The military's highest tribunal says a pilot charged with indecent assault at the Tailhook convention must face a court-martial even though the Navy's case against him was "careless and amateurish."

"At worst, it raises the possibility of a shadiness in respecting the rights of military members caught up in a criminal investigation that cannot be condoned," the U.S. Military Court of Appeals said. "Where were the defense lawyers in all of this?"Despite the criticism, the court ruled Tuesday in favor of the Navy and against the defendant, Lt. David Samples.

Samples is charged with indecent assault in the case of an intoxicated young woman who was lifted into the air by three officers and stripped below the waist at the 1991 Tailhook convention in Las Vegas.

He had been given a letter of immunity from prosecution for anything he told investigators and sought to avoid court-martial by claiming he thought the immunity covered the activities themselves. A court-martial judge in Norfolk, Va., ruled against Samples last October and the higher court agreed.

"Such a belief also had to be honest if (Samples) now is to hold the government to the promise," the court ruled.