WASHINGTON, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- The former top U.S. general in Africa won't face court martial over accusations he misused hundreds of thousands of dollars, former military lawyers predict.
A report by the Defense Department's inspector general says Gen. William "Kip" Ward committed a variety of non-criminal offenses as the first head of Africa Command, Stars and Stripes reported.
Among the offenses, the inspector general said Ward was reimbursed for personal travel, spent $18,500 on gifts at his change-of-command ceremony and accepted free meals and tickets from a prohibited source.
While Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is due to decide in the next few weeks whether to charge Ward, former military attorneys said court-martialing a senior officer is a difficult task.
Military rules require that jurors deciding any court-martial be of equal or greater rank than the defendant. In Ward's case, it's not certain that his alleged wrongdoings reach the level appropriate for a court-martial. However, he could be tried for failing to obey an order or regulation.
It's more likely, the attorneys say, that Ward will face a battery of non-judicial administrative punishments.
He could be reprimanded and fined, and forced to retire at a lower rank, which would slash his monthly benefits.
Greg Rinckey, a former Army JAG, said that while officers sometimes receive a lighter punishment relative to enlisted soldiers, it was unlikely Ward would escape without some punishment.