A Navy jury Friday convicted Capt. Alexander Balian of dereliction of duty and recommended a reprimand for his failure to rescue a boatload of Vietnamese refugees who later resorted to cannibalism.
"The Navy was embarrassed and I was the scapegoat," said Balian, a decorated Vietnam War veteran. "I care for the refugees as I care for other people. We fought and died because we care for the Vietnamese."The jury of six Navy captains acquitted Balian, 48, of Los Angeles, of the charge he ordered his men to shake loose a Vietnamese climbing a line to his ship, the USS Dubuque, when it encountered the refugees June 9 in the South China Sea.
While it was not clear what the recommendation of reprimand entails, the outcome of Balian's sentence likely would limit him to administrative duties.
The recommendation now goes to Rear Adm. Roger Rich, commander of Naval Forces in the Philippines for review. Rich will draft a letter of reprimand that will go to the Judge Advocate General's Office in Washington for a final review.
Balian said he planned to go to Sasebo, Japan, and then to Washington for his next assignment as the Navy's assistant chief of staff for planning.
"I am still in the Navy with the same pay," Balian told reporters. "But that's not why I am in the Navy. I like to run a ship. I like challenges, but I don't like failure."
Balian said the reprimand means he will no longer win promotion to a "flag rank," or become an admiral. If Balian had been convicted on both charges, he could have faced up to 27 months in prison.