Posts Tagged With: Cadet Webster Smith

Judge London Steverson, This Is Your Life

 https://www.amazon.com/My-Life-Coast-Guard-Tiger-ebook/dp/B077G9BS5R/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Judge London Steverson has written the story of his life. Trying to write a book about my life is like trying to describe the landscape by looking out the window of a moving train. The events continue to unfold faster than one can describe them. My life is a work in progress. For this reason I have decided to look at my life in phases that have a clearly defined beginning and an end. In this book I intend to describe that part of my life that was shaped by my involvement in the Martial Arts. 

https://www.amazon.com/Judge-London-Steverson/e/B006WQKFJM


IN A NUT SHELL 
I, London Eugene Livingston Steverson retired from the United States Coast Guard in 1988 as a Lieutenant Commander (LCDR). Later, I retired from the Social Security Administration (SSA) as the Senior Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in the Office of Disability Appeals and Review (ODAR) Downey, California.
In 1964, I was one of the first two African Americans to receive an Appointment as a Cadet to the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. I graduated in 1968. After two years at sea on an Icebreaker, the USCGC Glacier (WAGB-4), and another two years as a Search and Rescue Operations Officer in the 17th Coast Guard District Juneau, Alaska, I was appointed Chief of the newly formed Minority Recruiting Section in the Office of Personnel at Coast Guard Headquarters, 7th and D Street, SW, in Washington, DC. My primary duty was to recruit Black High School graduates for the Coast Guard Academy. This was my passion, so I set about this in a most vigorous manner.
I have written several books concerning Military Justice, famous Courts-martial Cases, and Social Security Disability Determination Cases. I am a retired member of the New York State Bar Association, The Association of The Bar of The City of New York, and The Tennessee Bar Associations.
A Presidential Executive Order issued by President Harry Truman had desegregated the armed forces in 1948, but the military academies lagged far behind in officer recruiting.
President John F. Kennedy specifically challenged the Coast Guard Academy to increase appointments to qualified Black American high school students.
I was one of the first Black High School students to be offered such an appointment in 1964. I had a Black classmate from New Jersey, Kenny Boyd. We would become known as “The Kennedy Cadets”, because the pressure to recruit us originated with President John F. Kennedy.
On June 4, 1968, I graduated from the Coast Guard Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering and a commission as an Ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard.
My first duty assignment out of the Academy was in Antarctic research logistical support. In July 1968 I reported aboard the Coast Guard Cutter (CGC) Glacier (WAGB-4), an icebreaker operating under the control of the U.S. Navy. I served as a deck watch officer and head of the Marine Science Department. I traveled to Antarctica during two patrols from July 1968 to August 1969, supporting the research operations of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Research Project in and around McMurdo Station.
In 1974, while still an active duty member of the Coast Guard, I entered The National Law Center of The George Washington University. I graduated in 1977 with a Juris Doctor of Laws Degree.
I worked as a Law Specialist in the 12th Coast Guard District Office, San Francisco, California and as an Assistant U. S. Attorney for the collection of Civil Penalties under the Federal Boating Safety Act from 1979 to 1982. As Assistant District Legal Officer, I was required to defend as well as prosecute military members who had been charged with violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Occasionally I was asked to represent other officers in administrative actions involving sexual harassment and discrimination. One such case was the Case of Christine D. Balboni . 

 Ensign (ENS) Balboni was one of the first female graduates of the Academy, Class of 1981. She filed the first case of Sexual Harassment case in the military.

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And Then He Opened The Wrong Door

 

                                                                                                                   

      Once a marine, always a marine. A proud saying that bears repeating.

Once a retired officer, always an officer. Retired officers are only receiving lower compensation. They are still on the payroll. They can be brought back to active duty for disciplinary action. A retired officer can be punished by court-martial.

Former Cadet Alexander Arthur Stevens, U S Coast Guard Academy, was found dead not wearing any clothing on January 4, 2017 in the forested mountains of western Maryland shortly after a female companion walked out of the woods, suffering from hypothermia, authorities said. His naked body showed signs of trauma, according to police.

Stevens is a former U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadet who was booted from the academy in 2014 following an alleged sexual-assault investigation.

