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Former USS John S. McCain XO Found Guilty of Dereliction of Duty

Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez. US Navy Photo

The number two in command of the guided-missile destroyer involved in a fatal collision off of Singapore in August was found guilty of dereliction of duty on this week, according to a statement from the Navy.

Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez, former executive officer of USS John S. McCain (DDG-56), was found guilty of violating Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice during a Monday non-judicial punishment hearing in Washington, D.C. Sanchez received a punitive letter of reprimand in the hearing overseen by Adm. James Caldwell.

Additionally, Caldwell also held hearings and ultimately dismissed charges for an officer and enlisted sailor who served on USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) during a fatal collision off the coast of Japan in June. The Navy said the hearings were the last of Caldwell’s planned non-judicial actions.

Caldwell, director of Naval Reactors, was appointed in October as the Consolidated Disposition Authority tasked to oversee additional accountability actions for the McCain and Fitzgerald collisions.

In late January, Caldwell held a series of NJP hearings in Japan in which four sailors were issued punishment.

With the addition of Sanchez, a total of 18 sailors have received non-judicial punishment for the two collisions the Navy has called preventable.

Next month, the former commanders of both ships and three sailors who were on Fitzgerald face a preliminary hearing for criminal charges related to the collisions that include hazarding a ship, dereliction of duty and negligent homicide.

Former McCain CO Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez will appear before a military judge at the Washington Navy Yard on March 6. Former Fitzgerald CO Cmdr. Bryce Benson will appear on March 7, and the three Fitzgerald officers will appear on March 8 in a joint hearing.

The following is the complete Feb. 14, 2018 statement from the Navy on the NJP hearings.

WASHINGTON –Admiral Frank Caldwell, acting as the Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA) for accountability actions in relation to USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) collisions, held three hearings for nonjudicial punishment, February 12, 2018, in Washington, District of Columbia.

For USS Fitzgerald, two hearings were held for one officer and one enlisted member. Adm. Caldwell dismissed the charges in both cases.

For USS John S. McCain, a hearing was held for the former executive officer. The officer was found guilty for violating Article 92 (dereliction in the performance of duties) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and received a punitive letter of reprimand.

These hearings conclude the CDA’s planned NJP proceedings.