A Navy commander was "relieved" to get off with a $2,500 fine and having his rank frozen for lying about his love affair with a female junior officer, but his lawyer said he would appeal the case anyway.

"I'll appeal on various legal grounds," attorney Robert Bryan said yesterday, "but I'm not unhappy with the verdict as the board members returned it."

The board's verdict late Saturday amounted to little more than a reprimand, because Cmdr. James Wyatt III, 40, has only one year remaining before he is eligible for retirement after 20 years of service.

Wyatt was found guilty Friday for lying to a superior officer about the affair with Lt. j.g. Etienne Boatwright, 24, and of violating a Navy regulation against a married officer's living with an unmarried woman. Wyatt was getting a divorce at the time.

The five-member court-martial jury deliberated about three hours before recommending that Wyatt be placed at the foot of the commanders' list for promotions for the rest of his career and be issued a reprimand. He also was ordered confined to Treasure Island Naval Station for 60 days.

"I'm pleased, I'm relieved, I'm glad I'm still in the United States Navy," Wyatt said of the recommendation, which goes to a Pacific Fleet commander for review. "I intend to do my dead-level best to make some contribution. I'll probably be a better person when I've had a chance to assimilate all this."