A Cup of Joe | One-Time Alcohol Binge Ends Career of Merchant Marine Academy Student

“The hammer of the gods
Will drive our ships to new lands…”

Second Verse of Immigrant Song | Led Zeppelin

This week, Cup of Joe ships out to Bahrain, a Kingdom in the Middle East. Legend states that it was the location of the Garden of Eden.  The island nation comprises a small group of islands centered around Bahrain Island. It is situated between the Qatar peninsula and the north- eastern coast of Saudi Arabia. 

Former Syracuse star-basketball player, Arinze Christopher Onuaku, currently plays for Riffa basketball team in Bahrain. Arinze says, “Bahrain is actually nice. They’re laid-back, relaxed and love basketball.”  In January 2019, Bahrain announced the opening of an underwater theme park covering about 100,000 square meters with a sunken Boeing 747 as the site’s centerpiece. Women in Bahrain acquired voting rights and the right to stand in national elections in the 2002 election. Right on!

Today’s case involves Elias Yu, a student at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy – Class of 2019. Graduates receive a Bachelor of Science degree. The Academy is located on the Long Island Sound and sits directly across from City Island in the Bronx.             

It was “Sea Year” for midshipman Elias Yu. That is when the student actually goes out to sea to get first-hand experience in handling ships. Sophomores and Juniors are assigned to a variety of operating U.S.-flag merchant vessels to transverse the trade routes of the Seven Seas.

It was December 8, 2017. Elias’s ship was docked in a port in Bahrain. Elias and other Academy midshipmen, and crewmembers, went to a bar while on authorized liberty. They all drank. But Elias was on a one-man binge. (An alcohol binge usually results in loss of memory, money, strange tattoos, and other things you may have difficulty explaining when you finally sober up.). Elias lost consciousness until he woke up in a holding cell under Bahraini governmental control.  He was told he was arrested for assaulting a Chinese national; stealing a car; getting into a car crash and damaging property including motorcycles.

The Bahraini government did not press any charges against Elias but he was he was removed from his assigned ship and returned to the United States. Upon his return, Elias was restricted to the Academy’s grounds, and he was not allowed to complete his requisite “Sea Year” studies. Elias was brought up on charges by the Academy and was facing expulsion. 

This is the trial of midshipman Elias Yu.

TESTIMONY OF ELIAS

Q. Tell us about your educational background.
 
A. Yes, sir. I attended Texas Tech University for one year – 2014 to 2015 – and then signed up with the Merchant Marine Academy as a Major in Maritime Logistics and Intermodal Transportation. I played quarterback and defensive back for the Mariners in 2015.
 
Q. And your academic performance?
 
A. Cumulative grade point average above 3.0, sir.
 
Q. And when are you expected to graduate?
 
A. Class of 2019, sir. If everything works out here.
 
Q. I want to direct your attention to December 8, 2017. 
 
A. Okay.
 
Q.  Your ship was docked in a port in Bahrain?
 
A. Yes. 
 
Q. And at some point you were given liberty?
 
A. Yes, sir, I, and other midshipmen, along with crewmembers went to a few bars in town.
 
Q. You consumed alcoholic beverages?
 
A. Yes, sir; but no more 7 drinks during that evening including an unknown drink handed to me by a female patron.
 
Q. Were you drunk?
 
A. Well, no sir, but after consuming the Unknown Drink, I lost consciousness until I woke up in jail.
 
Q. How did you get there?
 
A. I don’t know. I just woke up there. In jail.
 
Q. What happened at jail?
 
A. Well, at first I was questioned by Bahraini governmental authorities and, then, by agents from the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service (“NCIS”). I informed the NCIS agents of my suspicion that the Unknown Drink I was given was spiked with a “date rape” drug.
Q. Do you have any memory of what happened from the time you were at the bar until you woke up in jail?
 
