WASHINGTON – As a highly decorated Navy SEAL training commander’s career hangs in the balance, three Republican lawmakers are demanding answers about the integrity of the investigation that is sending him to a punishment hearing, The Post has exclusively learned.
Last week, the Navy informed Capt. Brad Geary that he would face non-judicial punishment (NJP) resulting from the probe into his command following the February 2022 death of of Seaman Kyle Mullen.
For Kyle’s mother, Regina Mullen, it was welcome news.
She’s advocated for accountability for SEAL leaders after her son’s death and wants to see change in the program.
But the punishment decision comes three months after Reps. Nick LaLota (R-NY), Morgan Luttrell (R-Texas) and Cory Mills (R-Fla.) wrote the Navy’s chief of legislative affairs with concerns of potential bias in the service’s investigation of the case.
“It has come to our attention that the Navy’s investigation into Seaman Kyle Mullen’s death has potentially been misdirected and mishandled,” the lawmakers wrote in a never-before-seen congressional inquiry in June.
“We are concerned that, if true, the US Navy’s actions could serve detrimental to our nation’s warfighters at a time when we face grave threats to our national security,” they added.
Mullen, 24, died after he was found unresponsive following his completion of the Navy SEAL training program’s infamously grueling “Hell Week.”
In a video his mother shared with The Post, Mullen appears to struggle to breathe while sitting with other trainees who had just finished the final exercise of the grueling week.
Medical examiners ruled that Mullen died from a combination of pneumonia and swimming-induced pulmonary edema — a common condition in SEAL candidates, who experience fluid buildup in the lungs after prolonged exposure to frigid waters.
The highly critical Navy investigation into Mullen’s death would later depict Geary as an out-of-touch leader whose cadre of trainers pushed SEAL candidates too hard, creating an unsafe environment for trainees.
Now, the captain faces non-judicial charges of “dereliction of duty, for failing to file a report regarding safety even though they they executed the safety provisions” and a general “negligent dereliction for violation of naval regulation,” his attorney Jason Wareham told The Post.
“Charging Capt. Geary with negligent dereliction … over minor record-keeping lapses and ambiguous ‘supervision’ regulations, despite his compliance with crucial safety standards and proactive leadership, indicates a year-long effort to make him a scapegoat, irrespective of the facts,” he said.
The decision came after Navy prosecutors asked Mullen’s heartbroken mother to come to Washington to state her preference of what path they should take to hold Geary accountable, she told The Post.
But before she gave her opinion, she said she spoke to someone “with more knowledge of the Navy processes” than she had.
“Basically, they told me, ‘All of them will get off if it’s a court-martial.’ And the reason being is, it’s a jury of your own peers in San Diego and they hire fancy lawyers and … they lie and they get off,” she said. “So it was suggested to me by that person that I should request NJPs – administrative – asking to lower their ranks and forced them out of the Navy where they can’t return.”
Regina Mullen said prosecutors were “shocked” to hear she’d prefer NJP, but she explained that to her understanding, “this way something would at least happen” to the leaders.
“I think he deserves punishment, like getting kicked out of the Navy or not promoted. He could still get a lesser pension and get another job somewhere else,” Regina Mullen said. “He already killed my son and injured men. If he’s not there anymore, and all those people aren’t there anymore and they really have oversight and you really fix it, then I’ve done all that I can do in my son’s name.”
Wareham also suspects Geary would not have been convicted under a court-martial, because he believes the Navy doesn’t have the evidence to prove he failed in his duties.
Geary, who accepted the Navy’s top award for “inspirational leadership” just three months prior to Mullen’s death, said he intends to fight the accusations – but should he be found guilty, it could mean the end of the his career.
“I think that punishing Geary and his fellow officers in light of their stellar records is not supported by the facts,” LaLota, who reps most of Long Island, told The Post. “… We are facing complex threats to our national security from China and other aggressors, and we need more fighters like Geary and other highly competent Navy SEALs, and I want to ensure a proper process that validates that level of training.”
Two other leaders, the training center’s former commander Capt. Brian Dreschler and the program’s former chief medical advisor Cmdr. Erik Ramey, were also told they would face NJP.
