The fourth Navy SEAL this year has been charged with sex crimes, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, and a Navy charge sheet being brought against SEAL Lieutenant Joseph Benevento.
The Navy is charging Benevento with sexual assault following an incident that took place in San Diego, California, on November 6, 2016. The charge sheet was filed on June 29th. According to the Navy, Benevento twice violated military law (the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, UCMJ) when he allegedly placed an identified woman on a bed, removed her pants, and proceeded to have intercourse with her without her consent.
The legal proceedings are so far described as “preliminary,” as Benevento has not been placed into Article 32 proceedings, which are the military equivalent of a civilian Grand Jury hearing. Benevento’s criminal defense lawyer, Michael Waddington, insisted that Benevento was innocent, and stated that, “this case was investigated by local authorities and they declined to prosecute,” according to the Union-Tribune. Waddington has called the Navy proceedings a “witch hunt.”
Benevento is a graduate of the University of Florida, is 33 years old, and at this time, has not been arrested or detained. According to Navy records and the Union-Tribune, he enlisted in the Navy in 2006, and has served in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
The other three SEALs charged with sex crimes in 2017 include SEAL Team One Petty Officer 1st Class (PO1) Gregory K. Seerden, charged for recording himself molesting a child, SEAL Team Five Petty Officer 2nd Class (PO2) Kyle Irving, who faces a court-martial for allegedly raping a woman in San Diego in 2015, and Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Stephen Varanko, charged with kidnapping and raping a fellow sailor in a hotel room near Fort Knox, KY.
Seerden is facing one count for production of child pornography, two counts for transportation of child pornography, and one count for possession of child pornography. He has plead not guilty to the charges. Irving is accused of pinning a woman’s hands behind her head and pinning her wrists before sexually assaulting her. Varanko is charged with four counts of rape, four counts of sexual assault, and one count each of aggravated assault and battery.
The SEAL community cannot seem to catch a break from bad press in recent months, between these sex crime allegations, infighting within the community, and various allegations of whistle-blower retaliation and even war crimes. One continues to hope that Naval Special Warfare will come out from under these dark clouds and that the actions of these men will not permanently tarnish the reputation of one of the country’s elite fighting units.
(Featured image of SEAL Team 5 conducting training courtesy of Wikipedia.)