WASHINGTONÂ â€” A Marine tribunal has recommended that an officer accused of exposing himself to civilian women subordinates be forced to retire after 27 years of service, the Marine Corps said in a statement Saturday.
A board of three colonels late FridayÂ sent their recommendation to the Secretary of the Navy for the “involuntary retirement” ofÂ Maj. David Cheek. Two civilian women accused Cheek of calling them to his empty office on five occasions and showing them, while clothed, that he had an erection.Â Cheek denies the allegations.
The colonels’ recommendation was based on Cheek’s “substandard performance of duty,” according to the Marine Corps. The panel, which took sworn testimony from Cheek, the women and other witnesses, based itsÂ recommendation on Cheek’s “failure to properly dischargeÂ duties expected of officers of his grade,” and his failure to conform to standards of “military comportment.”
“The board did not substantiate any specific allegations of misconduct,” said Lt. Col. Stuart Fugler, a Marine Corps spokesman. “However, they found his overall performance below what is expected from an officer in the Marine Corps.”
The board recommended that Cheek, who had been scheduled for promotion to lieutenant colonel, be allowed to retire as a major.Â Navy Secretary Richard Spencer will have the final say onÂ the board’s recommendation.
The incidents date back to 2013, but the women did not immediately report them. The women said they feared retribution from Cheek and others. Earlier this year, they spoke with USA TODAY and provided documentation of complaints they had filed. They maintained that the Marine Corps had failed to take them seriously.
Cheek’s attorney, Brian Magee, said Saturday that Cheek would review his options to appeal the board’s decision.
“The fact that they chose to recommend retirement in grade was a shock,” Magee said.
Sherry Yetter, one of Cheek’s accusers and aÂ sexual assault response coordinator for the Marine Corps, welcomed the board’s decision.Â
“I feel vindicated and happy that a very long five-year battle for justice is over,” she said Saturday. “The United States Marine Corps finally heard us. It’s a victory for all victims.”
The case of Yetter and Traci Sharpe, the other woman to accuse Cheek, ruptured into a scandal for the Marine Corps. Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, intervened and ordered a new investigation in March. A month later, Brig. Gen. Kurt Stein, who commanded the division where the women worked, called the case â€œfake newsâ€ at a town hall meeting and was subsequently fired by Neller.
Yetter and Sharpe are grateful for the work of Marine Corps lawyers, Capt. Brendan McKenna and Maj. Ryan Russell, who brought the government’s case against Cheek, said Don Christensen, president of Protect Our Defenders, a group that advocates for victims of sexual assault in the military.
“Sadly, I have no faith that absent USA TODAYÂ breaking this scandal that the Marines would have ever held Maj.Â Cheek accountable,” Christensen said. “There is a lesson here that I hope Gen.Â Neller takes to heart about taking the experiences of people like Sherry and Traci seriously. Five years is too long to wait for justice.”
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