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Navy officer faces court martial after deserting his unit in Bahrain for sex crimes

The American flag adjacent to a library of Court Martial reports. (Airman 1st Class Daniel Blackwell/U.S. Air Force)
October 05, 2018

After allegedly deserting his post during active duty deployment to Bahrain, a Navy officer will be court-martialed for sex trafficking, engaging in sexual acts with prostitutes, and for not informing authorities of another troop’s wrongdoing.

Lt. Cmdr. Joseph R. Nelson, originally from New Jersey, abandoned his unit in Bahrain on June 19, Military.com reported. The surface warfare lieutenant was brought into custody around July 9 and told authorities that he was not on active duty. His charge sheet indicated that he knowingly provided false information.

Nelson also faces charges of crimes in Bahrain during 2017-2018, however, a trial date has not yet been set, according to Lt. Tim Pietrack, a spokesman for Navy Region Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia.

Those charges include publicly associating with and cohabitating with known prostitutes, trafficking by use of force, fraud or coercion to cause a person to engage in sexual acts, failing to report other service members’ misconduct and paying for sex, the charge sheet revealed.

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Nelson earned his commission in 2006 after graduating from the Naval Academy and transitioned to the Reserves in 2012. He is one of six Navy personnel to be charged with crimes in Bahrain around the same time frame, but he is the only officer.

The charge sheet reports that some of the charges “constituted conduct unbecoming an officer and brought discredit upon the armed forces.”

Chief Operations Specialist Jayson Waitman Grant, Chief Logistics Specialist Calvin Halfacre, Chief Logistics Specialist Earl Anthony McLaughlin, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Jihad Hobeson Littlejohn and Quartermaster 3rd Class Kenneth Olaya are the other five sailors pending court-martial.

Sex trafficking has been a big problem in Bahrain, the State Department said.

To help thwart the problem, all naval employees deployed to Bahrain must undergo special training to recognize signs of human trafficking and responses to take if those activities are observed.

Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Cmdr. Josh Frey said, “The goal of this campaign is to raise awareness of this issue, reinforce Navy core values, and promote bystander intervention by encouraging sailors to speak up when wrongdoing or destructive behaviors are occurring. The campaign also includes ongoing law enforcement and investigative measures to identify and appropriately address any further activity discovered.”