An Army officer was dismissed from the military but received no prison time Sunday for slipping away from his compound to look for evidence of human rights abuses at a notorious Haitian prison.
A panel of five officers rejected a maximum sentence of six years and three months for Capt. Lawrence Rockwood, ordering his discharge and loss of pay and benefits instead.
Rockwood, 36, stood at attention, impassive, as his sentence was read. “I am not relieved,” he told reporters outside court. “The most serious penalty I was facing … was dismissal. I am a soldier. It is my profession; it is my vocation, so I am not relieved by this sentence whatsoever.”
The court-martial panel convicted the 15-year veteran late Saturday on four of five charges stemming from his Sept. 30 investigation of reported abuses at the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince. He plans to appeal.
The panel sentenced Rockwood to loss of all pay and benefits, despite instructions from Chief Circuit Judge Lt. Col. Robert Newberry that Rockwood could lose only two-thirds of his pay if he weren’t sentenced to prison.
Maj. Gen. David Meade, commander of the 10th Mountain Division, will take up the discrepancy when he reviews the verdict. He can dismiss the verdict or reduce the penalty. The review could take several months.
Rockwood would have faced a maximum of 10 years had he been convicted on all five charges.
Rockwood, a counterintelligence officer with the 10th Mountain Division during the U.S. intervention in Haiti, had accused his superiors of ignoring reports of torture and executions at the prison and said it was his duty to investigate because delay could cost lives.