Last edited: February 14, 2005

Captain's Sodomy Appeal Targets Commander

Colonel's Boy Scout ties called conflict of interest

Air Force Times, May 25, 1998
Springfield, VA 22159
FAX: 703-750-8601

By Nick Adde

According to Oklahoma law, a male Air Force captain committed no crime when he engaged in sex with a Boy Scout in 1994.

Now, the military's highest civilian court must decide whether an Air Force colonel who may have had a special interest in the case abused his power by having the junior officer transferred to his command, where he was tried and convicted of sodomy in a military court.

The encounter occurred while the officer, Capt. Warren L. Dinges, was an assistant scout master with the youth's Boy Scout troop. The youth was at the state's legal age of consent, 16, and there was insufficient evidence to prove he was coerced.

Dinges was assigned to the Air Force Institute of Technology in Ohio but was pursuing a doctorate in chemistry at the University of Oklahoma.

Col. Randy Mills, a state district chairman for the Boy Scouts at the time, became aware of the relationship between Dinges and the youth after a civilian Boy Scout district commander who oversaw the troop informed him of it, according to court records.

That happened, court papers state, after the Boy Scouts failed to convince Oklahoma prosecutors that a crime had taken place. Mills, who commanded the 72nd Air Base Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., directed that an investigation be conducted by agents of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

Afterward, Mills may have coordinated Dinges' transfer to a subordinate unit of his command, the 72nd Mission Support Group, where he served on Mills' personal staff. Dinges was then tried and convicted at Tinker in April 1996. He was dismissed from the service, imprisoned for five months, and made to forfeit all pay and allowances.

In a May 12 appeal, lawyer Charles Gittins told the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces that Mills failed to disclose his affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America in Oklahoma.

Mills also engineered Dinges' transfer to his personal staff shortly before the sodomy charge against him was formally issued, Gittins said.

Those actions directly violate a precedent the court established in a 1994 Navy case, Gittins said, that requires commanders to remove themselves from criminal cases in which they have a personal interest. In such instances, the court ruled, commanders should refer the matter to the next-highest level of command.

Gittins said Air Force officials should have taken administrative action under the "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" regulation that bans homosexuals from military service, rather than press charges. Under the gay ban, service members who are found to be homosexual usually are given honorable discharges.

Air Force prosecutors countered that Mills acted correctly and independently after learning that the junior officer violated military law prohibiting sodomy.

Prosecutors also rebutted contentions that the sex was consensual, citing the youth's history of emotional problems and his sexual inexperience.

They suggested that the encounter between Dinges and the youth was not an isolated incident. Court papers mention allegations that Dinges also had approached two 15-year-olds. The civilian who informed Mills of the incident likely told him about these other contacts as well.

"Once he received this initial allegation, Col. Mills responded as any commander would when faced with an allegation that an Air Force member had committed a serious criminal offense," wrote Col. Brenda Hollis, the lead prosecutor, in court papers. "He ordered an investigation."

'Influencing the system'
Hollis disputed the contention that Mills orchestrated Dinges' reassignment, as Gittins alleged.

Even so, the transfer was a practical step taken in order to keep the trial at Tinker, Hollis wrote. Otherwise, the trial would have been held at Dinges' parent command, the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright- Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and witnesses would have had to travel there.

The judges who heard the appeal expressed reservations about Mills' actions.

"What concerns me is someone influencing the system in a fraudulent way, to have the guy transferred to his staff just so he can prosecute him," Judge Eugene Sullivan said.

Sullivan expressed dismay at an apparent "systemic flaw in this court- martial" in which "an accuser with other-than-official interest," Mills, was at the center of it.

The court will decide the case later this year.

Gittins asked the five civilian judges to either set aside the conviction or refer it to a lower court for possible rehearing by an impartial authority.

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