Coast Guard crewmembers charged in San Diego Bay boat collision

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Criminal charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to dereliction of duty have been preferred by the Coast Guard against four boat crewmembers from Coast Guard Station San Diego in connection with a fatal collision between one of the station’s patrol boats and a civilian vessel in San Diego Bay late last year.

The charges were brought under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and are based on information discovered by the Coast Guard investigators looking into the December 20, 2009, collision that resulted in the death of one child and the injury of other passengers on the civilian boat. Rear Admiral Joseph Castillo, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District, is the convening authority in the case.

Those charged and UCMJ articles preferred are:

Petty Officer Paul A. Ramos, the boat coxswain, is charged with involuntary manslaughter (Article 119), aggravated assault (Article 128), negligently hazarding a vessel (Article 110), and dereliction of duty (Article 92).

Petty Officer Ian M. Howell is charged with negligent homicide (Article 134), aggravated assault (Article 128), negligently suffering a vessel to be hazarded (Article 110), and dereliction of duty (Article 92).

Petty Officer Brittany N. Rasmussen is charged with negligent homicide (Article 134), aggravated assault (Article 128), and dereliction of duty (Article 92).

Petty Officer Lavelle M. Teague is charged with dereliction of duty (Article 92).

The UCMJ charges are merely accusations. The accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty. To protect the rights of the accused, and out of respect for the rights and privacy of everyone affected by the tragic collision, no additional details about the investigation or pending legal matters may be released at this time.

The next step in the military justice process is known as an Article 32 investigation. The Article 32 investigation, named for the relevant article in the UCMJ, is generally compared to a civilian court preliminary hearing or grand jury process and is required in serious cases to determine whether enough evidence exists to send an accused service member to trial by court martial. The dates of the Article 32 proceedings have not been determined.

The UCMJ is a complete set of criminal laws that covers most crimes contained in civilian law in addition to other military-specific offenses such as failure to obey an order, desertion, etc.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice can be viewed online or can be downloaded as a pdf file.

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