Coast Guard Dismisses Criminal Charges Against Sole Survivor of Air Station Sitka Helicopter Crash

17th Coast Guard District NewsJUNEAU, Alaska — The 17th Coast Guard District commander, Rear Adm. Thomas P. Ostebo, dismissed criminal charges without prejudice against Lt. Lance Leone Tuesday, stemming from his role as co-pilot of Coast Guard helicopter CG-6017, which crashed on July 7, 2010.

Leone, the sole survivor of the crash, was charged Sept. 30, 2011, with violating three punitive articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He was charged with two specifications of negligent homicide, one specification of damaging, destroying, or losing military property and two specifications of dereliction of duty.

A pretrial hearing under Article 32 of the UCMJ was conducted on Dec. 7, 2011, by the investigating officer, Capt. Andrew Norris, a military attorney. After taking evidence including the testimony of witnesses, Norris provided Ostebo with his evaluation of the charges and recommendations for disposition. Ostebo had the discretion to refer the charges to trial but decided to dismiss them.

Ostebo took this action as the General Court-Martial Convening Authority for the 17th District. The UCMJ, which governs discipline for the Armed Forces, gives the Court-Martial Convening Authority the responsibility to determine the disposition of charges before him.

“The military justice system provides the surest means to fairly determine when and how its people should be held accountable for their actions,” said Ostebo. “In this case, based on my review of evidence produced by the Article 32 investigation, I decided that Leone’s actions did not merit a court martial.”

“Our Coast Guard operations are inherently dangerous. The American people rightly demand and deserve the service’s total commitment in preparing and leading our Coast Guard men and women to conduct our missions in the high-risk maritime environment. The deaths of three Coast Guardsmen and the circumstances warranted the fullest investigation into the charges against Leone,” said Ostebo.

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