YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan -- The former top enlisted sailor aboard the USS Germantown was found guilty Wednesday at a court-martial of violating a general order related to sexual harassment, but exonerated on more serious sexual assault charges.
Command Master Chief Petty Officer Jesus Galura was sentenced to a reduction in pay grade to E-7, fined $10,000 and reprimanded for his treatment of a shipmate, as well as for charges related to researching prostitutes aboard the ship, to which he pleaded guilty in January.
The sentence included a recommendation by military judge Capt. David Harrison to the Navy's convening authority that Galura's reduction be limited to E-8, which would allow him to retire as a senior chief petty officer.
Prosecutors had asked that Galura be demoted to E-6, fined one year's salary and jailed for 35 days.
The ruling brought the end to a 25-year Navy career for Galura, who was praised by former commanders for his know-how, but described by co-prosecutor Lt. Neil D'Arco as a man whose "ego and his own success" made him feel invulnerable.
Galura apologized to his former commanders, shipmates, his wife and two children while reading an unsworn statement. He did not apologize, as co-prosecutor Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Pietrzyk later pointed out, to the shipmate whose statements led to the case against him.
"What I did will haunt me for the rest of my life. ... I will never be the same," Galura said. "These actions of mine have scarred me and my loved ones."
The woman who Galura was accused of assaulting arrived aboard Germantown in 2012 and immediately pursued several enlisted collateral leadership duties, including one as an assistant sexual assault prevention and response coordinator. She volunteered for the extra duties in a bid to climb to the highest level of the Navy's enlisted ranks, according to her testimony.
In June 2013, she went out to dinner with several other chiefs during a port visit in Okinawa.
While seated next to her, Galura caressed her thigh under the table, she testified.
"At one point, he turned around and looked at me, and he winked in front of all my male counterparts," she said.
The group then piled into a van headed back to the ship.
Galura again sat next to the woman. She fell asleep and when she awoke, she found his hand moving on her jeans and over her genital area, she testified.
Galura then invited only her back to his office, after the night of drinking, to talk about one of her collateral duties, according to testimony.
She said she declined the invitation. She did not discuss the incident for months, when she spoke with a co-worker about it. However, she swore him to silence, the co-worker testified.
Shortly afterward, the woman nearly received a negative "letter of instruction" after she signed a check that allowed Germantown to leave port. A supply officer would normally sign the check, but the victim could not find the officer.
Galura told her that he personally intervened and stopped the letter of instruction, according to her testimony.
"I am the only one that has the best interest in your career and your life," she recalled Galura saying.
As she got up to exit his office, Galura gave her a hug, she testified. He then put his hands on her face and tried to kiss her, which she resisted, according to her testimony.
No one witnessed any of the alleged assaults, according to testimony.
The woman did not report the allegations until Nov. 29, 2013, when she was called before then-commanding officer Cmdr. Jason Leach, Galura and others. She had just resigned all of her collateral duties, and Leach told her it would adversely affect her performance evaluation.
"It's at that point in time she wants to take the focus off of her, and she knows how to do it," Lt. Brandon Sargent, Galura's defense counsel, said during closing arguments.
After reporting the incidents, she was transferred off the ship the next day.
She testified she resigned her duties because Galura's actions made her miserable. She added that she couldn't continue training sailors to report incidents of sexual misconduct when she couldn't bring herself to do the same.
While the Navy's official stance bars retribution for reporting sexual assault, she said she didn't believe it.
"I knew that as soon as I reported sexual harassment, sexual assault to an outside agent, I knew that my career would be over ... from my past experience on USS Germantown, sir," she testified.
A December 2013 command climate investigation into Germantown would later described sailor fear of reprisals for reporting misconduct, according to testimony.
The explanation for Galura's conviction on violating an order barring sexual harassment won't be clear until the Navy releases a written decision of the case. Prosecutors accused Galura of making several inappropriate comments to the woman, as well as discussing his plans to procure prostitutes with other chiefs in front of her.
Galura also had her in for office meetings while his computer monitor, visible to her, contained images of prostitutes Galura had plans to contact, according to testimony.
In January, Galura pleaded guilty to charges that he engaged in a conspiracy with three other chiefs to obtain prostitutes; that he used government equipment aboard the ship to do so; and, that he lied to a criminal investigator afterward.
Because Harrison's sentence was no more severe than the plea agreement, the terms of the deal were set aside, per rules governing the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Galura was not picked by a recent senior enlisted continuation board and was therefore slated to retire, regardless of the court's decision, according to testimony.