Navy SEAL Team 6 operator relinquished to cleaning toilets, mowing lawns over ‘false accusations’. “Guilty until proven innocent.”

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If you were accused of misconduct by your department’s leadership and the case lacked any real evidence, do you think they would have your back afterward?

What if you were part of an elite unit and have the awards and medals to prove your commitment to serve? Would your upper echelon leaders back you up then?

Navy SEAL Team 6 operator relinquished to cleaning toilets, mowing lawns over 'false accusations'. "Guilty until proven innocent."
Courtesy of Aaron Howard

One would think so. But that wasn’t the case for Navy Seal Team 6 Special Operator First Class Aaron Howard.

The ousted Navy Seal Team 6 member (the most elite among the Seal teams) has been cast aside from his original unit as he painfully awaits the conclusion of his fight to medically retire and restore his reputation his leadership has taken from him.

Navy SEAL Team 6 operator relinquished to cleaning toilets, mowing lawns over 'false accusations'. "Guilty until proven innocent."
Courtesy of Aaron Howard

The reason he’s been reassigned stemmed from a loose case that had zero physical evidence and lacked any form of credibility.

That’s quite the turnaround for the 2016 Navy Sailor of the Year with a Bronze Star with Combat Valor.

In December 2017, Aaron was called in to his military bosses’ office for a briefing.

Navy SEAL Team 6 operator relinquished to cleaning toilets, mowing lawns over 'false accusations'. "Guilty until proven innocent."
Courtesy of Aaron Howard

Aaron spoke with Law Enforcement Today recently. He said:

“When I walked into the commander’s office, they sat me down and told me I may be facing charges but they could not elaborate on any details. Then they expected me to sign legal documents that I didn’t fully understand, that’s when I asked to speak to my lawyer.”

His response was that of any law enforcement officer sitting in a hot seat like that. That is the equivalent of an officer asking for a union rep for an administrative hearing that may lead to criminal charges.

That is the most reasonable response anyone should have in that position, but his chain of command disagreed.

Navy SEAL Team 6 operator relinquished to cleaning toilets, mowing lawns over 'false accusations'. "Guilty until proven innocent."
Courtesy of Aaron Howard

In an environment built on a foundation of extreme discipline, they expected him to blindly sign forms that could lead to prosecution. He chose not to sign anything legal until he consulted with an attorney.

‘How dare you say no to me’ is the position his leaders took. Once he acquired a civilian attorney, Michael Waddington, the details started to emerge.

His chain of command wanted to charge him with ‘catfishing’- which in and of itself is not even a crime. And the prosecution had one huge problem: A lack of evidence.

Aaron even passed two polygraph tests, but they still went after him.

Aaron continued:

“One of the women who was ‘catfished’ was extremely close to the command leadership, and they were looking for the culprit. Once I asked for a lawyer, they took it as a sign of guilt and came after me with everything they had.”

During the trial, there were no images sent or received from either Aaron or the victims. There was no proof that Aaron ever had the messaging App used to ‘catfish’ these women.

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Murdered officer's grave desecrated before headstone even placed

Waddington, the attorney, said:

“The NCIS agent testified under oath that Apple does not keep track of apps downloaded from their app Store.”

According to the Support page on the Apple website, they track all apps you download for marketing purposes.

Waddington continued:

“I was shocked that they convicted Howard, especially after NCIS [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] stated that they could not get a search warrant from a local judge because they had no probable cause to link Howard to the cat fishing.” 

That’s just one example of the complexities of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“In the military, the defense does not have the ability to subpoena people or documents,” said Waddington.

Navy SEAL Team 6 operator relinquished to cleaning toilets, mowing lawns over 'false accusations'. "Guilty until proven innocent."
Courtesy of Aaron Howard

Aaron commented:

“Before I was ever charged with a crime, they illegally took all my pay away to include special pays- diving, parachute, demolition pay, special duty incentive pay, and advanced incentive pay.”

Sounds a whole lot like guilty until proven innocent.

Now, Aaron spends his days in an administrative unit cleaning toilets, mowing grass and picking up trash. A symbolic gesture to the way his leadership has treated him from the beginning of this unnecessary trial.

This is no way to treat one of America’s heroes.

To this, Aaron said:

“My goal at this point is to medically retire and walk away with something after they tried to take everything from me.” 

Even though any true professional law enforcement officer always puts the mission first, when push comes to shove, your leadership may take a surprising position. That should never stop you from doing your job, but know who you can really trust.

If you want to support Aaron Howard and his fight to restore his reputation, go to https://www.change.org/Pardonahero

By Eddie Molina

About the writer: Eddie Molina voluntarily writes Law Enforcement articles to help keep the LEO community informed. He also works with the End of Watch with Bootsy and Sal podcast, available on Spotify, Youtube, Apple Podcasts and more.

 

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