The Navy's former highest-ranking equal-opportunity officer survived a six-day general court-martial Thursday when he was cleared of sexual harassment and related charges involving two subordinates.
Military jurors concluded there was insufficient evidence against Capt. Everett Greene, 47, the highest-ranking Navy officer to be court-martialed since World War II, because he had never touched the complaining female officers or attempted to pressure them into sexual acts, although he had sent them affectionate cards and notes, some of which appeared sexually suggestive.
Greene, whose duties once included reviewing complaints of sexual and racial discrimination, had been put in charge of a beefed-up enforcement effort in 1991 to help the Navy recover from the Tailhook scandal.
Greene told reporters after the verdict that he now expects to become a one-star admiral, a promotion that has been on hold since February. However, he still could face administrative punishment, including withdrawal of his promotion.
The Navy earlier had tried to settle the matter without going to trial and proposed an administrative hearing. But Greene said that he wanted to confront his accusers in a full trial on criminal charges of improper fraternization, sexual harassment and conduct unbecoming an officer.
A spokeswoman for the National Organization for Women said the group had no immediate reaction to the verdict.
Greene is a graduate of the Naval Academy who served two years in the equal-opportunity post. He currently heads an elite Navy SEAL commando unit in San Diego. He is married and the father of three children.
He acknowledged sending cards, notes and poems over a 10-month period to Lt. Mary Felix, who worked in his office, but he said that she was experiencing medical problems and personal crises in her life and he was merely trying to comfort her.
His notes, which the prosecutor, Cmdr. Carol J. Cooper, introduced into evidence, included such phrases as "thanks . . . for making one of my dreams come true; whenever you need to be adored, I will be there" and "I have never tried to get you to do anything in violation of your religious beliefs against your will."
Felix testified that she had confided in Greene about her problems but that he kept sending her suggestive notes--and small gifts, including a pair of running shorts--even after she complained to him about the attention.
Felix had worked in the equal-opportunity division of the Bureau of Naval Personnel in 1993, counseling callers to a sexual harassment hot line that was set up in response to Tailhook, the scandal in which naval aviators had groped and fondled women at a drunken Las Vegas convention. Greene was her boss.
Toward the end of the trial, the presiding judge dismissed charges involving the second complainant, Lt. Pamela Castrucci, on the grounds that prosecutors had failed to present compelling evidence.
Because of Greene's rank, a panel of eight senior officers served as jurors--five rear admirals and three captains. Six panelists were men and two were women. Six votes were needed to either convict or acquit, but the count was not disclosed.
Rear Adm. Steven Briggs, the jury's ranking member, told reporters afterward that "we carefully considered all of the evidence and the individual charges," but he declined to elaborate on the seven hours of deliberations.
Asked what message the Navy was sending from this verdict, Briggs replied: "I would hope the message is that our court system demands adherence to certain standards of proof."
Greene, an African American, said he did not believe his race had played a role in his prosecution.
"The fact that I stand before you acquitted of these charges shows there may be difficulties that one encounters in military service, but there are no insurmountable barriers," he said.
He said that he believed that his conduct had been "appropriate" at all times.
"My intention was always to boost people's morale and promote the welfare of the people in my office," Greene said.