FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – (KRT) – A Muslim chaplain who ministered to detainees in Guantanamo Bay had his conviction for downloading pornography overturned on Wednesday.
Capt. James Yee made headlines in the fall of 2003 when he was accused of mishandling classified information and being involved in an espionage ring. Those charges were later dropped, but the military continued to pursue allegations that Yee downloaded pornography and was an adulterer.
The chaplain was eventually convicted on these charges, but appealed the case.
On Wednesday, Gen. James T. Hill, commander of the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, announced that though he did not find the legal arguments by Yee’s defense team persuasive, he decided to overturn the charges. There will be no mention of the pornography and adultery charges in Yee’s military record, he said.
“I believe in justice and I believe in fairness, and given all that has transpired, in all fairness I believe I have given Chaplain Yee justice,” he said.
When Yee was first accused of espionage in September 2003, he spent 76 days in pretrial confinement, which the general said was a factor in his decision. Hill also said given the extensive media coverage of the allegations, he did not believe “that further stigmatizing Chaplain Yee would serve a just and fair purpose.”
Just minutes before Hill’s announcement, Yee’s attorney was faxed the general’s decision. The chaplain has since returned to his previous duty station at Fort Lewis, Wash., and could not be reached for comment.
Even if the conviction stood, the Army had already decided to treat it as a minor infraction.
The case sparked controversy when some Asian-American activists rallied around Yee, a Chinese-American, and accused the government of racial and religious profiling.
On Wednesday, Hill emphatically denied Yee’s treatment was tainted by his race or religion.
“My decision became one of mercy, not necessarily law,” Hill said.