A commissioned Coast Guard officer will face a court-martial next week on accusations of sexually offensive conduct while he served on the Charleston-based cutter Gallatin.
Lt. Wayne Barfield, a native of the Charleston area, is charged with four violations of military law: cruelty and maltreatment; assault and battery; conduct unbecoming an officer; and fraternization and disorderly conduct.
Each charge entails specifications, or allegations that detail the alleged conduct by Barfield while the ship was docked in Charleston and on tour in the Caribbean.
The case resulted from a month-long investigation and was said to be part of a larger examination of what some female Coast Guard members called a widespread culture on the 378-foot Gallatin.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Omar Gomez, who also served on the cutter, was convicted in December during a court-martial in North Charleston of five military law violations, including aggravated sexual contact. Gomez, who was accused of raping a woman in a West Ashley apartment, was sent to prison for eight years.
Barfield's charges are less serious. He is scheduled to be tried in a special court-martial, which requires a jury of at least three officers. Gomez's general court-martial, the highest-level military trial, called for at least five officers to sit on the panel.
Because prosecutors and Barfield's Navy attorney are based in Norfolk, Va., the proceeding was relocated there from North Charleston's Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jamie Frederick said. A judge and the attorneys were expected to pick a jury starting Wednesday.
Barfield, who was the Gallatin's chief engineering officer, was accused of making offensive comments to someone subject to his orders while the ship was in port at the training center in June 2012 and in May. He also made sexually charged remarks to a subordinate in April when the Gallatin was in Bocas del Toro, Panama, according to charging documents.
Also during that Panama stay, Barfield was accused of dancing inappropriately.
On another occasion in Bocas del Toro, which is on the northern Caribbean coast of Panama, he pulled down a Coast Guard woman's bathing suit top, got drunk in a public place and engaged in "chicken fighting" in a pool with enlisted personnel, the paperwork stated. Coast Guard customs ban fraternization between commissioned officers and enlisted members.
If convicted, Barfield would face a wide range of punishment under the court-martial system. He could simply be given a letter of reprimand. A jury also could opt for a dishonorable discharge and prison time.
If he decides to plead guilty rather than place his fate into a jury's hands, a military judge would hand down the penalty.
While awaiting his day in court, Barfield has been on administrative duty at Marine Safety Unit Savannah and at Facilities Engineering Base Elizabeth City, N.C.
Frederick, the regional Coast Guard spokesman, said Friday that the 45-year-old Gallatin will be decommissioned March 31. The Hamilton, a new 418-foot national security cutter, will later replace it, calling Charleston its homeport.
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.
Notice about comments:
The Post and Courier is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point.