Cmdr. Bryce Benson (U.S. NAVY)
Cmdr. Bryce Benson (U.S. NAVY)

Court-martial of USS Fitzgerald commander no longer valid, judge says

Stripes Okinawa

WASHINGTON — The court-martial of Cmdr. Bryce Benson, who was the commanding officer of the USS Fitzgerald when it was involved in a deadly 2017 collision, has taken a new turn.

A military judge has disqualified Navy Adm. Frank Caldwell from serving as the convening authority in Benson’s case, effectively pausing the legal action against him and raising the possibility that the charges could be dismissed.

As a result of the disqualification, the court-martial of Benson is no longer valid, and it narrows the pool of remaining Navy authorities who could pursue the charges. The Navy’s vice chief of naval operations and the chief of naval operations, or CNO, are left to oversee the case, which seems unlikely, one expert said.

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