A. No, sir. I…I…do not.

CROSS EXAMINATION OF ELIAS

Q. You testified that you had 7 drinks and then — What did you say? – an “Unknown Drink”?
 
A. Yes, sir.
 
Q. And that Unknown Drink was given to you by an Unknown girl, right?
 
A. Correct, sir?

Q. And then you woke up in a jail cell for reasons unknown, right?

A. That is right.

Q. No recollection of physically assaulting a male Chinese national?

A. I would not do that sir.

Q. Or stealing that man’s 2012 Volvo?

A.  No, sir.

Q. And no recollection of the Volvo having two children in the back — a six-year-old and one and a one-half year old?

A. No, sir, I would not do that.

Q. And you have no recollection of driving that Volvo down an alleyway and crashing it into motorcycles, and then fleeing on foot, in Juffair, Bahrain?

A. No, sir. I was drugged by a girl in the bar.

Q. You were you tested?

A. Yes.

Q. Were you provided with the results?

A. It was negative for date rape drug. 

Q. And that was the Navy drug screen performed within hours after the incident?

A. Correct.

Q. It is also true that you provided the investigators with two different versions of when you might have been given the drug? 

A. I was confused at that time.

Q. The two versions involved different bars, and described different drinks. 

A. I was confused, sir.

Q. Confused. Okay. Is this the printout of text messages between you and your father after you returned to the States?

A. If you say so.

Q. I am asking you to look at it and confirm that, Elias.

A. Okay. It is.

Q. In the first text, your father tells you that you should say you thought you were drugged. 

A. I see that.

Q. You replied, I’m sticking with I got drugged. 

A. I see that, as well.

Q. It is your theory that you were drugged by people who wished to do you harm and rob you. But there is no evidence of any attempt by anyone to do so, right?

A. I have no evidence of that. But I was…

Q. And you claim to have no memory of any of the events involving the assault, auto theft, kidnapping, reckless driving, and fleeing the scene of the accident because you were drugged. 

A. Correct.

Q. But your blood alcohol content (“BAC”) was determined by Bahraini governmental authorities to be 0.214, is that accurate.
 
A. From what I was told, it is accurate. But I did not have a lawyer at that time and I did not consent….
 
Q. .214, right, Elias?
 
A. Yes sir.
 
Q. Between Regimental training, sea year lectures, and being a member of one of the Academy’s NCAA intercollegiate athletic teams, you have heard on repeated occasions the importance of being responsible with alcohol consumption. True?

A. No specific cautions against the dangers of spiked drinks were delivered.

Q. Sir, you were instructed on the importance of being responsible with alcohol consumption on other occasions, as well?

A. I was drugged. You can believe it or not.

ACADEMY’S DECISION AFTER TRIAL

ELIAS, your actions were dangerous to yourself and others, and reflect great discredit upon you and the Academy. You also embarrassed the U.S. Navy, as an officer from the vessel had to report to Bahraini authorities to secure your release from jail.

Your only defense is that you believe you may have unknowingly consumed a drug in a beer provided you by a woman in a bar earlier that evening. There is no evidence that supports your claim. 

This loss of memory is likely to be the result of your extreme intoxication as shown by the blood-alcohol test performed by Bahraini officials. 

Your misconduct is completely unacceptable. You failed to conduct yourself responsibly, in a manner consistent with the expectations of a leader of character preparing himself to serve as an officer in the Merchant Marine and the Armed Forces. 

You have raised serious questions as to whether you can be trusted with the responsibilities of officership. 

Accordingly, I have decided to DISENROLL you from the Academy.

IN THE WAKE OF EXPULSION

Elias was thrown out of the Academy. Elias and his family tried to appeal to court, but the Academy’s decision was upheld. Elias would not be permitted to graduate after all of his hard work because of a one-night drinking binge. It could have been worse.

See you next week…


“So now you’d better stop and rebuild all your ruins
For peace and trust can win the day despite of all your losing.”

Last Verse of Immigrant Song | Led Zeppelin

Here is the case: https://www.leagle.com/decision/infdco20200227c87

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