90ºF

Former Gitmo commander guilty on 6 charges in death investigation

John Nettleton guilty of obstruction of justice, concealment of material facts in death investigation of Chris Tur

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On its second day of deliberations, a federal jury reached a verdict in the trial of retired Navy Capt. John Nettleton on charges stemming from the 2015 death of a civilian employee at Guantanamo Bay -- the base Nettleton commanded.

The jury of two men and ten women found Nettleton guilty on six of eight charges. The charges included obstruction of justice, concealment of material facts, falsification of records and making false statements.

The charges stem from the death and disappearance of Christopher Tur. Nettleton and Tur were in a fight two nights before the Coast Guard found Tur’s body floating in the bay.

Count-by-count breakdown

No one has been able to determine how Tur died, but his family believes someone knows the answer. The family had waited years for Friday’s verdict.

“Christopher was an amazing father, brother, son and husband and friend,” said Aline Byrnes, Tur’s sister. “We miss him every day. This has been an emotionally draining, traumatic time for our family.”

After the verdict was read, Nettleton walked out of federal court in silence. He will return for a sentencing hearing at a later date.

Nettleton could also be disciplined by the military because the crimes were committed while he was an officer.

“While this trial has come to an end, it’s not over. We will not stop until we have answers to the hard questions until we know what happened to Christopher,” Byrnes said.

RELATED: Sex, lies, lust at center of former Gitmo commander’s trial | Navy admirals say former commander never gave full story | Navy captain charged in Gitmo cover-up takes the stand in his own defense

Moments leading up to the verdict

After receiving jury instructions Thursday morning, the jury began deliberations at 9:42 a.m. Much of Tur’s family stayed in the courtroom throughout the day hoping for a verdict.

Just before 1:30 p.m., a yellow envelope came into the courtroom containing a question from the jury: “Does ‘official proceedings’ include investigations by the federal government or the Navy?” After some discussion with the defense and government prosecutors, U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan responded: “I assume from your question you are referring to count two. Under county two, ‘official proceedings’ is defined only as a ‘Department of the Navy Court-Martial.’"

During closing arguments Wednesday, government prosecutors focused on what they said were examples of Nettleton lying, concealing and misleading Navy officials throughout the course of the investigation into Tur’s disappearance and death.

Prosecutors believed his alleged deception was fueled by a secret Nettleton was trying to hide — an affair with Tur’s wife. During testimony, Nettleton admitted he slept with Tur’s wife in Jacksonville in 2014.

The defense, on the other hand, focused on details that they say the government didn’t want to focus on, such as Nettleton ordering the search for Tur, organizing transportation for NCIS investigators and the medical examiner to get to GITMO and testimony from the woman who claims she was the last person to see Tur alive and uninjured after he left Nettleton’s house.

Nettleton spent about two hours on the stand Wednesday morning during cross-examination.

Some moments were tense as Nettleton was questioned about the information he shared with NCIS investigators in the hours and days after Tur was found dead as well as the information he did not share, including a drunken fight inside his home the night before Tur went missing.

One sticking point related to Tur’s accusations of an affair with his wife and the words Tur used to make those claims. Nettleton’s memory of the words used differs from what witnesses said they heard the night he went missing.

Nettleton stood by his memory.

“I am not lying…. You can try to twist it however you want,” Nettleton testified.

Prosecutors also showed the jury a video from Jan. 20, 2015, when captain Nettleton was at NCIS for an interview.

In the video, investigators inform Nettleton he is suspected of adultery and involvement in Tur’s death. At that point, Nettleton tells the NCIS agents, “I am going to invoke my rights."

Nettleton went on to say he would not continue the interview if those are the allegations.


About the Authors: