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Guantanamo Camp's Muslim Chaplain Faces New Charges

Army captain suspected of mishandling secret data is accused of porn possession and adultery.

November 26, 2003|Richard A. Serrano | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Army Capt. James Yee, the Muslim chaplain arrested for allegedly mishandling classified material at the terrorist detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was released from a military brig on Tuesday, but he faces new charges of adultery at the naval base and viewing pornography on his government computer there.

The release of the sole Muslim religious leader ministering to the 660 detainees came one day after his Washington lawyers sent a letter to President Bush complaining about his confinement and urging that he be freed until his criminal case can be resolved.

"We're not out of the woods yet, obviously," said defense lawyer Eugene R. Fidell. "But Chaplain Yee and his family are very, very grateful to the president and his advisors for this."

However, military authorities said the release had nothing to do with the letter to the president. They said Yee was freed from a Navy brig in South Carolina as part of the routine process of the case. Authorities have yet to decide whether Yee will be court-martialed on any of the charges, including the initial offenses of mishandling classified material from the detainee prison.

"We are very, very confident that there has been no outside pressure into this investigation" from the White House or any other source, said Raul Duany, a spokesman for the military's Southern Command, which runs the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Yee was reassigned to Ft. Benning, Ga., where he will report to the chief chaplain and await any decision on a court-martial.

He was arrested Sept. 10 after leaving the detention camp in Cuba and landing at the naval air station at Jacksonville, Fla. Later charged with two counts of mishandling classified material from the facility, he became one of three officials at the detainee prison who have been charged with taking secret information from there.

On Tuesday he was charged with four more offenses.

One charge said that Yee, a 35-year-old West Point graduate who is married, did "wrongfully have sexual intercourse with a woman not his wife" both in Guantanamo Bay and Orlando, Fla. Under the military code of justice, said Duany, adultery is considered conduct unbecoming an officer.

There were two new charges that he did "wrongfully and dishonorably use a government-issued computer to view and store pornographic images" at Guantanamo Bay, and a fourth charge of making a false statement to authorities about whether certain material had been cleared for release to detainees.

Duany said Army Col. Dan Trimble at Ft. Benning now will decide whether Yee will be sent to an Article 32 preliminary hearing to air the evidence against him and determine whether he should be court-martialed.

But his defense attorney said the new charges appear to be just a "piling-on" against his client.

"You see adultery charges being trotted out, and it just makes your heart sink," Fidell said. "What they're really trying to do is replace his leg irons with a scarlet letter."

Fidell also suggested that the case may never get to a court-martial, and that instead there might be fruitful negotiations to settle the matter. "I'm hoping this case will go away," he said.

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