(See http://cgachasehall.blogspot.com/2014/04/a-weak-case-for-court-martial.html)
Following the disciplinary action by the Superintendent at the Academy, Alexander Stevens went home to Frostburg and enrolled at Frostburg State University, university spokeswoman Elizabeth Medcalf said. He attended last fall, majoring in engineering, but had not enrolled for the spring semester, she said.

Stevens and a female companion were last seen together around 5 p.m. January 3 near a Savage River State Forest trail-head near the rural community of Barton, about 140 west of Baltimore, Maryland Natural Resources Police spokeswoman Candy Thomson said. A search was launched at about 3 a.m. January 4 in response to a 911 call reporting them missing.

The female walked out of the woods to a house shortly before 9 a.m., and emergency responders were called. A Maryland State Police helicopter crew spotted Stevens’ body shortly thereafter on private property adjacent to the 54,000-acre state forest.

His body showed signs of undisclosed trauma. Cadet Stevens was found near Pine Swamp Road, which is crossed by the Big Savage Mountain hiking trail. The trail there follows a logging road through steep, rocky terrain, according to the website of Garrett Trails, a nonprofit group that promotes hiking in Garrett County.

The night was relatively mild, with overnight lows in nearby Frostburg and Cumberland never dropping below 40 F degrees. Live traffic cameras operated by the Maryland Department of Transportation show little snow cover remaining along Interstate 68 after a storm 4 days prior covered the region with up to 6 inches.

The investigation was conducted by the Maryland State Police Criminal Enforcement Division and the State Police Homicide Unit. Assistance was provided by the Allegany County Combined Criminal Investigations Unit (C3I) and Natural Resources Police.   Limited information has been provided by state police investigators.

The relationship between Stevens and the female has been reported as “boyfriend, girlfriend.” The woman, believed to be in her 20s, reportedly cooperated with investigators throughout the investigation. In a 911 call, she reportedly told emergency workers that Cadet Stevens had fallen off a cliff.

According to Elena Russo, state police spokesman at Pikesville, “We are still waiting for toxicology reports”.

 

                                                                                                                    

                                                                                                   (Cadet Alexander Stevens, above right)

 

Cadet Alexander Stevens was a cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (USCGA). He was a native of the Frostburg, MD area. In high school he was active in plays and musicals, having a fine baritone voice. He was a member of the Concert choir. He was the Pirate King in the Pirates of Penzance. He played Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls. He was a member of Concert band, Jazz Orchestra, and Marching band all four years of high school. He was a natural for the Coast Guard Academy Glee Club.

        He participated in football, basketball, cross-country and track & field. 

        He attended the Cambridge University in England Summer Program for high school students.

        The American Legion selected him as their representative to Maryland Boys State.

        He was a Boy Scout and Senior Patrol Leader, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout.

        He was a World Traveler, traveling widely through Western Europe and Korea. 

        He loved the great outdoors, and was an avid camper.

        He loved to stargaze, rock climb, and hike.

        He had a great sense of humor and he loved animals. 

        He was an all around nice guy. He was meek and lowly.

        He was the main speaker at his high school graduation, giving the Senior Address.

 

       He was accused at the Coast Guard Academy of breaking into the room of a female cadet of lower rank in Chase Hall and sexually abusing her.

The Coast Guard prosecutor, Lt. Tyler McGill, alleged that Cadet Stevens  was on a mission for sexual gratification that September night. The room Stevens entered was about 300 feet from his girlfriend’s room.

“Cadet Stevens did not walk into the room right next door,” McGill said.

Lt. John Cole, Cadet Stevens’ Assigned Military Defense Counsel, said the government didn’t prove sexual intent. He claimed Stevens was drunk at the time and made a mental mistake.

Just because he accidentally touched the wrong cadet’s leg doesn’t mean he should go to court martial,” Cole said.

Cole argued that Stevens should face administrative punishment, which can include expulsion. Administrative punishment is not criminal in nature. Non-judicial punishment (NJP) under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is the lowest form of criminal proceeding available to the military. Above NJP there are three levels of courts-martial. They are a Summary, a Special and a General Court-matial. They differ in the maximum amount of punishment they can award to a convicted member. A court martial is a Federal Criminal Trial and can lead to prison time if the person is convicted.

The Article 32 pretrial investigation is similar to a civilian grand jury. It is used to determine whether there is enough evidence to refer the case to a court-martial.

