Prosecution and defense witnesses painted a portrait of a highly motivated and well-liked young man who, buckling under the weight of a broken dream, “had to fly, at least one time.”
So went the first day of an Article 32 hearing--the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing and a grand jury inquiry--against Lance Cpl. Howard A. Foote Jr., charged with taking a $14-million jet fighter on a joy ride at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.
If convicted, Foote faces a sentence of four years in prison, although technically one of the charges includes the possibility of the death penalty.
Capt. Jett L. Whitmer called six witnesses in the El Toro courtroom Friday, and their testimony went largely unchallenged during cross-examination by the defense counsel, Capt. Bradley N. Garber.
Foote, 21, an aviation mechanic and record-breaking glider pilot, faces five related charges growing out of an unauthorized late-night flight of an A-4M Skyhawk last July 4. Before the plane was taken, the Los Alamitos native had learned that a blood ailment caused by an attempt to break a glider altitude record had, in all likelihood, put an end to his ambition of becoming a jet pilot.