Osprey investigation finds three liable

Saturday, September 15, 2001

NORFOLK, Va. -- Three Marine officers accused of aiding a scheme to exaggerate the readiness of the troubled Osprey aircraft have been judged derelict in their duties, the Marines said Friday. Five others were cleared of charges.

Two of the officers found liable received letters of reprimand while the other was not punished.

None of the violations amounts to a criminal conviction, Marines officials said.

The charges stemmed from allegations that officers in the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron, based at New River, N.C., had ordered Osprey maintenance records doctored to exaggerate the aircraft's performance record.

The Osprey program, regarded as a key to the future of Marine Corps aviation, was in trouble even before the allegations arose in January.

Administrative hearings were held Sept. 7 before Lt. Gen. Raymond P. Ayres Jr., the Marine Corps' Atlantic Forces commander.

Col. James E. Schleining, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 26, was found in violation on a dereliction of duty charge because he should have known of the false maintenance reports. Schleining was cleared of a charge of violating a lawful order.

Lt. Col. Odin F. Leberman, a former commanding officer, was found in violation on a dereliction of duty charge because he knew of the false reports, and on a conduct unbecoming an officer charge.

Leberman, who was relieved of his duty as commander of the only V-22 Osprey training squadron on Jan. 18, was cleared of making false official statements.

Capt. Brian Kasprzyk, Leberman's attorney, refused comment Friday.

Letters of reprimand

Schleining and Leberman each received a punitive letter of reprimand. They could have received up to 60 days of home confinement and loss of a month's pay.

The third officer, Capt. Christopher Ramsey, an assistant aviation maintenance officer, was found in violation on one charge: dereliction of duty because he knew of the false maintenance reports. No punishment was imposed. He was cleared of two other charges.

The five cleared of all charges were:

Maj. Gen. Dennis T. Krupp, commanding general of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing;

Col. Phillip L. Newman, assistant chief of staff for the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing's aviation logistics division;

Col. Laurin P. Eck, former assistant program manager for Naval Air Systems Command;

Lt. Col. Demetrice M. Babb, aviation maintenance officer in the 2nd Marine Airwing's aviation logistics division;

Chief Warrant Officer Matthew W. Smith, a maintenance material control officer in the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron.

Maj. Bryan Salas, spokesman for the Marine Corps' Atlantic Forces Command, said he would ask other attorneys if they or they clients wanted to comment.

Newman was "relieved, but not surprised" that he had been cleared, his attorney, Maj. Steve Ockerman, said in a telephone interview.

"I saw no evidence why he should have been charged," Ockerman said.

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