KENTVILLE, N.S. – A reservist accused of using an inappropriate term for a black co-worker’s hair and of later striking a supervisor has been found not guilty.
The Aug. 3 court martial decision was announced in a news release issued by the military on Friday.
Cpl. Garett Rollman was charged with striking his superior officer and two charges of “conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline” arising out of an incident involving himself and another worker in the kitchen at the military base in Aldershot, N.S.
During the court martial, military judge Cmdr. Sandra Sukstorf heard contrasting views from witnesses on whether Rollman’s use of the word “nappy” on Feb. 20, 2016 to describe Cheryl Richard’s hair was intended as a racial slur.
Richard testified she felt it was meant to be derisive.
However, a black, non-commissioned officer who works with both kitchen staff said he believed Rollman was attempting to explain a video he had been watching with his fiancee about black hair. Rollman’s fiancee is also black, Sgt. Christopher Jones said.
Jones had testified Richard had had a long-standing workplace conflict with Rollman, to the point where the two were assigned to work on separate shifts for several years, and Jones testified Richard had taken the opportunity to “go after him (Rollman).”
The prosecution had alleged that Rollman had hit his supervisor, Sgt. Earl Smith, on the hand, after Richard ran into Smith’s office following an argument with Rollman.
Another co-worker testified during the trial that she’d heard Smith shout “Don’t you hit me!” during a tense encounter with Rollman, while Richard was nearby.
But Sharon Angel also said she hadn’t actually witnessed Rollman hitting his superior’s hand on Feb. 21, a day after the earlier incident.
During defence cross examination, Richard told the court that she had “sometimes” complained about Rollman’s behaviour in the past, and confirmed he had launched a workplace harassment complaint against her prior to the incident.
During opening statements, military defence and prosecution lawyers noted Smith had left the military and couldn’t be located to testify.
Rollman said in a brief interview Friday that he’s been going through a series of steps to return to work.
“I’m very glad it’s over and things went the way I thought it should go,” he said.