The Post was unable to confirm the charges facing the other officers.
The military uses NJPs as an alternative to court-martials, which involve legal consequences and can result in jail time, dishonorable discharge and fines.
However, those facing NJP can opt instead to have the case reviewed for court-martial.
Geary said he chose to accept NJP out of trust in the admiral assigned to review his case.
The problem with the accusations, LaLota said, is that the Navy appears not to have considered key evidence suggesting other factors may have contributed to Mullen’s death – including his alleged illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs, which may have caused health issues that exacerbated his condition, weakening his body as it struggled to fight off the pneumonia that killed him.
“I’m deeply concerned and troubled by this course of action,” LaLota exclusively told The Post, speaking publicly on the matter for the first time. “I’ve pledged for months to investigate this matter thoroughly and to ensure that the complete facts are brought to light.”
In addition to pneumonia, medical examiners noted that Mullen’s heart weighed 700 grams – more than twice the size of the average male heart – and listed it as a “secondary cause.”
Wareham and the lawmakers say that evidence was never fully considered by the Navy investigators.
After Mullen’s death, officials discovered syringes and illegally obtained performance-enhancing drugs — including multiple forms of human growth hormone, testosterone, and other drugs, according to NCIS photos obtained by The Post.
Mullen was also seen injecting himself with a substance the week he died, an attorney with knowledge of the matter told The Post.
Navy medical examiners never tested Mullen for the PEDs discovered in his car – a move that LaLota, Luttrell and Mills wrote that they found questionable.
“It’s very curious to us why an autopsy pathologist, when looking at that evidence of these controlled substances in his possession, would choose to disregard them contextually from the entire autopsy and choose not to test for them at the same time,” Geary told The Post in an exclusive interview this week.
LaLota, Luttrell and Mills, who all have served in the military, asked six pages worth of provocative questions about the investigation, the service’s public statements on the case and the possible undue influence of Regina Mullen.
In addition to asking why the PEDs were not tested for, the lawmakers asked why, in a press release following Mullen’s death, the Navy added a sentence requested by his mother noting that drugs had not been a factor in the sailor’s death.
“Given the lack of testing, is it not irresponsible to say … that PEDS were definitively NOT a contributing cause?” they asked. “…Is it the general policy of the US Navy to allow grieving mothers to shape Navy press statements that directly contradict clear and convincing evidence?”
“Would the predetermined and untrue verdict already established by this demonstrable untruth discredit the entire investigation,” they added, charging that it “appears to be an institutional deception at the highest levels of the US Navy at the expense of its sailors.”
The Republicans have yet to receive any response from the Navy despite setting a July 14 deadline for answers.
A service spokeswoman, when asked whether a response was coming, said the Navy “values its relationship with Congress and takes very seriously its responsibility to answer all congressional inquiries.”
“As we work across multiple commands to ensure comprehensive responses, the Navy continues to provide status updates to congress,” she said in a statement, which did not address to The Post’s request for answers to the lawmakers’ questions.
However, the nature of Geary’s NJP charges may make the congressmen’s questions moot in the his case, as none of his counts are directly tied to Mullen’s death, Wareham said.
“It seems to me that [the Navy is] kind of talking out of both sides of their face, saying ‘Look,’ – and they even told me – ‘this is not about the death of Kyle Mullen.’”
The sentiment enraged Mullen’s mother, who told The Post she had assumed the charges against Geary were directly linked to her son’s death.
Upon learning they do not, she told The Post, “I almost wish I demanded court-martial given the way they lie.”
“That upset me because it is not directly connected. Then the NJPs are then a slap on the wrist and they’re not what I wanted or what should be they’re not harsh enough,” she said. “And if they’re all still allowed to be in that Navy and not separated, it’s a problem.”
Wareham also has concerns that Geary will not receive a fair judgment, though for the opposite reason.
“Although I’m not convinced that Capt. Geary will receive a fair NJP hearing, I do recognize the SEALs as an organization founded on unshakeable trust among its members,” the attorney said. Given this, I feel obligated to believe that Capt. Geary’s confidence in the admiral to fairly adjudicate him is warranted.”
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