Nfld. & Labrador

'Vegetable incident' court martial ends with not guilty verdict

Greg Young has been found not guilty on two counts of ill-treatment of a subordinate after a four-day court martial.

Judge said Young did 'good job' recommending trainee eat his vegetables

Greg Young says he opted for a court martial because he knew he did nothing wrong. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

"Vegetables are supposed to be good for us."

These were the actual words spoken by a judge in the verdict at a court martial in St. John's on Friday.

Judge Sandra Sukstorf, a military commander with two master's degrees, ruled there was no evidence Master Corporal Greg Young ill-treated a subordinate.

Young, who was accused of making a trainee eat mixed vegetables until he vomited, was found not guilty.

Witnesses testified Young insisted the trainee eat his vegetables, while peers cheered him on. The trainee himself said he did not vomit or feel forced.

Calling it the "vegetable incident," Sukstorf said Young's actions were "harmless, friendly and would be a good morale booster," rather than a chargeable offence.

While 11 witnesses testified, including the alleged victim, nobody supported the prosecution's allegation against the master corporal.

"I think it was ridiculous," Young said after the court martial ended. "There was absolutely no evidence going against me. It was a lot of time wasted and a lot of money wasted for nothing."

MCpl. Greg Young speaks with his girlfriend and mother after being found not guilty of mistreating a subordinate by court martial. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

The process of a court martial is not cheap.

Both lawyers were majors in the Canadian Forces — with a starting salary of $100,716. The salary of a military judge is decided by a committee. The process also requires a court stenographer.

These professionals were brought in from out of province, along with two witnesses who were flown in from Prince Edward Island.

Young opted for court martial to prove innocence

While the entire process was drawn out in the public eye, Young said it was his idea to take it to a court martial, the military equivalent of a trial in civilian justice.

He could have opted for a summary trial, which would have been faster, but he would not have the right to be represented by a lawyer. 

"Right off the hop, I was taking a court martial because I did nothing wrong," he said.

The evidence was very poor.- Maj. Benoit Tremblay, defence lawyer

The alleged incident occurred in the summer of 2015 during a basic military qualification course in St. John's.

One of the cadets was known for his dislike of vegetables and refused to eat them throughout the seven-week course.

The court martial was told that after one day of training, Young served the man vegetables and encouraged him to eat them. He said the unit would have to do a 10-minute plank if he didn't.

Witnesses testified they took this as a joke, since a 10-minute plank is unrealistic.

They said a crowd gathered and cheered the man on as he took a spoonful and spit it into the trash. The trainees then did a plank for about 30 seconds.

There was also an allegation that Young forced another trainee to drink a large volume of water over the course of a day. While that charge was withdrawn, the judge still ruled not guilty.

Lost job, stress 

It is unclear who filed the complaints against Young. Both alleged victims said they were surprised he was charged.

Defence lawyer Benoit Tremblay said he was confident there was zero chance of a conviction.

"I was not surprised at all," he said. "The evidence was very poor and I knew it from the start."

Maj. Benoit Tremblay, defence lawyer, says he was surprised the case even went to trial. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

As a result of the week-long court martial, Young said he lost his civilian job in shipping and receiving pharmaceuticals.

"I said [the trial] could last a day, it could last a week," he said. "They terminated my employment right on the spot."

He has filed a complaint with the Newfoundland and Labrador Labour Relations Board. 

While he is happy it is over, Young said the entire process has taken a toll.

"I've got loss of income, stress on me, stress on my family. My face is plastered all over the media. Now people know who I am."

​All because of a spoonful of mixed vegetables spit into a garbage can.