The High Price of Innocence
Petty Officer Brent Groover
Even with an acquittal, a court-martial can short-circuit a career. Brent Groover, 37, a Navy petty officer 1st class, knows all about that. His stellar 18-year career is just about history, he says, all because Navy brass believed false allegations made against him by an enlisted woman. Groover reached the pinnacle of his career in September 1999 when he was "frocked" as a chief petty officer, a status allowing him to wear the anchors of a chief before legally attaining that rank.
In March 2000, however, a female seaman accused Groover of sexual misconduct. The Navy promptly rescinded his advancement "pending disciplinary action." An investigation ensued, and the most serious allegations were dismissed. But the Navy charged Groover with fraternization, saying his "unduly familiar" relationship with his accuser was "prejudicial to good order and discipline."
Groover, who has a wife and two children, adamantly denied the charges. He was acquitted and asked the Navy to reinstate his promotion. The request was denied. His father, Steve Groover, a War World II Navy veteran, wrote a letter to the Navy denouncing overzealous prosecutors in what he called a "new age of McCarthyism." The Navy says it had acted appropriately in withdrawing his son's promotion.
Groover recently asked a special Navy board to promote him to chief. It's his last shot at reviving his career. He's not confident, however. "All I ever asked for was my rights to due process," Groover says. But the Navy punished him before ever hearing his side of the story, he says. "By the time they discovered the allegations were false," he said with chagrin, "it was too late. My career was destroyed." -Edward T. Pound
This story appears in the December 16, 2002 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.