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Old 02-17-2018, 02:28 PM
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Arrow Army strips star from general over flirty texts with wife of enlisted soldier

Army strips star from general over flirty texts with wife of enlisted soldier
Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY Published 3:21 p.m. ET Feb. 16, 2018 | Updated 4:52 p.m. ET Feb. 16, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Army stripped a star from a general who flirted on social media with the wife of an enlisted man, finding his actions "dissolute and immoral" and forced him to retire, the Army announced Friday.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Harrington will lose one rank in retirement after the Army determined that he had engaged in inappropriate online communication with the woman in more than 1,000 messages. Harrington had been in charge of U.S. Army Africa from a base in Italy when the relationship, first reported by USA TODAY, became known in August.

Harrington and the woman had exchanged Facebook messages for four months. The messages ranged from the friendly to flirty. She is married to an American soldier over whom Harrington had jurisdiction under military law.

The Army issued Harrington a letter of reprimand, a career-killer. The letter also released Friday noted that Harrington, while not found guilty of a crime, was expected to behave honorably on and off duty.

"Over the course of four months, you participated in the exchange of flirtatious messages with the spouse of an enlisted soldier," the letter states. "This behavior reflects poorly on you as a senior officer and commander."

Harrington, in a written statement, apologized to his family and the Army.

"I made a mistake by responding to and entering into a private discussion with a soldier's spouse," Harrington wrote. "While we both considered it a friendship-based conversation, it is clear that the discussion should not have occurred. I hope others can learn from and avoid my mistake."

Stripping his rank and ending Harrington's career are appropriate moves by the Army, according to a military law expert and advocate for victims of abuse in the military.

"The discipline seems in line with the offense," said Don Christensen, a former chief prosecutor for the Air Force and president of Protect our Defenders, an advocacy group for victims of sexual assault in the military.

Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat and member of the Armed Services Committee, agreed with Christensen that Harrington's punishment was appropriate. But Speier, a critic of the Pentagon's handling of senior officer misconduct, said discipline varies among the ranks.

"What we need to do with all these senior military officials is have some standardization in their punishment," she said. "Some get off with a slap on the wrist. It’s got to be consistent."

Last week, Lt. Gen. David Quantock, the Army's inspector general, testified before Congress that the Army often metes out harsher discipline to generals than lower-ranking soldiers in misconduct cases. Quantock, who signed the investigation to Harrington, said at last week's hearing that the Army "crushes" generals.

The Army inspector general initiated its investigation after USA TODAY obtained a series of messages Harrington wrote this spring. The inspector general's report also was released Friday. Investigators found 1,158 messages between Harrington and the woman between Feb. 12, 2017, and June 3, 2017.

"The conversations ranging from friendly conversation to flirtatious at times, and included sexual innuendo," the report stated.

The woman who received the messages told USA TODAY last year that the texting began as friendly banter after she had met Harrington at the gym in Vicenza, Italy. She became concerned with the texts when they grew suggestive. The relationship did not become physical, she told investigators.

She also said that she did not feel sexually harassed by Harrington. But she did feel he had "worked" her for three months and perhaps wanted her to send him pictures of herself naked, but was too smart to ask for them, according to the report.

In some messages, he focused on the woman’s appearance, referring to her as “HOTTIE," a "Lovely tease" and “looking good for sure.” In another series he wrote: "You seem to have a great modeling resume! Truly! Though I hadn’t noticed! Where is your hubby tonight? Work?”

When she replied that she’d fought with her husband, and that he was asleep, Harrington responded: “I’m sorry! Make up se…x is fun”

Harrington suggested “U can be my nurse,” and added, “I’d enjoy being in a tent with U.”

Harrington acknowledged sending the messages. However, he told investigators they were "not quite salacious" but leading in that direction, according to the report.

"I hope u delete this exchange!"
Harrington also urged her at times to erase records of their chats.

"I hope u delete this exchange!" he wrote at one point. At another: "Why not delete after communicating?"

Investigators found his repeated attempts to keep their relationship secret showed he knew it was out of bounds.

"Harrington's attempts to conceal and keep the conversation secret indicated that he knew the conversation was inappropriate and above board," the report says.

The inspector general concluded that Harrington "failed to display exemplary conduct" in engaging with the woman. News of the relationship caused "anger and polarization" at the base.

"Maj. Gen. Harrington's online statements, his choice of vocabulary, and sexual innuendo with (the woman) were not good examples of virtue and honor," the report states. "His actions negatively impacted the command climate and readiness of the (Vicenza Military Community), were dissolute and immoral, and not an example of the exemplary conduct expected of an Army senior leader."

The Army retired Harrington at the lower rank because it is the last one at which he had served satisfactorily, said Cynthia Smith, an Army spokeswoman.

"We believe that appropriate action was taken, and consider the matter closed," Smith said.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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