A disgraced Naval officer who blew the whistle on a corrupt Naval command and was forced out of the Navy months from retirement is getting a second chance to clear her name.
According to Navy Times, Lieutenant Commander Syneeda Penland was convicted of adultery and conduct unbecoming just shy of her 20-year retirement mark and spent two months in the brig.
However, Penland insists that her exposing the corruption at the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) made her a target for retaliatory action.
In her self-published memoir, Broken Silence: A Military Whistleblower’s Fight for Justice, Penland details her career and personal mission to expose alleged fraud at NECC, alleged false adultery charges and her ongoing fight to restore her good name.
“She made it hard for us, but it was never personal,” said retired LTCDR Steve Harper, who worked with Penland when he was a supply officer in the Maritime Security Unit. “She was a hard nose at times,” he said of working with her. “She was stubborn, as every good supply officer should be.”
Within months, Penland became very unpopular with her command. Fortunately for the NECC, a scandal was brewing.
Before leaving her former duty assignment for the NECC, Penland had been a supply officer aboard the USS Stout, where she had mentored a fellow prior-enlisted officer- LTJG Mark Wiggan.
Wiggan, who was unhappy with his marriage, confided to Penland that he was being abused by his spouse. When Penland gave him a digital camera to document the abuse, she allegedly forgot to delete photos of her having sex with a man that she claims was an ex-boyfriend, not Wiggan.
When Wiggan’s wife -also a sailor- found the photos, she took them to her command with adultery allegations after her husband’s command declined to pursue charges.
Armed with fresh material, Mrs.Wiggan’s command pressed forward with the court-martial in May of 2008- nearly eight years ago.
“Not only was the married husband in this case never charged or prosecuted, but also senior government officials offered him immunity, as long as he agreed to testify against me,” Penland said. “Even so, Mark declined the government’s immunity offer and later testified at my trial, denying that he ever had sexual intercourse with me.”
In the end, Penland was convicted of the charges and sentenced to 60 days in the brig, a $9,000 fine and a punitive letter of reprimand with no opportunity to retire- unlike many officers who were allowed to retire following scandals.
Penland has filed multiple attempts to clear her name. She currently lives off of VA disability, as she was given a 100% disability rating following a blood cancer diagnosis at the time of her discharge. She authored a memoir and is currently suing Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to have her name cleared and retirement restored.
“It’s keeping the issue alive. It’s a 50/50. It’s a gamble,” she said. “I don’t want the judge to think that I’m trying to make this a media story, but it needs to be.”
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