08:10 GMT24 February 2020
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    A court-martial for Petty Officer 1st Class Airon Howard, a member of the US Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6, began Tuesday at the Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia.

    Navy prosecutor Lt. Kirwinn Mike has accused Howard of pretending to be a female performance dietitian for Team 6, also known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. According to Mike, Howard - using apps that allowed him to send text messages with a fake phone number - told an unidentified woman that he could analyze her body fat percentage if she sent him a naked picture of herself, as well as other measurements.

    “It’s 100% safe,” one text message read. “You don’t have to worry.”

    “He was willing to be whoever he needed to be to get those photos,” Mike is quoted as saying on Tuesday during the court-martial, the Virginian-Pilot reported.

    The woman who was asked for the nude photographs eventually became suspicious and contacted the actual performance dietitian for the team, who then contacted the authorities.

    However, Michael Waddington, Howard’s civilian defense attorney, claimed that there are no nude photographs on the phones of Howard or the victim, and that there is no evidence that Howard sent any text messages requesting photographs.

    “Their case is in shambles,” Waddington is quoted as saying by the Virginian-Pilot. “You pull one string, it falls apart.”

    While Mike said that officials with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service were able to trace the apps used to send the texts to Howard’s Virginia Beach home, Waddington argued that the email address used for the fake number text messaging apps corresponds to another SEAL’s nickname and that anyone could have linked Howard’s IP address to the email address used in the apps.

    Waddington also said during his opening statement Tuesday that investigators were provided with the names of 23 other people that the text messages could have been from. However, officials have not yet investigated any of those individuals.

    The court-martial is expected to last through Friday.


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