Germantown command master chief pleads guilty to prostitute procurement conspiracy

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 A helicopter flies near the dock landing ship USS Germantown while underway in the western Pacific Ocean in August 2013.    Edward Guttierrez III/U.S. Navy
From Stripes.com
A helicopter flies near the dock landing ship USS Germantown while underway in the western Pacific Ocean in August 2013. Edward Guttierrez III/U.S. Navy

Germantown command master chief pleads guilty to prostitute procurement conspiracy

by: Erik Slavin | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: January 29, 2015

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The former command master chief of the USS Germantown admitted Wednesday at a court-martial that he oversaw a prostitution research ring operated by four senior chief petty officers aboard the ship.

Command Master Chief Petty Officer Jesus Galura pleaded guilty to conspiracy to procure prostitutes, violation of a general order and making a false official statement to a law enforcement agent.

He pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual harassment and two counts of unwanted sexual contact directed toward a subordinate aboard the Sasebo, Japan-based ship.

Testimony at the trial revealed a series of sexual assault accusations involving Galura and others that prompted the 7th Fleet to initiate an investigation of Germantown, Amphibious Squadron 11 and Expeditionary Strike Group 7.

An investigation report later described the situation among Germantown’s chiefs as “out of control,” according to court testimony.

Galura testified that he and the four chiefs researched websites offering prostitution services in the Philippines, where the chiefs had expected to make a port call.

Galura also testified that he encouraged Senior Chief Petty Officer Paul Swank, whom he said was negotiating prices, to see if the women he found would be available for parties.

Swank was reduced in pay grade to E-7 after being found guilty in October of conspiracy to patronize a prostitute and a related charge.

Galura later used his ship email to send a picture of two scantily clad women with the message “I got my first two for the day,” which was a violation of a Defense Department regulation regarding use of government communications.

Galura, who is still technically attached to Germantown but temporarily assigned to squadron shore duty, also admitted to lying about the intent of his illicit website browsing, claiming it was part of a safety briefing for sailors.

He made no excuses for his efforts at prostitution planning while entering his pleas to military judge Capt. David Harrison.

“It’s hypocritical on my part, because I would tell a sailor not to do it,” Galura said.

Lt. Brandon Sargent, his defense attorney, argued that the charges directed against Galura constituted unlawful command influence.

Galura’s permanent removal from Germantown was directed by the four-star Pacific Fleet command, rather than any of the lower local commands.

Cmdr. Jason Leach, the former commander of Germantown who was relieved due to loss of confidence in his leadership, testified Wednesday that his “gut feeling” told him Galura would be court-martialed regardless of the investigation results into his actions.

Leach also said he and his immediate superior, Capt. Heidi Agle, were never informed of Galura’s removal.

“[Agle] shared an article from Stars and Stripes in which Pacific Fleet announced the relief (of Galura),” Leach said. “I was extremely shocked. I asked her if she knew about it, and she said she did not.”

Harrison ruled that no evidence thus far supported the unlawful command influence argument, since Pacific Fleet’s actions were administrative in nature and their deferral to Naval Forces Japan for judicial action was proper.

Galura agreed to plead guilty to some charges Wednesday as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Sentencing was deferred until the end of the trial, which is scheduled to reconvene Feb. 23. At that time, Galura will face charges that he harassed, forcibly kissed and improperly touched a subordinate.

slavin.erik@stripes.com

Twitter: @eslavin_stripes

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