Four petty officers accused of sex crimes with a child in the barracks of a Washington state base have received non-judicial punishment and are being kicked out of the Navy, officials confirmed this week.

The four avoided court-martial because an officer reviewing the case found insufficient evidence to take the charges to trial, according to Submarine Group 9 spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Michael Smith.

“The Sailors were not taken to court martial because there was insufficient evidence that they were aware the victim was underage,” Smith said.

Citing the Privacy Act, Smith declined to identify the sailors or offer more details on the charges or the investigation into the incident.

“The sailors were held accountable for their actions and are being processed for separation,” he said.

The allegations involved a Sept. 19, 2017, incident in the barracks of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, the main sub base in the Pacific Northwest.

The alleged victim was a girl who was younger than 16-years-old but older than 12, according to charge sheets.

Sailors involved were all 3rd class petty officers assigned to submarine commands.

Investigators alleged that the four sailors discussed having sex with the girl at a smoke pit and then went to a barracks room.

There, the alleged sex crimes occurred “with the door open, and with open recording of the group sex using photography and video equipment” according to the charge sheets.

Article 32 hearings were held for each of the accused. A hearing officer reviewed the evidence and made a recommendation to superiors on whether the cases should go to trial.

The hearing officer recommended non-judicial punishment — or NJP — for the sailors, “because there was insufficient evidence to refer the charges to court-martial,” Smith said in an email this week.

The sub group’s commander, Rear Adm. Blake Converse, followed the recommendations and the four received NJP late last month, “which also resulted in the four sailors being processed for administrative separation,” Smith said.

Smith said it was not clear when their removal from the service will end.

Authorities began investigating the case after an anonymous tip last year, Naval Criminal Investigative Service officials said in September.

One of the sailors, assigned to the ballistic missile submarine Nebraska, initially faced charges for failing to report the offense and for committing a sexual act upon a child, as well as for letting a non-family member stay in his room overnight, according to charge sheets.

Another, assigned to the submarine Henry M. Jackson, was charged with producing child pornography because the sex acts were digitally recorded.

Charge sheets stated that the third sailor, who also faced child pornography production charges, served with the Naval Submarine Support Center Bangor, while a fourth defendant charged with sex crimes against the child was also assigned to the Nebraska.

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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