A hearing in the form of an Article 32 Investigation was held  Wednesday April 2nd at the Coast Guard Academy. The Article 32 Investigating Officer (IO) has not yet made a recommendation. The IO could recommend that the case be dismissed, dealt with administratively or referred for trial by court-martial.

Usually the accused usually does not testify at an Article 32 Hearing.

Most smart Defense Counsels do not let their clients testify at an Article 32 Hearing. They use that opportunity to discover the Government’s case. They get a chance to see how much evidence the Government has and how strong it is.

Cadet Stevens, who was accused of abusive sexual contact, housebreaking and unlawful entry, did not testify.

The Testimony was weak.

The female complaining witness testified that a man entered her room in the middle of the night, touched her on her thigh and moved his hand up her leg before she screamed and kicked him.

“I remember someone fumbling with my blanket that was on top of me and touching my leg,” she said, describing skin-to-skin contact and the swirling motion of a hand moving up her leg. “I kicked my legs and I screamed.”

The man either fell or jumped off her bed and fled. She says she chased him and located a friend.

“I kept telling him (the friend) that’s not right,” she said, noting that she was shaking and crying.

The cadet said she found it hard to sleep and concentrate after the encounter, and her grades suffered.

“I think he should be kicked out of the Coast Guard. I think he should be a registered sex offender, and I think he should go to jail,” she said.

Cadet Stevens’ explanation Was credible and exculpatory.

Stevens said in an interview that he went into the fellow cadet’s room and touched her with his hand, said Eric Gempp, a special agent with the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS). Stevens said he was startled when the cadet said, “Hey!” He quickly left the room, Stevens told investigators.

Stevens said he went into the room by mistake, believing it was his girlfriend’s room, Gempp testified.

Defense Counsel was able to get the accused’s statements into the record without him taking the witness stand.

Chief Robert Cain testified that Stevens voluntarily came to him and told him during a night of drinking he got into an argument with his girlfriend. Cain said Stevens told him after returning to his room that he decided to apologize and went to what he thought was his girlfriend’s room, tapped her on the leg and realized he was in the wrong room.

Another cadet testified that classmates often go into the wrong rooms, but said the mistake typically involves going into a room one or two doors away.

The only cadet ever court-martialed at the academy, Webster Smith, was tried in 2006 at a General Court-martial and convicted on extortion, sodomy and indecent assault charges.

(The Webster Smith Case was appealed all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court. It is fully documented in a book entitled “Conduct Unbecoming An Officer and a Lady” available on Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/CONDUCT-UNBECOMING-Officer-Lady-Conviction/dp/1460978021 )

The Article 32 investigating officer (IO) in this case could recommend that the alleged offenses be dismissed, dealt with administratively, or referred for trial by court-martial.

Anonymous said…QUOTE:
This is not a case of sexual assault; the evidence presented by the government failed to prove anything more than the fact that there is a systemic problem of alcohol abuse and confusion over dorm room locations running rampant at the USCGA. Multiple witnesses confirmed the events of the night as purported by Cadet Stevens. Moreover, they confirmed that it is a too-frequent occurrence for over-intoxicated cadets to return to Chase Hall and accidentally walk into the wrong room. The alleged victim’s own roommate testified to that fact without reservation.

Doors have locks, the roommate also confirmed, but cadets are not permitted keys; only the XO has a master key to unlock doors. The only way a cadet could secure his/her room is when all occupants are safely inside. This is surely a contributor to issues of unspeakable theft, vandalism and abuse current and former cadets can tell.

The Article 32 Hearing was a manufactured event architected by someone with an agenda that goes beyond the unfortunate incident that occurred in the wee hours of September 15. Yes, Cadet Stevens was drunk and made a horrible mistake. But it was not assault and any reasonable person who looks at all of the evidence will quickly come to this conclusion. To reach any other decision is an overt decision to falsely accuse – and ruin – the character and integrity of the very same honor all cadets represent.

 
Admiral Stosz has issues within her ranks of leadership, character and courage; she needs to look at the culture of Chase Hall and question why cadets are abusing alcohol and questioning if the restrictive weekday rigor and lax weekend liberty — call it Feast or Famine — is modeling the lifestyle and behaviors that mold tomorrow’s Coast Guard leaders. These are far greater issues than addressing Cadet Steven’s long overdue Mast for drunkenly walking into another’s room in error.

