July 3, 1996 in Nation/World

Navy Women Charged After Filing Complaints

Los Angeles Times
 

A Navy woman who complained about sexual harassment at a nearby Navy base was convicted Tuesday of leaving base without authorization and of assaulting a federal investigator who questioned the accuracy of her harassment allegations.

Sailor Debbie Clark, 22, was immediately sentenced to 30 days in the brig for raising a threatening hand in an argument with an investigator over conflicting accounts of what had taken place in her squadron at the Point Mugu Navy base.

“I don’t understand how this stuff escalated, but I did the best I could,” Clark told Navy Judge Roger A. Smith in a tearful plea for mercy. “I normally walk away from things like that.”

She said she had been under tremendous strain since raising the allegations against a supervisor.

“I wake up every morning crying. I can’t eat and I can’t sleep.”

Clark was one of four women whose allegations of sexual groping and lewd comments by their supervisors sparked a criminal investigation into the Point Mugu detachment of the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 9, often known as VX-9.

One of the women testified on Monday that she had been approached by a superior officer with a warning: “If you come together as a group, we are going to knock you down one by one and you will not have a case.”

In fact, the investigation led to no criminal charges against any of the men. But three of the women accusers have been slapped with various administrative or criminal charges. The fourth woman was discharged from the service after a Navy physician diagnosed her with a personality disorder.

Capt. Craig Weideman, the squadron’s commanding officer, said there has been no retribution against the women. The actions against them, he said, have come about because they have violated laws or rules, not because they came forward with sexual harassment allegations.

Of the four women, Clark faced the most serious charge: assaulting one of the Navy’s Criminal Investigative Service agents.

Special Agent Robin Flanders testified that she and another agent summoned Clark to their office for a third time in April to iron out discrepancies in the case. She said Clark was being interviewed as a victim, but her statements had some inconsistencies.


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