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ACCOMAC, Va. — A young Navy officer who took a Virginia Marine Police boat will not spend any time in jail, but was convicted of grand larceny as a result of taking the open boat, motor and trailer from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission's Belle Haven office.
Lt. Jg. Phillip Wynkoop, 25, of Virginia Beach was sentenced Dec. 20 in Accomack County Circuit Court.
Wynkoop had recently returned from Afghanistan and was assigned to SEAL Team Two. He was driving down U.S. Route 13 from Philadelphia and saw the boat.
He admitted to returning to Belle Haven, taking the boat and towing it to his Virginia Beach home. The boat was not used or harmed in any way, said defense attorney Thomas Northam.
He said Wynkoop moved the boat and trailer to Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va., where he was stationed and made no attempt to hide the VMRC markings or numbers.
Video surveillance tapes made by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel showed that the boat and trailer went through the toll booth headed south.
They had a partial photo of Wynkoop's license plate and, through investigation, were able to locate the vehicle.
At the August trial, Northam read a letter from Wynkoop's commanding officer who praised Wynkoop's superb performance and said it was difficult for young SEAL officers to seek help when they needed it.
This was confirmed by Wynkoop, who spoke from the witness stand before his sentencing.
He told the court he was in a fog with clouded judgment. "I was making reckless decisions," he said.
"I had just returned from Afghanistan and my fiancée left me. As a SEAL, it is hard to seek out help. We are supposed to be a community of hard, rough and tough men."
He said he had submitted his resignation from the Navy and was being processed for administrative separation.
"I am extremely ashamed of what I did," he said. "I take full responsibility and make no excuses."
He said he had let his men and his family down. "He will have to endure the pain of the loss of his Navy career," said Northam. He asked the court to consider reducing Wynkoop's charge to a misdemeanor.
In August, Northam asked Judge W. Revell Lewis III to delay his finding and continue the case, which he did. He suggested that the theft of the boat might be a cry for help from the young man who, he said, endured and witnessed terrible things while serving in Afghanistan.
"This is an especially difficult case from a prosecutor's standpoint," said Commonwealth's Attorney Gary Agar.
"We are all appreciative of those who serve and especially of Navy SEALs. This is a case where no one is going to be happy with the outcome," he said.
He said that the charge should be a felony, "because that is the crime that he committed."
"I agree, nobody is happy," Lewis said. "I appreciate what you may have been through, but I have heard nothing that excuses you from the crime of grand larceny."
He sentenced Wynkoop to five years and suspended all that time. "I hope you will be a productive member of this society in spite of a felony conviction," he said.