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Navy Lieutenant Receives Seven-Year Sentence for Rape on Ship

July 28, 1990

ROTA, Spain (AP) _ A military judge sentenced a U.S. Navy lieutenant to seven years in prison Saturday after convicting him of raping a female officer aboard ship at a Spanish port.

The judge, Capt. Thomas A. Lawrence, also dismissed Lt. j.g. Robin E. Brown, 27, of Rawlins, Wyo., from the Navy.

Lawrence said he hoped the sentence would express the naval community’s ″moral outrage and indignation″ that such a sexual attack could take place against one of its female officers.

Navy officials in Spain said they could recall no previous case in which a male officer had been accused of raping a female officer. They said cases of shipboard rape are extremely rare.

″I think the judge did a good job of letting it be known that this won’t be allowed in the Navy - on ships or anywhere else,″ said the rape victim, who stressed that she did not hold the Navy responsible for what happened. The Navy has withheld the woman’s name and rank to protect her privacy.

Brown’s defense attorneys said they planned to appeal his conviction and sentence.

He was accused of raping the female officer on April 4 aboard the USS Suribachi while the ammunition ship was docked in Cartagena, Spain. Prosecutors said the rape occurred after Brown and the victim had gone drinking in town with fellow officers from the ship.

On Friday, the judge found Brown guilty of one count of rape under the military code of justice. Defense lawyers chose to have the judge hear the case rather than a jury of six officers.

The judge accepted the prosecution’s contention that Brown returned to the ship drunk and entered the woman’s stateroom, getting into her bed while she was asleep and initiating sexual intercourse.

Brown, who is married and has a 1-year-old daughter, did not testify during the weeklong trial, but took the stand Saturday at his sentencing hearing.

He said he believed he committed the crime, should be punished, and apologized to the victim.

″I’m very sorry for all the harm I caused your family,″ said Brown. ″I’m very ashamed of what I’ve done. I never intended to harm anybody. I wish you guys could forgive me.″

In her testimony Saturday, the victim said she and her family had suffered deep anguish as a result of the rape.

″He violated me physically,″ she said. ″I was in my stateroom, which is my home. And I should be left alone there. If I can’t sleep in my own bed, where can I be left alone?″

Brown’s defense attorney, Marine Capt. J.H. Drescher, admitted that Brown had sexual intercourse, but said his client was drunk at the time and may have believed the female officer had indicated her consent while semiconscious by making a gesture to encourage Brown.

At the sentencing hearing, Drescher asked for a one-year sentence, telling the judge that Brown is ‘not an evil man ... (but) he was too weak to say ’no.‴

The prosecutor, Marine Capt. Walter Sharp, asked for a prison sentence of 12 to 15 years, saying Brown had committed an act of ″selfish self-gratifica tion.″

Brown displayed no emotion as the judge declared the sentence. He will receive reduced pay during his confinement and lose all pay and benefits upon his release.

Brown’s trial has drawn attention because complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination in the Navy have increased in recent years as the number of women enlistees has grown from 9,000 in 1972 to the current 64,000.

The service has come under particular scrutiny after a female midshipman resigned in April from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., after she was handcuffed to a urinal and photographed by some male classmates in a hazing incident in December.

The incident prompted the academy’s superintendent to institute a new program of sensitivity training for midshipmen that focuses on sexual harassment and equal opportunity for women.

Brown will be held in the brig at the joint U.S.-Spanish naval station in Rota before being transferred to a military prison in the United States.

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