The Cost of a Career: $484
Navy Lieutenant John Rosso
John Rosso was a retired businessman and Army veteran when he got his first look at a court-martial this past summer. He didn't like what he saw. For three sweltering days in June, in a wood-paneled courtroom at the Navy Yard in Washington, he watched as a four-member Navy panel decided his son's future. Lt. John Rosso, 40, was acquitted of charges that he had abused his daily mileage claims while on temporary duty in Norfolk, Va. But the panel convicted him of larceny for claiming $484 in travel and per diem expenses while on leave. Rosso was reprimanded, fined $1,000, and ordered to forfeit $1,500 in pay. His father, stunned, said: "It's a kangaroo court. How can anyone call this fair?"
Three of the four jurors at the court-martial worked for a Navy captain, John Morris, who had been critical of Rosso. The fourth often worked with Morris. The defense put in written testimony from another captain who said Morris had complained about Rosso's travel claims. On the stand, Morris denied that, saying he had "no role" in bringing the case. Of the $484 in leave claims, Rosso's lawyer, David Sheldon, said he had mistakenly filed for the money. A second Navy clerk testified that admirals made the same kind of mistake all the time. No dice--the jury found Rosso guilty.
The case now is in the hands of a senior officer. He can approve or throw out the guilty verdict. Whatever the decision, Rosso says his distinguished 18-year career may be over. "I was on a very fast pace, and my career goal was to be a lieutenant commander," he says. "Now, I have a black mark in my file." -Edward T. Pound
This story appears in the December 16, 2002 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.