Panel determines sentence in Coast Guard Court-Martial

Lady Justice

ALAMEDA, Calif. – The court-martial panel that found a Coast Guard petty officer guilty of a violation of Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 92, dereliction of duty, yesterday has announced their decision on a sentence today.  Petty Officer 3rd Class Paul A. Ramos was sentenced to:

  • Three months confinement;
  • Reduction in rank from paygrade E-4 to E3, and;
  • Forfeiture of $1,300 from his pay for three months.

The general court-martial was convened March 7 at the 11th Coast Guard district headquarters in Alameda, Calif.  The seven-member panel, the military trial version of a jury, has been dismissed by the judge and the trial is now concluded. Ramos has the right to appeal.

The dereliction of duty charge stemmed from the December 20, 2009 collision between a Coast Guard patrol boat Ramos was operating and a civilian vessel during an evening holiday boat parade on San Diego Bay.  Ramos was found not guilty on other UCMJ charges: Article 119, involuntary manslaughter; Article 134, negligent homicide; Article 128, aggravated assault; and Article 110, negligently hazarding a vessel.

COAST GUARD STATEMENT

“This is an important step in the military justice process, and in determining the cause of this tragic collision,” said Dan Dewell, an 11th district spokesman.  “No legal ruling can restore lives lost or injured, and we know that the process of recounting the details of a tragedy during a trial can be difficult for those affected by it.  We take this opportunity to again extend our deepest sorrow and condolences to the victims of the crash and their families.”

Because of other pending legal matters and investigations, and out of respect for the rights and privacy of everyone affected by the collision, no additional details about the case can be released at this time.

STATUS OF OTHER MILITARY JUSTICE CASES AND INVESTIGATIONS

Besides Ramos, three other patrol boat crewmembers were charged with violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice following the collision.  A summary court-martial for Petty Officer 3rd Class Brittany N. Rasmussen was held in San Diego in January during which she pleaded guilty to a violation of Article 92, dereliction of duty in her role as a lookout on the boat, and received a letter of reprimand.  A charge of violation of Article 92, dereliction of duty, against Petty Officer 3rd Class Lavelle M. Teague, was dismissed because of insufficient evidence late last year at a non-judicial hearing held in Alameda. A court-martial for Petty Officer 2nd Class Ian M. Howell is scheduled for May.

A fifth Coast Guardsman, who was aboard the boat for training and was not a qualified crewmember, was not charged.

The UCMJ is a complete set of criminal laws that covers most crimes contained in civilian law in addition to other military-specific offenses. UCMJ charges are accusations. The accused are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

The Coast Guard’s internal investigation into the collision, and an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, are ongoing.

BACKGROUND INFO ON BOATING ACCIDENTS

Although serious boat accidents in the Coast Guard are rare, they do happen.  In the past five years, during 2.6-million operating hours and thousands of patrols, there have been three Coast Guard boat-related accidents resulting in fatalities.  The December 2009 San Diego collision was the only incident involving the death of a civilian.  In March, 2007, a Coast Guard member based in Alaska was killed after being ejected from a patrol boat near Seattle.  Another Coast Guardsman died in Oct., 2010, during a training mission in Virginia after he fell into the water while transferring between a small patrol boat and a cutter.

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