NEWS
05/05/2014 08:48 EDT | Updated 07/05/2014 05:59 EDT

Sailor Derek de Jong pleads guilty to desertion

A Royal Canadian Navy officer accused of leaving his post during a military operation pleaded guilty today to desertion when he appeared at his court martial in Halifax.

Lt. Derek de Jong`s sentencing is scheduled for 1 p.m. AT Monday. 

He had left HMCS Preserver in September 2012 while it was docked in Key West, Fla., and was subsequently charged with being absent without leave. On that same trip, there was an investigation into widespread drunkenness.

A military prosecutor handling the case bumped the charge to desertion — one of the most serious charges in the military. A conviction carries the possibility of imprisonment, demotion, a $10,000 fine or dismissal from the military. The maximum sentence is life in prison. 

Maria de Jong, his wife, told CBC News her husband suffered harassment at work while serving as a logistics officer aboard the supply ship HMCS Preserver.

One incident involved a drunk female officer who allegedly urinated on the floor of de Jong's cabin.

De Jong harassed, says wife

Maria de Jong said her husband became the butt of jokes after that incident. One superior officer, according to de Jong, told him, "Some men have to pay for that kind of service."

She said her husband felt micromanaged and belittled by a superior officer. She said he also felt pressured to look the other way when financial accounting rules were not being followed. De Jong declined to provide any details about those allegations.

De Jong told CBC News her husband complained to his superiors on board, but nothing changed. She said he flew home from the ship to take his complaints up the chain of command and turned himself in as soon as he returned to Halifax.

She said his complaints of harassment — as well as a letter she sent to the chief of defence staff — have been ignored.

The Department of National Defence told CBC News it won't comment while a case is before the military justice system.

De Jong said her husband had a chance to plead guilty to the charge of being absent without leave in an informal summary process before the commander of CFB Halifax.

He was told his punishment could be as minor as a $1 fine.

De Jong said her husband was warned that if he chose a court martial, military prosecutors could pursue a stricter charge — such as desertion.

She said her husband elected a court martial so he could air his complaints in public.

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