A jury of five officers convicted a Navy swimming instructor Friday of negligent homicide and conspiracy to commit battery in the panic drowning of Airman Recruit Lee Mirecki, then sentenced him to 90 days in confinement.
The jury deliberated an hour before handing down the sentence, which also includes a letter of reprimand and a reduction in rank for Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Combe, 28, of Tempe, Ariz.Combe, who faced a maximum penalty of 11/2 years in prison and a bad conduct discharge for his conviction, will stay in the military.
Combe displayed no reaction when the guilty verdict was announced Friday morning. His family at the court-martial clustered around his mother, Jane Ennis, who was seated and sobbed quietly.
The court-martial verdict and sentence will be appealed automatically to Vice Adm. Ron Thunman, the chief of naval aviation in training.
Combe had been charged with involuntary manslaughter, battery and conspiracy to commit battery in the March 2 drowing of Mirecki, a 19-year-old recruit from Appleton, Wis.
Mirecki suffered a panic-inducedheart attack and drowned during an exercise called "sharks and daisies," in which instructors pretend to be drowning and pull recruits under the water. His death occurred one month after a flight surgeon diagnosed him as having a possible water phobia.
Prosecutors said Mirecki fled from the Navy pool and grabbed an equipment rack before instructors yanked him from the rack and threw or pushed him back in the water. Combe allegedly put a rear head hold on Mirecki and forced his head under water to get him to release a rope in the middle of the pool.
Mirecki suffered a panic-induced heart attack and drowned.