A female Marine brig guard accused of sexually assaulting and mistreating a male inmate is now serving time at the very facility she used to guard.
Lance Cpl. Lacey Kohlman, a former guard at Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar, California, was convicted of dereliction of duty Oct. 29 at a special court-martial aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. She was and sentenced to five months imprisonment, demotion to private, and forfeiture of $5,000 worth of pay over five months, according to documents reviewed by Marine Corps Times.
Marine inmate's wild claims point to wider concerns about military lockups
As part of a pretrial agreement, charges of maltreatment, false official statement, and violation of a Marine Corps order were withdrawn. Kohlman's appointed attorney, Marine Capt. Matthew Davidhizar, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the case.
Kohlman's misconduct came to light when the prisoner, Shane Bardes, came forward last year with a detailed statement alleging she and other guards had taken advantage of his status as a prisoner to engage in various acts of sexual misconduct with him. His allegations — along with claims that his pleas for help were ignored by those in charge — were the subject of a November 2013 Marine Corps Times cover story.
Bardes, a former first-term Marine who is serving a five-year sentence for rape, alleged that Kohlman had groped and performed oral sex on him on various occasions. He also claimed she had given him partially clothed pictures of herself, which he traded with another member of the brig staff for contraband.
An April 2014 Marine Corps investigation found probable cause to support Bardes' allegations of misconduct.
"While I agree with the defense that prisoner Bardes' credibility will be subjected to substantial attack at trial, his discussion about the sexual contact he had with [Kohlman] is largely corroborated by the fact that [she] admits to having provided prisoner Bardes with 'partial nude' photographs of herself," wrote investigating officer Maj. Michael Studenka in the report. "Beyond this severe departure from her standards of conduct, she was counseled for being found alone with Bardes in isolated and private areas of the brig."
Bardes claimed Kohlman, frequently assigned as his escort, engaged in sexual contact with him on various occasions between December 2012 and May 2013. While Bardes felt some of their encounters were consensual, he also testified that he had felt humiliated on occasions when she groped or grazed him in a public place. And the sexual contact continued, Bardes alleged, even after February 2013, when he said he began a relationship with his civilian therapist and indicated he wanted to discontinue his liaisons with Kohlman.
Another guard, a female sailor who Bardes also accused of engaging in inappropriate sexual contact with him, received an administrative punishment and was transferred, according to a source familiar with the case. And a male Navy guard later accused by Bardes of sexually harassing and taunting him also received an administrative counseling and was transferred, according to official email correspondence reviewed by Marine Corps Times.
Bardes, now 28, was ultimately transferred to Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston, South Carolina. A spokeswoman for Navy Personnel Command said told Marine Corps Times that Bardes was given access to a victim advocate and victim services including counseling after his complaints surfaced. Court documentation also shows he received assistance from the Marine Corps Victims' Legal Counsel program during Kohlman's court-martial proceedings.
"Shane Bardes' story clearly shows that the U.S. Marine Corps has a long way to go in its fight against sexual assault. Male victims of sexual assault face incredible obstacles in their fight for justice," said Bardes' civilian attorney, John Hafemann of the firm Military Justice Attorneys, in a statement. "Shane has been bullied about homosexuality, had his strength and masculinity questioned, and continues to struggle with depression because the Marine Corps doesn't recognize the vulnerability of male victims of sexual assault."
Hafemann also cited a 2013 Department of Justice report showing that the Miramar brig had staff sexual misconduct rates nearly twice the average for prisons nationwide.
Now due to get out of the brig in December 2015, Bardes has also filed an inspector general's complaint alleging he has experienced retaliation at Charleston and lost good time credits as a result of his accusations against brig guards, according to the investigating officer's report. Bardes' Victims' Legal Counsel attorney, Capt. Dustin Whetzel, said he could not comment on the status of that complaint or which inspector general's office received it.
A request for special clemency and parole as a result of Bardes' alleged mistreatment was denied earlier this year, Hafemann said.