The decision by top Navy officials not to seek a court-martial for Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) Fireman Peter Mims severely restricted their options for disciplining the sailor who was initially thought to be lost at sea in June but was found a week later hiding in an engine room on board his ship.
In opting to take Mims to a secretive admiral's mast on July 13, Navy leaders likely limited Mims' maximum punishment to 30 days in the brig, half his pay for two months and an administrative discharge, according to Navy regulations.
Mims was presumed dead after going missing June 8 from the guided-missile cruiser Shiloh off the coast of Okinawa, Japan.
His misconduct resulted in a massive search-and-rescue effort that diverted the Ronald Reagan strike group for several days and also involved an array of U.S. Navy and Japanese ships and aircraft combing through more than 5,500 square miles of open water.
Navy officials have declined to say what punishment Mims received at the admiral's mast, where he faced charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice including abandoning watch under Article 86 and dereliction in the performance of duties under Article 92, a Navy spokesman said.
Mims admitted that his weeklong disappearance from the Shiloh was intentional and that "he took steps to try to avoid being found by the other Shiloh sailors who were actively trying to locate him," Navy Lt. Paul Newell, spokesman for Seventh Fleet, told Navy Times Tuesday.
According to the Navy Commander's Quick Reference Legal Handbook, or QUICKMAN, published by the Navy's Judge Advocate General's office, the maximum punishment a sailor can get at an Admiral's mast depends on the paygrade of the sailor.
Mim's official record, obtained by Navy Times, shows his rank as E-3 or "Fireman" because he serves in an engineering rating and that he'd been at that rank since Aug. 16, 2015.
Mims has been widely reported in the media as a third-class petty officer. And had been selected last fall to put on E-4, but most likely he never officially was advanced to that paygrade by the time he disappeared.
A Navy custom called "frocking" allows sailors to assume the rank, responsibility and privileges, but not the pay of the rank they’ve been selected to before their official date of rank rolls around and makes it permanent.
That means Mims most likely went to mast as an E-3 and thus the punishment he would be eligible for in a non-judicial punishment includes:
- Reduction in rate one paygrade
- Fine of half a month’s pay for up to two months
- Restriction for up to 60 days and possibly extra duty for up to 45 days
- Correctional Custody for not more than 30 days.
The Navy also said that Mims could face further administrative action, that could come in the form of written or verbal reprimands or in the most extreme case, result in him being processed for administrative discharge.
Newell, the Navy spokesman. said "the decision to use admiral's mast was due to the serious impact this had on the [Ronald Reagan strike group] and also our Japanese allies."
Mims was put in the brig for pretrial confinement June 21 but released several days later and assigned to administrative duties in San Diego.
Legal experts initially told Navy Times that Mims could have faced a slate of UCMJ charges that could have resulted in a long sentence of confinement and that commanders would likely be consider a harsh punishment because of the resources drained by the 50-hour search-and-rescue effort.