A relatively rare Florida Keys-based court martial of a Coast Guard crewman accused of assaulting a vacationing Key West couple last year began Monday.
Petty Officer Michael G. Gold, 40, is accused of assault and drunkenness stemming from an incident that occurred outside a Key West bar on Nov. 28, 2013.
Gold, who has been with the Coast Guard for about 10 years, faces allegations of abusive sexual contact, assault consummated by a battery, and drunk and disorderly conduct.
According to a Key West Police arrest report, Gold and couple Bruce and Donna Cossey of Leesburg got into an altercation at a hot dog stand on the 200 block of Duval Street at 2:32 a.m. Donna Cossey, 42, accused Gold of grabbing her breasts.
Her husband, Bruce Cossey, 63, walked up and before he could say anything, Gold hit him in the face, Cossey told police.
Gold, however, reportedly told police Bruce Cossey punched him in the face for no reason.
Gold is being charged with violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is a set of criminal laws that cover most crimes contained in civilian law, in addition to other military-specific offenses such as failure to obey an order or desertion.
He is being represented by private practice attorney Patrick McLain of Dallas, as well as by a military lawyer with the Judge Advocate General's Corps, also known as JAG.
On Tuesday, Cmdr. Patrick Flynn -- the senior officer sitting as military judge -- began interviewing panel members, or jurors in civilian parlance. That process took most of the day. Panel members were asked questions as a group and individually by Flynn and attorneys on both sides.
The small world of base life at Coast Guard Sector Key West came into view as a few panel members knew some or many of the witnesses in the case, including commanding officers and the like, though panel members said they knew them mostly in passing or from common base activities such as drills.
The last Coast Guard court martial in Key West occurred in 2011 when two petty officers pleaded guilty to using a government fuel card for their personal vehicles, said spokesman Ryan Doss. One served 45 days confinement and the other 90 days. Both were then discharged from service. They were not discharged dishonorably.
Confinement in military terms typically means a military jail on base, which is similar to a civilian county jail as opposed to prison.
A court martial is a judicial court for trying members of the armed services accused of offenses against military law.
In layman's terms, there are three types of military court martials from least serious to most serious -- summary, special and general. For example, the death penalty could be in play in a general court martial.
Gold's is a special court martial and it has a minimum of three officers sitting as a panel of court members or jury. In a special court martial, Gold could have requested trial by judge alone, but he did not in this case.
A special court martial may impose a punishment of dishonorable discharge, dismissal, confinement for more than one year, hard labor without confinement for more than three months, forfeiture of pay exceeding two-thirds pay per month, or any forfeiture of pay for more than one year, according to military.com.