Navy man faces 2-year term
A Pearl Harbor-based officer pleads guilty to repeated fraternization
A Navy supply officer assigned to a Pearl Harbor's newest destroyer has pleaded guilty to fraternizing with three women, including an enlisted woman who later became his wife, and several other charges.
Before his court-martial began Monday, Lt. Tobias Chappell, assigned to destroyer USS Chung-Hoon, pleaded guilty to three charges of fraternization with different women -- one from his prior command and two from his current command, including Petty Officer Tonya Yarbrough, whom he later married.
Yesterday, Lt. Barbara Mertz, Navy spokeswoman, said that although Chappell pleaded guilty to the three counts of fraternization, "it was not officially accepted until today when he was convicted. He could have taken it back any time during the court-martial."
The maximum penalty for fraternization, which the military defines as "an inappropriate relationship" between persons of different ranks, is two years in jail and dismissal from the Navy.
Chappell was convicted of obstruction of justice, withholding information, and two specifications of cruelty and maltreatment of two subordinates.
However, the Navy dismissed a charge of making a false statement and knocked down the theft of two government laptops computers to one of "wrongful appropriation."
Chappell was the last of 13 Pearl Harbor sailors who were accused of fraternization and adultery, which the Navy said occurred between September 2004 and April. The sailors ranged in rank from seaman to lieutenant. The 280-member destroyer was commissioned at Pearl Harbor in September 2004.
Yarbrough, with whom Chappell has a newborn daughter, was convicted at a special court-martial Aug. 2 for two specifications of unauthorized absence, disrespect to a superior petty officer and two instances of fraternization. She had been charged with adultery, but that charge was dropped because of a pretrial agreement.
Yarbrough worked for Chappell as the head enlisted person in the destroyer's supply department.
Yarbrough was sentenced to six months' confinement, reduction in rank to seaman recruit, forfeiture of $750 pay a month for six months and a bad-conduct discharge. In the pretrial agreement, Yarbrough's confinement was limited to 90 days, which she recently completed.
Lt. Bernie W. Ridgeway Jr., combat systems officer on the Chung-Hoon, was convicted on Oct. 25 at a general court-martial for fraternizing with two women. In accordance with a pretrial agreement, he was sentenced to 60 days of restriction, forfeiture of $3,000 per month for five months and a reprimand.
In the other cases, Navy officials said that of the five men and five women charged, nine were given nonjudicial punishments under a captain's mast, while another sailor was convicted at special court martial and reduced in rank. Under privacy laws, the Navy said it cannot release the names or these sailors or their punishments.