A former Louisiana National Guard officer was allowed to retire after a general court-martial convicted him of charges stemming from “motorboating” a subordinate soldier during an informal promotion ceremony while deployed to Jordan in May 2021, Army Times has confirmed.
Capt. Billy Joe Crosby Jr., a logistics officer who was overseas with the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team during its recent deployment, was initially charged with abusive sexual contact and conduct unbecoming an officer, according to court records obtained by Army Times. Crosby was the officer-in-charge of an outpost in Jordan.
Maj. Jessica Rovero, a spokesperson for the command overseeing the trial, told Army Times in a statement that Crosby’s “behavior is not in line with the Army values.”
Rovero added that “multiple Soldiers immediately reported the behavior, and Crosby pled guilty at trial.”
The guilty plea came with strings attached, though.
The officer struck a deal that erased the abusive sexual contact charge. He pled guilty to assault consummated by battery — a non-sexual offense — and conduct unbecoming, records reveal.
Crosby, a prior enlisted soldier who participated in the 1989 invasion of Panama, was confined for 30 days. The plea deal also prevented the judge from dismissing him from the Army, which would have kept him from collecting his retirement.
A Louisiana National Guard spokesperson, Lt. Col. Noel Collins, confirmed that Crosby retired March 31 after completing his confinement and returning home.
Crosby did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
What did Crosby do?
When he learned that the junior soldier was selected for promotion, Crosby reportedly announced to her twice that he intended to “motorboat” her during her promotion ceremony because the Army Combat Uniform’s chest-placed rank patch was intended for such actions.
An NCO witnessed both statements, according to a motion filed by prosecutors.
Prosecutors described “motorboating” as “when a person places his or her face between a [woman]’s breasts and shakes his or her head back and forth while making sounds resembling a boat motor.”
Weeks before the assault, Crosby also told the NCO that he wanted to bring the junior soldier with him on a driving trip to another base in Jordan. The NCO told investigators that Crosby requested the soldier’s company because “he liked looking at her tits.”
The junior soldier told Crosby the day before the assault that she did not want a promotion ceremony.
But during work the following day, according to a prosecution motion, Crosby “approached [the junior soldier], told her to stand up, placed the rank in front of her chest, leaned in the grab the rank with his teeth...then placed his face between [the junior soldier]’s breasts...[and] vigorously moved his head from side to side between [her] breasts while still holding the rank with his teeth.”
It’s not clear when the crime was reported, nor is it clear who reported it, but court documents indicate that agents from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division were interviewing witnesses within two weeks of the incident.
Crosby, who initially declared he would plead not guilty, changed his plea after negotiating a deal that reduced the charges and protected his retirement. The removal of the abusive sexual contact charge, which was dismissed as part of the deal, also meant that he did not have to register as a sex offender.
Although the deal took away the possibility of an other-than-honorable discharge and reduced his maximum confinement to 120 days, the judge only sentenced Crosby to 30 days and did not direct a reprimand, fines or forfeitures.
Crosby’s brigade had other disciplinary issues during its 2021 mobilization, which saw most of the unit sent to the Middle East. Some other elements of the brigade went to the federally controlled mission supporting officials at the U.S.-Mexico border.
A Louisiana Guard cavalry troop operating in south Texas was temporarily disbanded after widespread issues with sexual harassment, discipline and command climate. The state returned its troops from the border mission a month ahead of schedule after two soldiers died in alcohol-related incidents, though a state spokesperson said the move was unrelated to the problems the units had faced.
Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.