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What Exactly Was DeRito Discharged For?

After interviewing on the podcast, Cleared Hot with Andy Stumpf, many people asked me about my discharge from the Air Force Academy. Several made some comments about why I would ever sign a confession that said that I assaulted someone. I think this is just a language barrier between military and non military people. I falsely confessed to fraternization, not assault. I've never assaulted anyone nor have I ever been accused of assaulting anyone.


So what is fraternization in the military? Wikipedia has a pretty good explanation:

Within militaries, officers and members of enlisted ranks are typically prohibited from personally associating outside their professional duties and orders. Excessively-familiar relationships between officers of different ranks may also be considered fraternization, especially between officers in the same chain of command.

The term encompasses a number of situations. It can mean anything from a sexual relationship to drinking with someone of a lower rank. This article from the Department of Defense gives examples of appropriate socializing and inappropriate socializing with members of different rank.


I was a Cadet First Class (a senior) and the individuals at the prep school were Cadet Candidates (pre-freshmen). The Air Force Academy has rules that upperclassmen cannot fraternize with Freshmen or Cadet Candidates. Although, in my experience, they did not uniformly enforce this rule. I witnessed many relationships between upperclassmen and freshmen during my years at the Academy. In my case, a cadet candidate, Harriet Lakind, lied about having a relationship with me.


Since I was not actually charged for fraternization via court martial, I accepted an article 15. An article 15 is non judicial punishment. It's kind of like a plea deal where you aren't admitting guilt, but accepting a punishment in lieu of going to court martial where you could be found guilty.

Also from Wikipedia:

In the United States Armed Forces, non-judicial punishment is a form of military justice authorized by Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. NJP permits commanders to administratively discipline troops without a court-martial. Punishment can range from reprimand to reduction in rank, correctional custody, loss of pay, extra duty, and/or restrictions. The receipt of non-judicial punishment does not constitute a criminal conviction (it is equivalent to a civil action), but is often placed in the service record of the individual.

I had the choice to go to court martial, but I was advised by my appointed area defense counsel (an appointment military lawyer) that I would lose and I should just accept the Article 15. I now realize that this was terrible advice. There was no evidence at all for this relationship since there was no relationship. I most likely would have won in court martial.


In many cases, people are not discharged from the military because of an Article 15. This is why accepting the Article 15 did not seem like a terrible decision at the time. I was also told by the OSI (Office of Special Investigations) during my 11 hour interrogation that this would all just go away if I accepted the fraternization charge. I trusted them, and they lied to me.

I was young, naive, and didn't know my rights. I trusted the OSI agents that I had been working with and then subsequently trusted the my appointed area defense counsel. In all fairness, since an Article 15 doesn't usually lead to being discharged, they may not have thought that would actually happen to me.

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