Former Gitmo Navy commander sentenced to 2 years for lying about civilian's death

Federal prosecutors had sought 37 to 46 months in prison

A former Navy commander stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was sentenced Thursday to two years in prison for lying about a drunken fight with a commissary worker who was found dead and floating in the bay.

Retired Navy captain John Nettleton's sentence came down more than five years after Christopher Tur's body was found. Nettleton was not charged in Tur's death but was convicted in January of six counts of obstruction of justice and lying to officials.

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He was sentenced Thursday following an hourslong hearing where Tur's mother and siblings pleaded for a severe sentence. Nettleton's family and friends described him as an upstanding veteran combat helicopter pilot who led a life of integrity, during their time in front of the judge.

Federal prosecutors had sought 37 to 46 months in prison. Defense lawyers pushed for no jail time.

Nettleton had commanded the naval base since June 2012 but not the infamous detention center where suspected terrorists are held. He was removed from command soon after Tur, a civilian, was found dead on the southeastern coast of Cuba in 2015.

Testimony at the trial revealed that Nettleton and Tur fought inside Nettleton's home following a night of drinking during a celebration at the base's private officer's club. At the party Tur, 42, loudly accused Nettleton of having an affair with his wife.

Nettleton denied to his superior officer and others that he had an affair, but investigators later determined that it had happened, according to federal prosecutors in Jacksonville, where Nettleton had been on temporary duty. Tur’s wife confirmed the affair during her testimony, authorities said.

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Defense attorneys argued that Nettleton couldn’t be found guilty of any of the charges merely for violating provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice or for violating any Navy regulations.

An autopsy found that Tur died from drowning but that his ribs had been fractured before he went into the water, and he had a cut to his head. Authorities said the investigation also turned up Tur’s blood inside the entryway of Nettleton’s residence on the base and on a paper towel in the backyard.

Tur came to Guantanamo in May 2011 with his wife, Lara, and their two children. He worked as the loss prevention safety manager at the Navy Exchange, the main shopping complex on the base.

On the night of his disappearance, Tur confronted the commander and Tur’s wife in front of witnesses at the on-base nightclub. 

Later that night, Tur went to Nettleton’s residence, where the two men fought. Nettleton’s daughter heard the commotion and came down to see her father on the ground and Tur standing over him shortly before he left the area and wasn’t seen again, according to documents.

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Around that time, a friend of Tur’s reported getting a call from him, saying he was at Nettleton’s house and had “just knocked the skipper out."

After Tur went missing, Nettleton failed to tell people leading the search for him that he was last seen at Nettleton’s house when they fought, and the commander instead led them to believe he was last seen at the nightclub, according to prosecutors.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.