A 20-year-old midshipman who had fled the U.S. Naval Academy before a court-martial scheduled for July pleaded guilty today to stealing $5,000 in merchandise from the academy store and twice leaving the school without authorization.
In only the third court-martial at the academy in 63 years, Clayton M. Lewis, a second-year midshipman from Roanoke Rapids, N.C., told a Navy court that he was able to steal goods merely by carrying them out of the store in his hand, making no attempt to conceal them.
“I would have it in my hand and walk out the front door,” Lewis said.
He said he kept some of the goods for himself and gave other items to friends, including some midshipmen.
Lewis also said he took food from an academy restaurant several times simply by walking past cashiers who let him leave without paying for his meals.
Lewis had been charged with desertion, larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny, which would have carried a maximum 11 1/2 years at hard labor, dismissal from the Navy and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
Lewis pleaded guilty only to larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny. Instead of desertion, he pleaded guilty to two reduced charges of unauthorized absence.
A pretrial agreement on sentencing was reached, but officials did not disclose it immediately.
Lewis missed a scheduled court-martial July 23 when he fled the academy. He was arrested Aug. 14 in Los Angeles on a charge of failing to pay a $14.86 restaurant bill.
He had previously fled May 4 but surrendered to naval authorities May 20 in Norfolk, Va.