A U.S. Navy chief lost his anchors last month after pleading guilty to “wrongful appropriation” of military property.
A Navy judge sentenced then-Chief Aviation Electronics Technician Kirk P. Killian on July 29 to be bumped down to E-6 after he pleaded guilty to misappropriating military property greater than $500, according to Navy records.
Killian entered into a pre-trial agreement and was found not guilty of a charge of conspiring with two other chiefs to steal scopes, night vision goggles and chemlights.
Prosecutors had alleged that Killian acquired the equipment through the Defense Logistics Disposition Services from March 2017 to July 2017 at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, where he was assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 14.
Sometimes referred to by an older acronym, DRMO, the DLA office oversees disposal of excess military property, to include not only gear but air conditioners, vehicles, computers and clothing.
The equipment usually is offered to units within the Defense Department, but it also can be transferred to other federal, state or local agencies or sold to the public.
Killian’s civilian attorney, Patrick McLain, told Navy Times that his client ordered the excess gear and set about repairing and storing it at his home to use in a 2017 chiefs initiation.
It was a case of “good intention, bad judgement,” McLain said.
“The Navy holds its members to a much higher standard of accountability than they would in the civilian world,” he said. “In the civilian world, this would be a dumb mistake at work. We understand that. Chief understands that.”
Killian didn’t tell his superiors what he was doing with all the stuff, McLain added.
Chief Aviation Electronics Technician Darren M. Heppler was also assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 14 and charged with similar crimes in October.
At a Nov. 14 court-martial trial, Heppler pleaded guilty to stealing military property from March 2017 to July 2017, the same dates listed for Killian’s alleged crimes.
He also pleaded guilty to arranging for “two scopes” to be sold to a Wichita, Kansas, pawn shop, and a Navy judge sentenced him to a bad conduct discharge, reduction to E-1 and a year behind bars, according to court records.
But thanks to a plea deal, Heppler received no brig time and will not be reduced to a pay grade below E-5 or separated from the Navy with a punitive discharge, his civilian attorney, Corey Bean, told Navy Times earlier this year.
“ATC Heppler regrets his involvement in this situation,” Bean said in February. “He took responsibility for his actions and he wants to put this behind him. I believe the Navy recognized ATC Heppler’s minimal role in the charged misconduct which is why we were able to reach a pretrial agreement that greatly reduced confinement exposure and gave ATC Heppler a path to retirement.”
A Navy chief who retired in 2017 — Christian C. Pelz — was listed as a third co-conspirator on the military charge sheets, but Navy officials declined to say earlier this year whether his case had been referred to civilian authorities.
While Killian succeeded Heppler at the squadron, McLain said Killian’s case “was wholly different from Chief Heppler’s.”
McLain told Navy Times in February that the case began after government-contracted movers became suspicious of a household goods shipment for Heppler that was supposed to go from Lemoore to Kansas.
“The movers thought it odd, and contrary to regulation, that Chief Heppler had already boxed up and sealed the goods to be shipped,” McLain said.
“When the movers unpacked and re-packed these items, they appeared to be government property … so law enforcement was notified.”
[Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to accurately reflect the charge to which Kirk P. Killian pleaded guilty.]
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.