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Preschool workers accused of abuse lose jobs, still won't be charged

Oct. 4, 2013 - 01:55PM   |  
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Three employees at a Navy child care facility on Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, received letters of termination last month amid child abuse allegations.

All were given the chance to contest the firings.

None did, although one was reassigned to another job on base. None will face charges of child abuse because the base’s commanding officer, acting on the advice of his top judge advocate, decided the evidence didn’t meet the standard for prosecuting the employees under a law intended to cover civilians working on overseas military bases.

The employees received letters of termination Sept. 10, citing inappropriate behavior, according to a statement from Navy Forces Japan provided to Navy Times.

Incidents listed in an investigation provided to Navy Times include unnamed employees stepping on a 4-year-old girl’s leg and striking her with their hands. In a July 15 incident, the report says, an employee “is observed pulling a chair out from under [the girl] and while the victim is on the ground, strikes [her] with a chair.”

Investigators reviewed the child development center’s video surveillance tapes and found separate incidents over a two-week period in July, according to the report, which was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by Aviation Mechanic (AW) 1st Class Bruce Seymore, whose 4-year-old daughter was listed as one of the victims.

One employee submitted a letter of resignation Sept. 13, effective Sept. 30, then requested and was granted vacation time through Sept. 29. The other two submitted letters Sept. 16; one effective immediately, the other effective Sept. 30. The latter employee was reassigned to another position on base.

A July 15 incident involving another child care employee initiated the investigation, which expanded to three employees accused of abusing four children at the center.

Though the investigation found that the employees had acted inappropriately, base commander Capt. Steven Wieman determined that the incidents were not serious enough for criminal action.

“After review of the evidence and relevant law, the Staff Judge Advocate advised the commanding officer that the evidence and case did not meet the minimum threshold for criminal prosecution under the U.S. Code as applied under [the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act], which allows prosecution of civilians accompanying U.S. Forces overseas,” the Navy’s statement said.

Because the actions were not determined to be of a “felony nature,” the commander was not required to pass the complaint up the chain of command for further review, according to the statement.

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