San Diego Union-Tribune

July 10, 2001

Osprey squadron chief may face trial
  Marine accused of providing false maintenance data


WASHINGTON -- The Marine Corps yesterday started the process that could lead to the court-martial of the commanding officer of the MV-22 Osprey training squadron who allegedly ordered falsification of the tilt-rotor
aircraft's maintenance data.

Gen. James L. Jones, the Marine Corps commandant, referred the allegations, detailed in a Pentagon inspector general's report, to Lt. Gen. Raymond P. Ayres, commanding general of Marine Forces Atlantic.

Ayres would have the authority to convene a general court-martial against the squadron commander, Lt. Col. Odin "Fred" Leberman, or could delegate that authority to another Marine general under his command.

Under provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the officer empowered to hold a court-martial normally would assign an officer to conduct a formal investigation that is roughly equivalent to a civilian grand jury proceeding. Based on that investigation, the responsible general could file charges and convene a court-martial or take less severe judicial or administrative action.

But based on the information the Pentagon revealed about the inspector general's probe, it is considered highly likely that a court-martial would be required against Leberman and perhaps other Marine officers.

The inspector general's report concluded that Leberman directed his squadron personnel to falsify the maintenance records of the Ospreys in Marine Medium Tilt-Rotor Training Squadron 204. The report said Leberman tried to make the plane look more reliable than it was because he perceived pressure from his superiors to ensure the survival of the Osprey, which has been the Marines' top aviation priority for a decade.

The Pentagon report concluded that no one superior to Leberman directed or encouraged him to doctor the maintenance records. But it said other officers at the New River, N.C., Marine Corps Air Station were aware of
Leberman's actions and did nothing to stop it or report it to higher authorities.

Charges could be brought against anyone shown to have allowed the falsification to continue.

The inspector general said the squadron's records were altered between Dec. 20, 2000, and Jan. 11, 2001, and played no role in two fatal crashes of squadron Ospreys in April and early December. Twenty-three Marines died in those crashes.