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Sailors in Colombia scandal await resolution

Oct. 1, 2012 - 07:03PM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 1, 2012 - 07:03PM  |  
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WASHINGTON — Six months after members of the U.S. military and the Secret Service were embroiled in a prostitution scandal in Colombia, two Navy sailors have been stripped of their security clearances and pulled off their regular jobs, but they have yet to be charged.

U.S. Southern Command says the investigation surrounding the two sailors is still going on, but a lawyer for one of the sailors says it shouldn't take this long to reach a decision. Charges were read against all the other military members allegedly involved two months ago.

The lawyer is arguing that the sailor, David Hawley, was not around at the time that Secret Service and other members of the U.S. military were supposedly soliciting prostitutes in Cartagena. Instead, Hawley, says he was in a different hotel and is complaining that he is being punished and denied a promotion without ever being charged.

"This is not a complex case that requires months and month of investigation," Hawley's lawyer, Jeremiah Sullivan, told The Associated Press Monday.

Sullivan said that Hawley, a decorated Navy petty officer from Detroit, wants to return to the battlefield and "should not be picking weeds at his command. His immediate chain of command will put him back to work, but are caught up in the political red tape."

Of the dozen military members initially implicated, seven Army soldiers and two Marines received administrative punishments for what was described as misconduct, and one Air Force member was cleared. Three of the soldiers declined the administrative punishments and have requested courts-martial, which would give them a public trial to contest the charges.

Col. Greg Julian, spokesman for U.S. Southern Command, said only that the matter is still under investigation.

In a letter to Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sullivan said that Hawley "is unjustifiably suffering the collateral damage from the misconduct of the Secret Service." He said that "despite being a decorated war hero and the fact that he is not facing any criminal charges ... Hawley has been banished to washing windows and picking weeds at his command."

The military would not confirm Monday what Hawley's duties are or where he is.

According to Sullivan, Hawley, an explosive ordnance disposal technician, has deployed to Iraq four times. Sullivan said Hawley's promotion to chief petty officer has been delayed, he's been stripped of his top-secret security clearance and fired from his explosive ordnance disposal job.

The Navy said Hawley, 33, has received three Navy achievement medals, including one with valor, and another combat action ribbon. He enlisted in July 2000.

A dozen U.S. service members were investigated for bringing women, likely prostitutes, to their hotel rooms in Colombia shortly before President Obama arrived in the country for an April summit, according to the military's investigation. The investigator's report described the misconduct as consisting "almost exclusively of patronizing prostitutes and adultery."

The scandal erupted after a public dispute over payment between a U.S. Secret Service agent and a prostitute at a Cartagena hotel spilled over into the hallway of the Hotel Caribe. The Secret Service and the military were in the Colombian coastal resort to prepare for Obama's participation in a Latin American summit. Twelve Secret Service employees were implicated. Of those, eight have been ousted, three were cleared of serious misconduct and at least two employees are fighting to get their jobs back.

U.S. Southern Command, headed by Gen. Douglas Fraser, conducted the investigation into the military members' involvement in the April incident. Officials there had no explanation for why the investigation into the two sailors is taking so long.

The military investigation said that evidence substantiating the wrongdoing in the other cases included hotel log books, security camera video and statements from the prostitutes and military members.

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