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Top General May Not be Court-Martialed

The former top U.S. general in Africa won’t face court martial over accusations he misused hundreds of thousands of dollars, former military lawyers predict.

A report by the Defense Department’s inspector general says Gen. William “Kip” Ward committed a variety of non-criminal offenses as the first head of Africa Command, Stars and Stripes reported.

Among the offenses, the inspector general said Ward was reimbursed for personal travel, spent $18,500 on gifts at his change-of-command ceremony and accepted free meals and tickets from a prohibited source.

While Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is due to decide in the next few weeks whether to charge Ward, former military attorneys said court-martialing a senior officer is a difficult task.

Military rules require that jurors deciding any court-martial be of equal or greater rank than the defendant. In Ward’s case, it’s not certain that his alleged wrongdoings reach the level appropriate for a court-martial. However, he could be tried for failing to obey an order or regulation.

It’s more likely, the attorneys say, that Ward will face a battery of non-judicial administrative punishments.

He could be reprimanded and fined, and forced to retire at a lower rank, which would slash his monthly benefits.

Greg Rinckey, a former Army JAG, said that while officers sometimes receive a lighter punishment relative to enlisted soldiers, it was unlikely Ward would escape without some punishment.

 

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