Former Fitzgerald, McCain COs Face Negligent Homicide, Dereliction of Duty Charges Over Fatal Collisions

In my post almost 6 months ago in which I discussed the USS Fitzgerald collision off the coast of Japan and the law governing hazarding a vessel (can be found here), I predicted the CO would be relieved and face disciplinary action that could include court-martial charges.

Now widely publicized, the former Fitzgerald and McCain COs, as well as members of their crew directly involved in the respective collisions, have been notified of preferred charges.  Preferred charges are charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that have been sworn to by another member of the military who attests, either through personal knowledge or review of an investigation, that there is a basis for the charges.   The charges against the former COs include negligent homicide, dereliction of duty, and hazarding a vessel.

The next procedural step for these cases is to direct a Preliminary Hearing under Article 32, UCMJ.  The presiding preliminary hearing officer will make a probable cause determination and recommend a forum for disposition.  These findings and recommendations are made in a report to the consolidated disposition authority.  Depending on the amount of discovery materials and witnesses, it could be several months until the Article 32 hearings are convened.

Posted in Uncategorized.