A former Army officer accused of desertion who faced court-martial at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, had his charges dismissed without trial, according to documents reviewed by Army Times.
Army 1st Lt. Nikita Keenan, a former transportation officer who served in a staff role with the 193rd Infantry Brigade, instead left the Army after requesting a voluntary separation known as “resignation for the good of the service.” Army officials accepted his resignation in February 2022, according to documents Keenan provided to Army Times.
Prosecutors alleged Keenan left his unit on Dec. 23, 2020 and remained absent without leave until voluntarily returning six months later on June 25, 2021. The former officer, now enrolled in business school, told Army Times he’d left amid “mental health issues.” After returning to Fort Jackson, Keenan continued working as a staff officer for six months until his chain of command pursued charges.
That’s when Keenan submitted his resignation request. Army officials could not specify why Keenan’s request was approved due to privacy regulations, but the former officer said he believed the approval was due to a combination of mitigating factors that included his health issues, his voluntary return and his performance after returning.
Resignations for the good of the service — and their enlisted equivalent, discharges in lieu of court-martial — allow troops facing a possible punitive discharge at trial to have their charges dismissed in return for a voluntary departure from the Army. The approval authority for enlisted troops is the general court-martial convening authority. And the deputy Army secretary for review boards can approve those for officers.
Most who leave the service in lieu of trial receive other than honorable discharges. Keenan, who commissioned through Officer Candidate School in 2019 and served a tour in South Korea, received a general discharge under honorable conditions, according to documents he provided.
Fort Jackson spokesperson L.A. Sully confirmed Keenan’s resignation in lieu of trial when reached via phone, but was unable to confirm Keenan’s recounting of events or comment further due to privacy regulations. Resignations and discharges in lieu of trial are considered personnel actions, which prevents officials from discussing them due to the Privacy Act.
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.