WASHINGTON – Two U.S. sailors are expected to receive administrative punishments, but not be criminally charged, in connection with the prostitution scandal that engulfed U.S. Secret Service and military members preparing for a presidential visit to Colombia earlier this year, a senior military official said Friday.
The two sailors will be punished for hiring a prostitute and dereliction of duty for drinking within eight hours of the time they had to report for duty, the official said.
More than six months after the scandal erupted, and lengthy efforts to identify and locate witnesses and others involved, the two sailors were expected to be the final military members disciplined in the case. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to disclose sensitive legal developments.
In the military, nonjudicial or administrative punishments can take a wide variety of forms, from docking service members' pay or confining them to quarters to assigning them additional duties for a certain length of time. In some cases, it can be a letter of reprimand in their files, but in other cases administrative punishments can be career-ending, or delay or prevent any future promotions.
Of the dozen military members initially implicated, seven U.S. soldiers and two Marines received administrative punishments for what was described as misconduct, and one Air Force member was cleared. Three of the soldiers declined the administrative punishments and have requested courts-martial.
A lawyer for one of the sailors had complained that his client, David Hawley, was not around at the time the prostitutes were alleged to be solicited. The lawyer, Jeremiah Sullivan, said the sailors were unfairly stripped of their security clearances and reassigned to other tasks for months as they waited to see if they would be charged. The names of the other military members have not been made public.
The service members were investigated for bringing apparent prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Colombia shortly before President Barack Obama arrived in the country for an April summit, according to the military's investigation of the matter. The investigator's report, released in early August, described the misconduct as consisting "almost exclusively of patronizing prostitutes and adultery."
The scandal came to light after a public dispute over payment between a U.S. Secret Service agent and a prostitute at a Cartagena hotel spilled over into the hallway of the Hotel Caribe. The Secret Service and the military were in the Colombian coastal resort to prepare for Obama's participation in a Latin American summit. Eight Secret Service employees implicated in the incident were ousted and three were cleared of serious misconduct; at least two employees were fighting to get their jobs back.
U.S. Southern Command, headed by Gen. Douglas Fraser, conducted the investigation into the military members' involvement in the April incident.