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COVID-19 pandemic delays federal sentencing for retired Navy Capt. John Nettleton

Former Gitmo commander was scheduled to learn his fate next month

John Nettleton pictured outside U.S. District Courthouse in Jacksonville as his trial comes nears conclusion. (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The COVID-19 pandemic has led to another delay for the federal sentencing of retired Navy Capt. John Nettleton, on charges stemming from the 2015 death of a civilian employee at Guantanamo Bay – the base Nettleton commanded. His sentencing has now been delayed from August to October.

In January, a federal jury in Jacksonville convicted Nettleton on six of the eight charges he faced. 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.

Nettleton was scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 13. Last week, U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan held a hearing by phone with the prosecution and defense to discuss the sentencing date in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The prosecution stated it was prepared to hold a sentencing in-person on the scheduled date but didn’t oppose a delay. The defense wished to hold the sentencing on the scheduled day but via video teleconference due to travel concerns related to the pandemic.

In light of the pandemic, federal courts have been holding some sentencing hearings via video, rather than in person.

In his order issued Thursday, Corrigan wrote that the case is of public interest, and that the sentencing is expected to involve a number of people who wish to address the court in person. The judge found this is a case in which sentencing should be done in person if possible, and that the delay was in the interest of justice, given the realities of the pandemic.

The sentencing hearing is now set for Oct. 8 at 9:30 a.m.

This is the third time Nettleton’s hearing has been delayed. Following his conviction, the sentencing was set for April 23, but prosecutors later asked for a delay due to scheduling issues. The hearing was then set for June 16. In May, defense attorneys asked for a delay, citing travel concerns related to the pandemic, leading to the August sentencing date.

Motions filed by Nettleton’s attorneys following the trial, seeking a judgment of acquittal and a new trial, were both previously denied by the judge.