"In 1987, while flying off the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, Lt. j.g. Timothy W. Dorsey fired a missile at an Air Force F-4 reconnaissance jet piloted by then- Lt. Ross. He and his backseat officer ejected as the F-4 plunged into the sea." [Senate Balks at Promoting Officer Who Downed F-4].
Why wasn't he charged with manslaughter or kicked out of the Navy? The article in Military.Com was lacking the details to fully understand what happened, but there is enough to raise questions about the handling of the incident 25 years ago by the Navy.
The issue only arose because the former Navy aviator had his name submitted to the Senate for confirmation of his promotion to Admiral. A Senate committee rightly rejected the nomination by not voting on it. Apparently the name was submitted by the White House without knowledge of the officer's past - a fault laid at the door of the Pentagon.
At that time a Navy investigation called his conduct "an 'illogical act' that “raises substantial doubt as to his capacity for good, sound judgment.”" It "was not the result of an accident, but the consequence of a deliberate act.”
His punishment? He was banned from flying. Ordinarily that is a career ender. But wait he "reinvented himself as a Navy Reserve intelligence officer, earned a law degree, served in the war on terror and was picked for a unit command as an admiral."
In 1987 he was a Lt. J.G. which is nearly at the bottom for a Navy Officer. [US Navy Military Ranks, lowest to highest]. Yet despite a deliberate and illogical act he was not only promoted up 4 ranks to Captain but he was able to go to law school.
Meanwhile the aviator piloting the Air Force plane he shot down had ejected causing "a powerful whiplash that resulted in a degenerating spine and a premature end to a career he believed was on a path to make the rank of general." It was a serious injury " he has had seven back surgeries in which surgeons have installed screws, plates and rods to keep him functional."
Did he get an apology from the Admiral wannabe? Not until his nomination was before the Senate committee. And then it was only a note.
How did the Admiral wannabee escape justice or his just desserts? Could it have been that at the time of the downing of the Air Force plane that his father commanded the carrier America. We are not told his rank at the time, but later he became a three star admiral - that is Vice Admiral third rung down from the top.
How much later his father obtained the three star rank is not detailed. But suffice to say it is not a crowded position. "U.S. Code of law explicitly limits the total number of vice admirals that may be on active duty at any given time. The total number of active-duty flag officers is capped at 160 for the Navy." [Vice admiral (United States)].
The father carried weight.
Military justice like civilian justice often depends on who you are or who you know.