Cmdr. Bryce Benson was notified by officials late last month, according to his attorney, Cmdr. Justin Henderson.
Lt. Cmdr. Adam Cole, a spokesman for the Chief of Naval Personnel, declined to comment on the development, citing “privacy concerns” about personnel matters.
It’s the latest twist in the case of Benson, who learned in September that he would appear before a panel convened to determine whether he should be punitively removed from the sea service for his role in the June 17, 2017, collision with the merchant vessel ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan.
Superiors administratively disciplined Benson after the collision and he was charged in early 2018 with negligent homicide in the death of seven shipmates, but military prosecutors withdrew those charges six months later.
Dogged by allegations that senior Navy leaders wielded unlawful command influence to keep Benson from getting a fair trial, prosecutors dropped dereliction of duty and hazarding a vessel charges in April of this year.
Benson’s quarters took a direct hit from the Crystal. He suffered head injuries and was found clinging to the side of the ship by crew members.
A medical board already ruled Benson’s injuries rendered him unfit for duty and he’s filed for voluntary retirement, Henderson added.
Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer could opt to retire Benson at a lower rank, trimming his pension and other benefits, but Henderson said they have no idea how the surface warfare officer’s case will be resolved.
“Under two different statutory and regulatory regimes, he is subject to retirement,” Henderson said. “Nobody’s getting anything from keeping him in the Navy.”
Henderson said he expects a final decision on Benson’s fate by the end of December.
After Benson’s criminal charges were withdrawn, Spencer issued a letter of censure against Benson.
Benson had planned to fight the allegations against him in public during a court-martial trial, but the decision by prosecutors to nix all criminal charges made that option impossible.
Instead, Benson’s legal team released an 18-page rebuttal to Spencer’s letter.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at email@example.com.