A San Diego sailor is facing 23 months of confinement after pleading guilty to advocating supremacist and extreme doctrine, according to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
In addition, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class James Charles Hart, who was assigned to guided missile cruiser Lake Erie in San Diego, pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a firearm and ammunition on base, larceny, and illegally dealing in firearms.
“Petty Officer Hart betrayed his oath to the Navy and deserves to be held fully accountable for his hateful and criminal actions,” Special Agent in Charge Joshua Flowers of the NCIS Southwest Field Office said in a news release.
“NCIS is dedicated to protecting Navy and Marine readiness from being degraded by criminal activity,” Flowers said. “This conviction should serve as a warning that NCIS, the FBI, and our partners will fully investigate any and all criminal threats advocating violence against the Department of the Navy.”
A tip that Hart posted content on social media encouraging violence against service members and law enforcement members prompted NCIS and San Diego FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force to open an investigation into Hart in January.
Ultimately, the investigation found that Hart voiced support for the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and called for violence against Navy personnel and assets on social media. Likewise, a loaded handgun, ammunition, and several stolen gas masks were found in his barracks room. A search of his phone also revealed evidence that he illegally sold a firearm.
Hart was handed a dishonorable discharge, and his rank was bumped down to E-1.
In February, Navy Times reported that the service was uncertain how many sailors it had ousted due to “supremacist or extremist conduct,” because there was no record for how many sailors have separated under the corresponding section of the Naval Military Personnel Manual.
Navy Personnel Command officials told Navy Times it was aiming to make adjustments. Future improvements, officials said, will change current legacy systems and data bases “into a high quality integrated authoritative data environment.”
Officials expect those modifications to advance the service’s tracking abilities.
Following the Jan. 6 insurrection, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued an order for commanding officers and supervisors to complete a stand down on the topic of extremism in the services.
According to Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell Jr., extremism consists of promoting supremacist causes, and discrimination of others based on their race, creed, color, sex, religion, sexual preference, or national origin — and advocating for violence against the government and elected leaders.
Nowell said that participating in extremism could mean engaging in offensive posts on social media, or demonstrating, rallying, fundraising, recruiting, or training on behalf of organizations that espouse extremist beliefs.