Marine Who Left Post Gets Discharge, Suspended Sentence

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From a Times Staff Writer

A Camp Pendleton Marine who fled his Gulf-bound ship in Hawaii just a month before the start of Operation Desert Storm will receive a suspended prison sentence, a reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge, according to a pretrial agreement disclosed at a special courts-martial Friday.

Cpl. Kenneth R. Turner, a 22-year-old Michigan native who says his religious beliefs are incompatible with military service, pleaded guilty to two charges--unauthorized absence and missing a troop movement. A military prosecutor withdrew the more serious charge of desertion.

Turner, the only Southern California-based Marine to make public his bid for conscientious objector--or CO--status during the Gulf War buildup, had filed his CO application in October.


In December, to avoid disobeying an order, he deployed under moral protest with the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade. But one week later, when the ship docked in Pearl Harbor, Turner bought an airline ticket and flew to Los Angeles.

Compared to the maximum possible penalty--six months’ confinement, forfeiture of two-thirds pay for six months, a reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge--Turner’s sentence was light.

Friday’s hearing appears to end Turner’s bid for CO status; once a Marine has been discharged, the corps no longer processes his CO application.