By Audrey McAvoy
HONOLULU — A veteran rescue swimmer has been charged with desertion after he went missing for three months and triggered a massive search, the Coast Guard said Wednesday.
Petty Officer 1st Class Russell Matthews faces three other charges including being absent without leave, wrongful use and possession of a controlled substance, and causing the Coast Guard to conduct a search when there was no need, said Chief Warrant Officer Gene Maestas, a Coast Guard spokesman. An Article 32 hearing — the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing — will be held to determine if there’s enough evidence for Matthews to be tried in a court-martial.
Matthews was in the process of being discharged from the Coast Guard for illegal use of marijuana when he disappeared in October. The 36-year-old showed up at his home in mid-January.
Police said Matthews was incoherent when he was found, and he taken to a hospital for observation. The Coast Guard later took him into custody and had him confined at a Navy brig while they investigated why he left without authorization.