An officer accused of patronizing prostitutes was temporarily assigned to a Navy sexual assault and prevention office while he awaited court-martial on the allegations of misconduct.

Capt. John F. Steinberger pleaded guilty March 6 to charges of dereliction of duty for his involvement with Leonard “Fat Leonard” Francis, who, as president Glenn Defense Marine Asia, overcharged the U.S. Government for $35 million for port and resupply services in the Western Pacific.

Steinberger also pleaded guilty to charges that he did, on multiple occasions in 2011, “wrongfully engage in a sexual act with a person who received compensation for engaging in such act.” Steinberger was issued a punitive letter of reprimand and has to pay the government a $10,000 fine.

But during the final moments of the March 6 trial, Steinberger’s lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. Bryan Davis, sought to bolster Steinberger’s defense by noting that since the charges were levied in April 2017, Steinberger had been doing “important work” for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program office at Navy Region Southwest.

“This sets a standard of stupidity,” said retired Col. Don Christensen, the former chief prosecutor of the Air Force and president of the Protect our Defenders organization. “It is beyond comprehension the Navy would place someone charged with accepting prostitutes as a bribe and awaiting trial in an agency responsible for supporting survivors of sexual abuse.

“Navy leadership sent a terribly harmful message to the men and women of the fleet that they do not take the issue of sexual assault seriously. The [Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson] must address this failure quickly and publicly or risk losing all credibility.”

Still, Navy officials in San Diego insist there isn’t anything irregular about someone accused of sexual misconduct working in such a position.

“Capt. Steinberger was assigned to non-supervisory duties while working for the Navy Region Southwest Sexual Assault and Prevention and Response,” said Kevin Dixon, spokesman for Navy Region Southwest. “Things he was doing consisted of data collection and other administrative functions typically handled by SAPR officers.”

Dixon says he had “no particulars” on what exactly the administrative functions were that Steinberger performed.

“He had no contact with any victims and was not involved with any investigations, nor did he have any input on policy,” Dixon said.