CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Allegations of inappropriate conduct at the hands of a group of guards nicknamed “the Goon Squad” at Naval Consolidated Brig Chesapeake were unsubstantiated, according to a partially redacted JAGMAN investigation released by the Navy to WAVY News under the Freedom of Information Act.
“After completing this investigation, it is my opinion that there are no violations by members,” the report said.
According to Airman Samuel Perkins III and outlined in Navy court documents, during eight months of confinement at the Brig, members of the “Goon Squad” taunted him, touched him inappropriately, and called him “Tar Baby,” a racial slur.
“It was four different crews that rotated, but it was only one crew that would go out of their way to harass us and make our time harder there,” Perkins told WAVY News in November.
“The Naval Consolidated Brig Chesapeake guard ‘set’… that was inappropriately referred to by the prisoners as ‘the goon squad’ was following Brig procedures and regulations within a reasonable and acceptable level in its interaction and conduct toward the prisoners,” the report said.
The Navy’s report does not include names, but said the accused guard denies he called a prisoner “Tar Baby.”
“The claim a guard would use such a random racial slur with no other witnesses and only now being reported seems false,” the report said. According to the report, “claims of racism are all without merit.”
WAVY News previously reported that a retired colonel in the Marine Corps wrote in Navy court documents which reference the “Goon Squad” that he was assaulted at the Brig. He claims a guard came up behind him and took his knee out. The Navy’s report said if the assault had occurred, the prisoner would have raised it with the Commanding Officer when he met with him, and that the claim is without merit.
The report did say the “allegation of inappropriate touching during frisk search by (redacted) is being separately investigated by NCIS. The allegations of assault by former (redacted) have also been sent to NCIS for review and possible investigation.”
In its conclusion, the report states, “There is some concern that the guard ‘set’ that is complained about is actually enforcing the rules strictly while other ‘sets’ may be more lenient in the enforcement of the rules. This builds an unrealistic expectation in the prisoners that they can do certain things when they should not.”
After eight months in the Brig, Perkins was cleared of an assault charge. He was convicted of having a gun on base housing that wasn’t registered and was not sentenced to any punishment.
Through counsel, Perkins provided the following statement in response to the JAGMAN report:
Airman Samuel Perkins stands by his previous statements and is disappointed that the Navy did not choose to thoroughly investigate allegations against the Goon Squad. He feels the Navy failed to take basic investigatory steps, including failing to interview him, which calls into serious question the accuracy and validity of their investigation.
‘The command investigator never spoke to me about his investigation. If he had, I would have been happy to tell him what I suffered at the hands of Goon Squad guards,” he said. “I still have nightmares and have had to seek counseling because of what they did to me. That is why I felt it was important to speak out after I left the brig and felt safe to come forward without fear of retaliation. I am disappointed that the Navy has not handled this investigation fairly and impartially. If they are not interested in hearing the other side, people will continue to suffer and have their civil rights violated. Everything that I have described happened to me. I know because I was there, and I lived it. A fair and impartial command investigation might have done a lot of good. It is disheartening that the investigation was done in this manner instead. Many of the guards who engaged in this abuse are still working at the brig, contrary to the Navy’s claims. I know that a separate NCIS investigation is ongoing, and I hope that the investigation there will shed more light on the abuses I suffered from at the brig.'”
A former prisoner told WAVY News by phone, “There was a ‘Goon Squad.’ It existed. It probably still exists…There was mistreatment in there…Whether the Navy wants to say it exists or not, I know it exists.” Another agency should investigate the claims, he said.
Navy Personnel Command provided the following statement:
After a review by a Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG Corps) Captain and a Senior Correctional Program Specialist, the allegations by prisoners were unsubstantiated. The Navy takes all prisoner complaints about the conduct of Brig staff seriously, and that is why we sent a Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG Corps) Captain and a Senior Correctional Program Specialist from Navy Personnel Command to investigate these allegations in October 2016. Our mission is to treat all service members with dignity and respect. When there are any indications that those values are not being followed, we conduct appropriate investigations and take action as necessary.”
Navy Personnel Command told WAVY News in November that in the time since the alleged conduct, the guards in question had already completed their tour at the Brig or rotated to new assignments that do not include direct supervision of prisoners.