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Two Marines Found Guilty of Disobeying Order for Refusing DNA Test

April 17, 1996

HONOLULU (AP) _ Two Marines who refused to give blood samples for a DNA registry were found guilty Tuesday of disobeying a lawful order but were spared the stockade and a bad conduct discharge.

Cpl. John C. Mayfield III of Dallas and Cpl. Joseph Vlacovsky, of Canton, Ohio, were both sentenced to a seven-day restriction that keeps them from leaving the Kaneohe Marine Base.

Lt. Cmdr Peter Straub, who presided over the two-day court-martial, also ordered that a letter of reprimand go in each man’s file.

The soldiers could have faced a six-month jail term and dismissal from the service. The ruling means they will be allowed to leave the service with honorable discharges. Mayfield’s enlistment ends this week and Vlacovsky’s next month and both said they planned to return to their hometowns and enroll in college under the GI Bill.

``Regardless of the punishment, we kept our DNA,″ Mayfield said.

Mayfield, 21, and Vlacovsky, 25, refused to give blood samples for the registry designed to help the Pentagon identify servicemen’s remains, saying they feared the ``genetic dogtags″ could be used against them in the future.

They said the order violates their constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure.

Military prosecutors said the case had nothing to do with genetic testing or discrimination but was about whether the two soldiers refused to follow the order.

Capt. John Milliman, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Base Hawaii, said the ruling ``degrades and erodes the bedrock of the character of Marines.″

During the court-martial, the defendants called Stanford University medical school’s Dr. Paul Billings, who testified that the Pentagon program still lacks safeguards to protect people’s privacy.

The Pentagon has been collecting DNA samples from service members for three years and has stored more than 1 million in Gaithersburg, Md.

But the Pentagon announced last week it will strictly limit the circumstances under which the samples can be released and will allow personnel to have their specimens destroyed when they leave the service.

Mayfield and Vlacovsky also have filed a class-action lawsuit to stop the program. That case is pending before a federal appeals court.

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