Navy Officer Accused of Masturbating at Desk, Searching for Child Porn Online

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

WASHINGTON -- A San Diego-based Navy officer faces a court-martial on a range of charges that accuse him of masturbating at his desk while on duty and scouring the internet for child pornography using his government-issued computer, service charging documents show.

Lt. Cmdr. Robert J. Cleary was charged in November with more than a handful of crimes primarily stemming from an investigation of his alleged use of a Navy computer to search for illicit images of children, according to the documents, which were obtained Thursday by Stars and Stripes. Cleary is an active-duty meteorology and oceanography officer who has been assigned to the Navy Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center in California since March 2014, according to service records.

His case was referred in February to a general court-martial by Rear Adm. Yancy B. Lindsey, who approved the felony-level proceedings before relinquishing command of Navy Region Southwest in March. Cleary, who was arraigned that month, will appear in court July 8 for a motions hearing, said Kevin Dixon, a spokesman for Navy Region Southwest.

The charging documents list six crimes that Cleary is accused of committing -- several repeatedly -- between May 2016 and July 2017.

Prosecutors charged Cleary with attempting to commit a crime, alleging that on multiple occasions between May 2016 and April 2017 he "knowingly and wrongfully" attempted to receive and view child pornography by "entering search terms indicative of child pornography into an internet search engine" on his Navy-issued computer.

They also charged him with possessing child pornography, writing that a search of a privately owned Dell computer turned up "images of minors, or what appear to be minors, engaged in sexually explicit conduct."

Cleary faces two charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and gentlemen. Prosecutors, in the first count, allege he masturbated at his desk inside the San Diego naval facility multiple times between May 2016 and April 2017. The second count charges that, in July 2017, Cleary placed a handwritten note on his desk in a visible area that contained apparent search terms indicative of child erotica.

Prosecutors also allege Cleary failed to follow two legal orders by wrongfully using his government computer and, in a separate charge, by illegally bringing a privately owned computer into his restricted office space.

Navy records show Cleary enlisted in the Navy in 1991 and served as a submarine warfare specialist through 1997. He was commissioned in October 2002 through Officer Candidate School. He has served aboard ships including the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and the USS Indianapolis, a decommissioned fast-attack submarine. His other assignments include the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in Virginia, the Naval Oceanography Warfare Center in California, and the Navy's Mobile Environmental Team, also in California.

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