“What the Coast Guard did was both a crime and an act of terrorism. It was designed to result in the violent destruction of CDR Strickland’s personal life and career; and to spread terror in the hearts and minds of other officers, cadets, and personnel for the purpose of coercion to make them change their minds and actions when they consider reporting acts of sexual harassment or assault, as it is their sworn duty to do.” (Judge L. Steverson, USALJ (Ret)
Chief Warrant Officer (CWO3) Aaron W. Woods was serving as the supervisor of the Kodiak, Alaska Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) Resident Agent Office. It was him that CDR Strickland reached out to request a CGIS investigation regarding the facts and circumstances surrounding the allegation of a sexual assault committed upon a crewmember (female E-3). Despite the suspect’s (male E-3) confession on the second day of the CGIS investigation, Agent Woods behavior was reported increasingly irregular. Such behavior included threatening witnesses (including the victim’s roommate) as well as seizing and reviewing over 100% of the crew’s emails without probable cause.
“The victims’ roommate of the sexual assault was threatened by the CGIS Investigative Agents. They told her that they had her personal emails and that they would “ruin her career” if she did not “cooperate”. This apparently is what masquerades as a criminal investigation today. In the so-called pursuit of justice, the investigative agents commit crimes and abuse the rights of the innocents.” (Judge L. Steverson, USALJ (Ret)
Agent Woods embarked on a witch-hunt and made unfounded accusations against several officers. Agent Woods demanded interviews with 100% of the ship’s 185 member crew. This included CDR Strickland, who was the reporting source for the sexual assault. CDR Strickland was placed in the suspect interrogation room with two investigative agents, CWO3 Woods and S/A Neil Marzolff. This was an elaborate attempt by CWO3 Woods to get CDR Strickland to make a false official statement. CDR Strickland refused.
As such, Agent Woods turned his attention towards targeting CDR Strickland. Agent Woods had Agent Albert J. “AJ” Scholz from the “CGIS Cybercrimes Unit” in Alexandria, Virginia send him all of CDR Strickland’s Instant Message (IM) conversations dating back two years. From these conversations (which included CDR Strickland’s complaints about Agents Woods inappropriate and unethical behavior), Agents Woods cherry-picked specific private messages to send to both USCG Pacific Area staff and CAPT Jeffrey W. Thomas. In turn, said recipients used these illegally obtained messages to draft a derogatory performance report for CDR Strickland in order to remove him from his position of command.
The witch-hunt of CDR Benjamin Strickland is a cautionary tale and warning to those service members who want to stand-up in support victims of sexual assault. The Coast Guard has made it clear that victims of sexual abuse are expected to remain silent. Sexual assaults are covered up and kept under the radar; otherwise, the public may rightfully believe that there is a problem. The Coast Guard’s message is clear “If you help victims of sexual abuse you will be hunted down and destroyed.”
We have reached out to Agent Woods for a statement. He has refused to respond.