WASHINGTON -- A Marine Corps commander's inappropriate text messages to enlisted troops led to an investigation into misconduct and later a conviction in a general court-martial in December, according to investigation documents.
Maj. William E. Hernandez sent text messages, including some that were sexual in nature, from his government BlackBerry phone to three enlisted Marines, including one who was married, according to a command investigation report obtained Monday by Stars and Stripes from Marine Forces Reserve into his conduct.
Hernandez was convicted in a general court-martial of "violating general regulations, obstruction of justice, and conduct unbecoming of an officer and gentleman," and was sentenced to 18 months confinement and a $5,000 fine, according to a Marine Corps court-martial report.
Before Hernandez was removed from his position, he was the site commander of active-duty troops and reservists with Marine Wing Support Squadron 471 of Marine Aircraft Group 41 located in Minneapolis, Minn. The unit is part of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing in the Marine Forces Reserve.
The investigation was conducted after one of the enlisted Marines came forward with a complaint about the text messages, according to the investigation report. The text messages were recovered by Marine Corps Cyber Operations Group from his government phone.
The investigation discovered two other enlisted Marines that Hernandez had engaged in "inappropriate texting and potential sexual harassment/assault activity" were ongoing, according to the command investigation. Names in the report given to Stars and Stripes had been redacted for privacy reasons.
One of the findings in the investigation was a series of texts "with sexual innuendo" between Hernandez and an unidentified person throughout one day in July 2017 that ended in the person "performing oral sex in his office at the end of the workday and then they continue to text about more sexual acts they can perform at a later time."
Another finding cited in the report was from January 2017, when Hernandez had "texted with approximately twenty escorts in the Dallas/Fort Worth area inquiring about prices, availability, and services they provided."
The command investigation's findings also list inappropriate texts received by an unidentified person, including "I'm a bad boy and leader. Lol," and "I think you like me being bad. Shame on you. Lol."
A complaint was started July 12, 2017, according to the report. Two of the enlisted Marines were given non-punitive letters of caution for inappropriate texts with Hernandez. "I believe the pressure to respond to the senior officer was compelling. Response was mandated," the unidentified commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 41 wrote about the justification for the letters of caution in a memorandum attached to the command investigation report. "However, the nature of the responses were not in keeping with good order and discipline," adding it was the commander's judgment that it should be dealt with in a "non-punitive nature."
The investigation was forwarded to Naval Criminal Investigative Service to determine if any further investigation was necessary. NCIS would not provide copies of investigation documents.
This article was written by Caitlin M. Kenney from Stars and Stripes and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.