Coast Guard senior commander on trial for sexual improprieties

Posted: Friday, December 18, 2009

FORT RICHARDSON - A young Coast Guard petty officer was the second lover to take the stand in the military hearing on the conduct of a senior commander who is accused of sexual improprieties including 31 violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The woman said Wednesday's hearing was the first time she had seen Capt. Herbert "Mark" Hamilton since May 11, the day the Coast Guard began its investigation into their affair.

Among the alleged offenses filed in November, the 48-year-old Hamilton is accused of sexual improprieties that allegedly took place in Alaska and other states and involved multiple women, including enlisted Coast Guard personnel.

The young Coast Guard petty officer faced the military courtroom with tears in her eyes Wednesday and told the two teams of lawyers the intimate, personal details of her sex life with her former lover, who was sitting across the room at the defense table.

The woman, who was the second lover to have taken the stand so far in the proceeding that began Tuesday, told the court the captain had been her best friend up until the abrupt ending to the affair.

Before May 11, Hamilton was a senior officer in the Coast Guard as commander of Sector Anchorage, overseeing 200 personnel in charge of all the ports in western Alaska and all environmental responses to incidents in the western half of the state. The married man had been in the Coast Guard 20 years.

The petty officer told the court that she and Hamilton met in New Orleans while responding to Hurricane Katrina, started a sexual relationship then and continued it for years. The two never lived in the same city but had daily contact via text messages, e-mails and phone calls.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits adulterous affairs that affect "the good order and discipline" of the Coast Guard. The code also prohibits officers from fraternizing with enlisted personnel. For the government lawyers to advance their case to court-martial, they must prove there is sufficient evidence supporting that the "good order and discipline" of the Coast Guard was affected by Hamilton's indiscretions with the enlisted women.

In Wednesday's questioning of the petty officer, government counsel Lt. Kismet Wunder asked about their working relationship. She told the court that the pair would often talk about their work days and issues they had in the workplace.

She also said that Hamilton discussed senior military matters with her, had her proofread official documents, and talked about disciplinary actions against personnel. In turn, she often complained about her boss. Hamilton regularly referred to that boss, a junior ranking member to him but senior to her, as "the moron," she said.

The petty officer also testified that Hamilton would visit her on official work trips and that the pair communicated using his government e-mail and cell phone but that Hamilton "didn't cross lines" when it came to work matters. He often told her that he would pull no strings for her in the workplace; she also said she never asked him to.

The petty officer who testified on Wednesday also faces reprimand but the charge against her is less severe because of her rank. She will be reprimanded in her unit by her captain, she told the court.

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