The Navy found a SEAL Team 6 operator guilty of catfishing a woman online. The operator will now spend 30 days in the brig and forfeit $500 from his paycheck for three months ($1,500 t0tal).
A Navy court-martial found Special Warfare Operator 1st Class (SO1) Aaron Howard guilty of trying to elicit nude pictures from a woman while posing as another person. SO1 Howard will also be demoted to Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class and most probably lose his Navy SEAL Trident and kicked out of SEAL Team 6.
According to the Navy Times, the prosecution requested a prison sentence of 18 months and that SO1 Howard be kicked out of the Navy with a dishonorable discharge, even though they couldn’t provide any nude pictures that would incriminate SO1 Howard.
SO1 Howard was charged with violating Article 134 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The Article is concerned with:
“all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses, not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special, or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.”
The original accusations against the SEAL Team 6 operator stated that he posed as two different persons online to lure three women (two civilians and one Navy enlisted Sailor) to send him nude pictures. The jury, however, found SO1 Howard innocent of the above charges (indecent conduct).
The trial lasted for four days and took place at Naval Station Norfolk.
The SEAL Team 6 operator, however, indicated that his command exerted unlawful influence against him that prejudiced his colleagues and the jury. “The leadership banded together and formed a wall of silence,” said SO1 Howard in a prepared statement. “Anyone that spoke on my behalf was considered a traitor to DEVGRU [the Naval Special Warfare Development Group is another title for SEAL Team 6]. My friends confided in me that if they stepped forward, then they were no longer welcome at the command. This hurt me more than anything.”
SO1 Howard also disclosed that he has been suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), a result of his combat deployments with the Navy’s Tier 1 Special Missions Unit (SMU).
Howard joined DEVGRU in 2014 and received a Bronze Star for Valor for saving the lives of two teammates during a High-Value Target raid in an undisclosed location (a safe guess would be Yemen, Somalia, or Afghanistan). He was also voted as one of the Sailors of the Year in 2016.
The jury’s decision doesn’t disqualify SO1 Howard from seeking a medical retirement from the Navy.
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