Marines Drop All Charges Against Lance Corporal Who Bucked Orders To Avoid COVID-19 Vax

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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  • The U.S. Marine Corps dropped all charges on Monday against a lance corporal who was accused of disrespecting orders and forging documents as she sought to avoid being discharged for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • LCpl. Catherine Arnett told the DCNF she has been targeted for retaliation by the Marine Corps and is fighting her imminent discharge.
  • “This decision was made judiciously while balancing what was best for LCpl Arnett and the United States Marine Corps,” Maj. Rob Martins, communication strategy director for the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Okinaway, told the DCNF.

The U.S. Marine Corps dropped all charges Monday against a lance corporal who violated multiple orders in her quest to avoid receiving the mandatory COVID-19 vaccine, the Daily Caller News Foundation learned.

LCpl. Catherine Arnett spend 113 days in the brig following charges of fraud, disobeying officers and failing to report for duty racked up while attempting to stave off discharge, facing court martial for the second time, according to Task & Purpose. But the Marine Corps dismissed a second set of charges after releasing Arnett in May and is taking steps toward general discharge under honorable conditions, a spokesperson confirmed to the DCNF, while Arnett alleges the Marine Corps set her up for further retaliation as a result of her refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“All charges against LCpl Arnett have been withdrawn at this time,” Maj. Rob Martins, communication strategy director for the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Okinaway, told the DCNF. “This decision was made judiciously while balancing what was best for LCpl Arnett and the United States Marine Corps.”

The convening authority of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing opted to dismiss all charges against her without prejudice, according to a copy of the withdrawal letter posted by the TRMLX blog, which is dated June 5, 2023. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Military Recruiters Beg Marines Booted Over COVID Vax To Come Back)

“The next steps for LCpl Arnett are relevant to the administrative separation process; in this case, that will involve a number of out-processing requirements prior to her administrative separation,” Martins told the DCNF.

Yet, Arnett maintained that she performed well in her duties and desires to continue serving in statements to the DCNF. She sent an appeal to her commanding officer in Iwakuni as to why he should not recommend discharge to the convening authority on Tuesday.

Arnett’s charges included unauthorized absence, missing a required flight, breach of pretrial restriction and repeatedly disobeying orders, according to a copy of the charge sheet obtained by the DCNF.

Arnett called the charges “petty,” saying they “reflect retaliation for not receiving the COVID-19 vaccine” in a letter dated April 14, just prior to her transfer to a new detention facility.

“They were able to vindictively stack charges on me in order to justify their ability to put me in handcuffs, brig me for 113 days for their frustration at me, and then dump me stateside and separate me there and wipe their hands clean of me,” Arnett said in a statement to the DCNF.

Arnett told the DCNF she believed all COVID-19 related items would be purged from her record following the Secretary of Defense’s withdrawal of the vaccine mandate on Jan. 10.

Service leaders said in February vaccine refusal cases are still being dealt with on an individual basis. “No Service members currently serving will be separated based solely on their refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, if they sought an accommodation based on religious, administrative, or medical grounds,” the Pentagon said.

“Ultimately my record was not cleared and the command investigation still lingered, and I knew it would be used against me in order to corner me and arrest me,” Arnett told the DCNF.

While stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, she sought a religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine because she believed the immunization was developed using cell lines from aborted infants, Stars and Stripes reported. Lab-replicated cells originating from abortions were used in testing of mRNA vaccines and production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but the products themselves do not contain cells of aborted fetuses, according to Nebraska Medicine.

Her command ordered all Marines to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and, when Arnett refused, recommended the lance corporal for discharge, according to Task & Purpose. Twice she ignored orders to board a flight to the U.S, leading to a special court martial; but when a federal judge blocked the Marine Corps from booting unvaccinated troops who had requested religious exemptions in August 2022, the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing opted to withdraw the first set of charges.

She was supposed to leave in November 2022, but another interim rule from Marine Corps headquarters gave Marines denied religious exemptions or awaiting final ruling an option to request a 12-month contract extension.

“The most glaring issue of this whole brig-stateside transfer thing is that my leaders subjected me to it in order to interfere with the absolutely lawful and valid overseas extension contract I submitted for and GOT APPROVED BY HEADQUARTERS MARINE CORPS in November 2022,” she said.

She faced a separate charge of fraud for appearing to submit a document with a forged commander’s signature granting access to the Defense Travel System, according to Task & Purpose. However, the blog TRMLX obtained a letter appearing to show her command requesting she perform her regular duties that required access to the system in May, after her access to the system was allegedly revoked.

Martins earlier told Task & Purpose he could not conclude from the email whether Arnett’s commanding officer was aware her access was revoked.

Arnett alleged her access was removed without her knowledge as a “shadow” punishment for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.

She once again faced administrative separation in December 2022, according to Task & Purpose. That same month she was ordered to obtain a physical, move to a different barracks and accept new duties, but spurned all three orders, refusing to tell authorities where she was living, Marine Aircraft Group 12 commander Col. Derek Brannon wrote in the charge sheet.

On Jan. 22 she intentionally missed a departing flight and broke pre-trial restriction by leaving her barracks afterward, stating the following day she would not comply with the restriction, according to the charge sheet.

Brannon recommended pre-trial detention based on her refusal to obey orders even after multiple chances. Arnett was held at the Marine Corps Installations Pacific Brig in Okinawa on Jan. 23 and then transferred to the Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar in California until her release on May 15, according to Task & Purpose.

“Lance Cpl. Arnett was held in confinement because she refused to obey any lawful orders relevant to her administrative separation, to include orders to abide by pre-trial restriction” and was expected to face court-martial, Martins previously told Task & Purpose.

“They dumped her on the street of Miramar without even a cell phone or a dollar in her pocket,” Giorgio Kirylo, an independent consultant for the Pipe Hitter Foundation, told the outlet. “However you look at it, it’s not right. The last time she received a paycheck was on Jan. 13, 2023.”

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