Marine's desertion charges dropped
The Tarpon Springs man, reported absent from Camp Pendleton, Calif., in 1965, will be discharged.
By WILL VAN SANT
Published January 12, 2006
The Marine Corps has dropped charges against a Tarpon Springs man arrested in August for deserting the military 40 years ago.
Jerry Texiero, 65, was released from the brig at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he has been held since mid-December. He will be discharged, a base spokesman said Wednesday.
"It was wonderful," longtime friend Elaine Smith said of seeing Texiero out of the brig and in civilian clothes. "We just hugged."
The decision ends a case that began one July morning in 1965, when the 24-year-old Texiero, a corporal on his second tour of duty, was reported absent from Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Smith said her friend fled because he opposed the Vietnam War. She has been in North Carolina for weeks lobbying for Texiero's release.
Base spokesman Lt. Clark Carpenter did not offer details on the decision. Before he is released, Texiero must complete paperwork and undergo a physical. That could take a few weeks.
Then Texiero plans to return to Pinellas County.
"He just wants to get back home," Smith said, "to the dogs, to his friends."
Texiero had been selling boats near the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs under the name Gerome Conti when the Marine Corps tracked him down. At the time, he was on probation for a 1998 fraud and grand theft conviction involving the sale of classic cars.
With help from the FBI, Marine Corps investigators matched Conti's fingerprints to those of Texiero when he entered boot camp in 1959. Court records indicate he was regularly making restitution payments in the 1998 case before his arrest.
When he was arrested, Tarpon Springs police charged him with having a fake name on his driver's license and improper use of a Social Security number.
Chief assistant state attorney Bruce Bartlett said his office had not decided whether to pursue the charges.
Texiero got legal help from Citizen Soldier, a New York nonprofit advocacy group for service members and veterans. Citizen Soldier legal director Tod Ensign said the Marine Corps could have discharged Texiero sooner but delayed to make a point to potential deserters.
Texiero's 40 years eluding capture is not the longest length of time someone has been unlawfully absent from military service. The oldest entry in the Marine Corps' list dates to 1943. If still alive, the man would be 91.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
[Last modified January 12, 2006, 01:21:24]
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