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Army officer convicted in 1st known COVID restrictions court-martial

A gavel cracks down. (Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid/U.S. Air Force)
May 04, 2022

A U.S. Army officer has been convicted in the first known court-martial for refusing to follow COVID-19 orders, reports revealed this week.

1st Lt. Mark Bashaw, who is assigned to the Army Public Health Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, was charged in February with court-martial offenses for refusing to work from home against COVID-19, failing to submit to a COVID-19 test after arriving at work in person, and refusing to wear a mask. Army Times reported Tuesday that Bashaw was found guilty on Friday of two specifications of refusing to follow orders.

Bashaw was found guilty of refusing an order to telework and an order to either provide a negative COVID-19 test result or to submit to a test upon his arrival in person.

Army Times reported other U.S. service members have faced disciplinary actions for refusing to follow COVID-19 mitigation protocols. Bashaw’s case is the first known court-martial for running afoul of such protocols.

While Bashaw was found guilty on the two counts, the judge chose not to specifically punish him.

“After a careful consideration of the evidence, a military judge exercised lawful authority not to adjudge punishment for 1st Lt. Mark Bashaw,” installation spokesperson Amburr Reese told Army Times. “Receiving no punishment at a court-martial is not without precedent.”

While Bashaw doesn’t face any punishment as a direct result of the two convictions, he now has a criminal conviction associated with his name, which could impact his ability to find future employment.

“While the Army does not categorize court-martial convictions as felonies or misdemeanors, many civilian jurisdictions treat a conviction in special court-martial convened by military judge alone, which this one was, as a misdemeanor,” Reese said.

Following the conviction, Col. Yevgeny Vindman, the leading lawyer for Army Communications-Electronics Command — which oversees Aberdeen Proving Ground — tweeted, “Proud of the prosecution team at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Secured a first in the nation conviction at court-martial of a lieutenant who failed to obey lawful orders re COVID mitigation measures. Guilty on all 3 counts. #orderanddiscipline.”

Vindman is the twin brother of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified during President Donald Trump’s 2019 impeachment. Alexander Vindman testified that he felt Trump had acted “inappropriately” in a July 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during which Trump asked about then-Vice President Joe Biden’s involvement in firing a Ukrainian prosecutor. The Ukranian prosecutor was investigating Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board of directors Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden served.

After Trump was acquitted in 2020, he fired Alexander Vindman from his White House post. Both Vindman brothers alleged the Trump administration retaliated against them and tried to block their promotions. Alexander Vindman ultimately retired from the Army, while Yevgeny continues to serve and was promoted to the rank of a full colonel last year.