JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Due to the outrage online from a social media post that's gone viral for showing two Naval Hospital Jacksonville employees playing with newborns could lead to a harsh punishment from the Navy.
“I think what’s particularly egregious is the amount of media this is getting,” said Antony Kolenc, a law professor at Florida Coastal School of Law and former military JAG. “Considering the outcry and the embarrassment to the Navy I’m assuming this qualifies as service disqualifying conduct for these two ladies.”
The post was made Monday and within a number of hours, it had hundreds of thousands of shares. The post contained photos that allegedly showed the hospital corpsmen playing with newborns, including a post taken from Snapchat that showed an employee giving a newborn the middle finger followed by the caption that read "How I currently feel about these mini Satans."
First Coast News broke the story after several angry viewers sent us emails and messages regarding the incident.
Some of the family and friends involved told First Coast News that the public outrage has led to hateful, threatening messages being sent to families on both sides of the situation. They’ve since asked for their privacy for now as the Naval Hospital investigates.
Kolenc said there are four possible routes of punishment for the employees:
- Administrative discipline, which means they could get written up, but not fired
- Administrative Discharge, which means they would get fired, but receive no criminal charges
- Captain’s Mast, which means harsher discipline like losing rank, a pay dock, being restricted to the base, but receiving no criminal charges
- Court Martial, which would be the equivalent of a criminal trial, in which they could receive a dishonorable discharge
“The supervisors and the commanders will make the ultimate decision on what punishment these corpsman will get, even if the parents of the babies were fine with not having charges pressed, the commander might disagree and say I still think it’s serious enough to warrant that,” he said.
Kolenc said if it becomes serious enough, a warrant could be requested to search their deleted social media platforms to see if any other inappropriate videos were posted in the past. He said the fact that they recorded such an act and then posted it puts them in even hotter water.
“Shocking and embarrassing for the Navy, I know the commanders are horrified to see this kind of public relations nightmare, this strikes me as stupid, millennial misbehavior,” Kolenc said. “As a defense council, I defended a lot of young and stupid Air Force men too. Young people sometimes make really dumb decisions.”
The women involved were immediately removed from patient care at the hospital. Kolenc said it could take weeks or months to formulate a punishment as they have to investigate their history with the Navy.
“This could hurt the credibility of the hospital," he said. "They need to see if this has ever happened before.”
He said the newer someone is to the Navy, the easier it is for them to be separated from it following misconduct.
“This may have been a dumb decision that gets them into criminal hot water," he said.
NAS JAX and the Public Affairs Office for the Navy Region Southeast have made it very clear to the media that this situation is in the hands of the Naval Hospital.
Rodney Foushee, the public affairs officer with Naval Hospital Jacksonville released the following statement to First Coast News:
We are aware of the inappropriate video and photos and can confirm they are hospital corpsmen, not nurses, but we are unable to confirm their names or tenure in light of the ongoing investigation. The individuals have been removed from patient care, meaning they will not be providing direct patient care. We are also contacting patients to address any questions or concerns they may have. This type of behavior is incompatible with the Navy's core values of honor, courage and commitment, as well as medical ethics. It also does not reflect the commitment Navy Medicine has to provide the best care our nation can offer to those who serve as well as their families. An investigation is underway. Once the investigation is complete, appropriate actions will be taken.