A Ludington man was sentenced to 14 months of confinement in the brig after the proceedings of a general court martial from the U.S. Coast Guard Thursday in Alameda, California.
Seaman Ethan Tucker, of Ludington, was facing charges in relation to the death of fellow seaman Ethan Kelch of Virginia Beach, Virginia, in January 2019 in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, after both were serving aboard the cutter Douglas Munro. Tucker was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide by a military judge from the general court martial proceedings that began Sept. 8, the Coast Guard announced Friday.
“We are mindful that the loss of their beloved son, grandson, nephew and brother has caused the Kelch family more pain than anyone should have to endure,” stated U.S. Navy Cmdr. Justin Henderson, who was representing Tucker during the ordeal, to the Daily News. “Within hours after Ethan Kelch’s tragic death twenty months ago, Coast Guard investigators and officials wrongly blamed Seaman Tucker. As we expected, a trial on the facts vindicated him — the military judge who heard all the government’s evidence acquitted Seaman Tucker of causing SN Kelch’s death.”
Tucker, a 2017 graduate of Ludington High School, was found guilty of making a false official statement, assault consummated by battery, a violation of a general order for consuming alcohol while underage and “doing or failing to do certain acts that contributed to a Coast Guard member’s death which was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the Armed Forces.” Henderson told the Daily News he pleaded guilty to those charges.
Tucker was sentenced to 14 months confinement, a reduction to a paygrade of an enlisted member of the armed services of E-1 and will receive a bad conduct discharge.
Tucker was, at one point, charged with murder, aggravated assault and obstructing justice among other charges. He underwent two Article 32 hearings, which are similar to preliminary hearings in civilian court. After the first Article 32 hearing, he was confined Camp Pendleton in California. Shortly before his reopened Article 32 hearing, he was released from confinement after an appeal by Henderson. Upon his release, he was assigned to a Coast Guard base in Alameda, California, and worked in base logistics.
It was determined by officials that Tucker should face a general court-martial. Henderson said Tucker received 249 days of credit against his confinement and will likely serve a little less than five months in the brig.
“This process underscored once again the importance of avoiding any rush to judgment or prosecution through the media. Too many times in recent years, court-martial defense teams have had to remind the government that proving guilt requires a fair trial in an open courtroom,” Henderson said.
The general court martial was initially set for June, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the hearings back on motions and the court martial itself.