suspended while Mr. Gittins filed an appeal.

Mr. Gittins said he previously rejected nonjudicial punishment because Adm. Rempt wanted to conduct it in public. The attorney contended the superintendent was biased against his client and was trying to make an example of him. The academy was criticized in a Pentagon commission report for poor handling of sexual harassment cases.

Mr. Gittins said that last year he offered to have Lt. Black undergo a mast if the case were shifted from Adm. Rempt to another officer. He said the Navy recently called him and accepted the offer.

Calls to the Naval Academy public affairs officer were not returned yesterday. It has previously declined to comment on the case.

A Marine Corps officer who conducted the academy’s investigation recommended Lt. Black receive counseling and a nonpunitive letter of caution.

“We’ve gone an entire year, and he ended up getting just what the investigative officer recommended,” Mr. Gittins said.

Lt. Black acknowledged that, while on a midshipmen training cruise, he made a vulgar remark about battleships. The female midshipman did not formally complain, and Lt. Black apologized. But a female instructor heard about the remark and reported it to academy headquarters, spurring the investigation.

Lt. Black, 34, is preparing to leave the academy for a new duty station in Mississippi.

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