Unproven Sexual Harassment Claims Could Force Marine Officer into Retirement

news
Recruits of Golf Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, climb over a wall during the obstacle course Feb. 25, 2013 on Parris Island
U.S. Marine Corps photo

Editor’s Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.


A Marine officer who was accused of sexually harassing multiple women could be forced to retire, even after a board and several investigations failed to substantiate any of the allegations.

Maj. David Cheek, who formerly served with the Marine Corps' behavioral health branch in Quantico, Virginia, faced a Board of Inquiry on Friday after two civilian employees accused him of displaying his erection through his clothing on multiple occasions. The complaints, which date back to 2013, prompted four investigations and the Board of Inquiry, none of which found conclusive evidence of sexual harassment.

The three colonels on Cheek's board recommended that the major, a prior-enlisted Marine who has served since 1992, be involuntary retired at his current rank -- not over the harassment allegations, but "due to substandard performance of duty."

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer will now decide whether that recommendation should be upheld.

The board's determination, first reported by USA Today, was made after Cheek was found to have failed to properly discharge the duties expected of an officer of his grade and failed to conform to prescribed standards of dress, weight, personal appearance or military deportment, according to officials with Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

"The board did not substantiate any specific allegations of misconduct; however, they found his overall performance below what is expected from an officer in the Marine Corps," the officials added.

Cheek, who issued a statement to Military.com through his attorney, said he's thankful the board found the "disgusting and absurd allegations of misconduct" to be unsubstantiated for the fifth time. He called the last several years humiliating for him and his family, and said he has received no support from his command.

"As an African-American male, I have endured instances of bullying and harassment in my life, but I have never been subjected to this level of bullying and harassment," Cheek said. "Despite the Board's recommendation, I am confident that the Secretary of the Navy's review of my record over the last 26-plus years will reflect that there is no basis for retirement for substandard performance."

Brian Magee, Cheek's attorney, said the two are exploring options on how best to proceed.

"If there's a big-picture lesson learned here, and this is me speaking personally," Magee said, "it's that it should scare the hell out of anyone that an allegation -- even when unsubstantiated by four independent investigations and a board of three colonels -- can absolutely wreak havoc on a person's life or career. But that's the environment that we live in."

Despite the board not substantiating any claims of misconduct, Sherry Yetter, one of Cheek's accusers, told USA Today that she is happy the "very long five-year battle for justice was over."

"The United States Marine Corps finally heard us," she told the paper. "It's a victory for all victims."

The harassment claims from Yetter and a second woman caught the attention of top Marine brass and members of Congress earlier this year after the two said they felt service leaders minimized their claims. That prompted a new investigation into the harassment allegations against Cheek.

When a preliminary inquiry into Yetter's claims was completed in October 2013, the investigating officer determined the conduct failed to meet the threshold of sexual harassment. Those allegations were then reviewed in 2015 by the inspector general of the Marine Corps, which didn't substantiate any of the allegations.

In 2017, a command-level investigation was completed, which found no conclusive evidence of sexual harassment. The investigating officer who completed the second command-level investigation in April 2018 was also unable to substantiate the allegations.

Meanwhile, Cheek had been selected for command and promotion to lieutenant colonel in August 2017, something Magee described as almost unheard of for an officer serving in an adjutant, or special staff, role.

"I think that speaks volumes to who he is as an officer," Magee said. "His board recalled witnesses who've served with him in every capacity, from commanding officers and former supervisors to subordinates. There were male, female, civilian and uniformed, and the one word I would say came out consistently from all of them in describing him was 'professional.' "

Cheek will continue serving in his job on full-duty status with Training and Education Command at Quantico while his case proceeds, Magee said.

Cheek said he hopes leaders do "what is right and not just what is easiest due to external platform pressures."

"Although it is difficult to maintain faith in the organization to which I have devoted 26 years of my life, I pray that the people who review the Board's recommendation will not cave to this continued bullying and harassment, but will make the right decision," he said.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.

This article originally appeared on Military.com

More from Military.com:

(Glow Images via Associated Press)

Editor's Note: This article by Amy Bushatz originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

A massive billing glitch in Tricare's East region, managed by Humana, on Thursday slammed about 25,000 beneficiaries with premium charges 100 times more than they owe monthly for their coverage.

Read More Show Less
A UH-60 Black Hawk departs from The Rock while conducting Medevac 101 training with members of the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group, Feb. 16, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.

At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
Members of the National Socialist Movement, one of the largest neo-Nazi groups in the US, hold a swastika burning after a rally on April 21, 2018 in Draketown, Georgia. (Getty Images/Spencer Platt)

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

Former Canadian Army Reserve Master Cpl. Patrik Mathews, 26, was first identified as a member of The Base by Winnipeg Free Press reporter Ryan Thorpe.

Days after Thorpe's report was published, Mathews went missing and was discharged from the military for his alleged ties to the group. His car was found about 10 miles from the U.S. border soon thereafter, and police found a cache of weapons when they raided his home.

Vice reporters Ben Makuch, Mack Lamoureux, and Zachary Kamel, citing confidential sources, reported on Thursday that Mathews had been illegally smuggled across the border and is being hidden by members of The Base, which has operated in encrypted chatrooms as a largely online organization.

Read More Show Less

The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.

Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."

Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.

Read More Show Less

The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.

Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.

Read More Show Less