I, for one, did not lose the irony of the drawn-out investigation culminating with a hearing that began with the start of the Coast Guard’s Sexual Prevention and Awareness Month. This is showmanship at the taxpayer’s expense, folks, and nothing more.

UNQUOTE.

Coast Guard cadet won’t be court-martialed

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) 12 June 2014 — A U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadet accused of entering a classmate’s room and touching her leg will not face a court martial, the academy said Thursday.

Coast Guard Academy Superintendent, Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz, agreed with the recommendations of an Article 32 Investigating Officer that reasonable grounds did not exist to support the charge of abusive sexual contact against cadet Alexander Stevens. Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz, also agreed with a recommendation to impose nonjudicial punishment (NJP) on Cadet Stevens for unlawfully entering a cadet barracks room while drunk and touching another cadet on the leg, Coast Guard officials said.

The academy did not disclose details of the punishment, citing Stevens’ privacy rights. Nonjudicial punishment may include a reprimand, arrest in quarters for up to 30 days, pay forfeiture or expulsion from the academy.

“The Academy has remained committed to providing all needed support to the victim, ensuring a full and fair proceeding in compliance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and holding those who commit misconduct accountable for their actions,” said Capt. James McCauley, the Commandant of Cadets at the U S Coast Guard Academy, New London, CT..

In September 2013, Stevens said, he went into the fellow cadet’s room by mistake, believing it was his girlfriend’s room, an investigator testified.

He was drunk at the time and made a mental mistake, Lt. John Cole, who represented Stevens, said during the Article 32 Pre-trial investigation at the Academy in April 2014.

The female cadet classmate testified that a man entered her room in the middle of the night, touched her on her thigh and moved his hand up her leg before she screamed and kicked him. The cadet said she found it hard to sleep and concentrate after the encounter, and her grades suffered.

A Government appointed prosecutor, LT Tyler McGill, at the Article 32 Investigation argued that Stevens was on a mission for sexual gratification. The room Stevens went into was about 300 feet from his girlfriend’s room, Lt. Tyler McGill said, and noted that the classmate was lower in rank.

“Cadet Stevens did not walk into the room right next door,” McGill said.

But the government failed to prove sexual intent, Cole argued.

“Just because he accidentally touched the wrong cadet’s leg doesn’t mean he should go to court martial,” Cole said.

Stevens did not testify.

A conviction in a court martial can lead to prison time.

The only cadet ever court-martialed at the academy, Webster Smith, was tried in 2006 and convicted on extortion, sodomy and indecent assault charges.

(By John Christoffersen, AP) 

 
COMMENTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA FROM CADETS AT THE COAST GUARD ACADEMY WERE QUICK AND CONSISTENT  (and mostly anonymous)
(1)

This is not a case of sexual assault; the evidence presented by the government failed to prove anything more than the fact that there is a systemic problem of alcohol abuse and confusion over dorm room locations running rampant at the USCGA. Multiple witnesses confirmed the events of the night as purported by Cadet Stevens. Moreover, they confirmed that it is a too-frequent occurrence for over-intoxicated cadets to return to Chase Hall and accidentally walk into the wrong room. The alleged victim’s own roommate testified to that fact without reservation.

Doors have locks, the roommate also confirmed, but cadets are not permitted keys; only the XO has a master key to unlock doors. The only way a cadet could secure his/her room is when all occupants are safely inside. This is surely a contributor to issues of unspeakable theft, vandalism and abuse current and former cadets can tell.

The Article 32 Hearing was a manufactured event architected by someone with an agenda that goes beyond the unfortunate incident that occurred in the wee hours of September 15. Yes, Cadet Stevens was drunk and made a horrible mistake. But it was not assault and any reasonable person who looks at all of the evidence will quickly come to this conclusion. To reach any other decision is an overt decision to falsely accuse – and ruin – the character and integrity of the very same honor all cadets represent.

Admiral Stosz has issues within her ranks of leadership, character and courage; she needs to look at the culture of Chase Hall and question why cadets are abusing alcohol and questioning if the restrictive weekday rigor and lax weekend liberty — call it Feast or Famine — is modeling the lifestyle and behaviors that mold tomorrow’s Coast Guard leaders. These are far greater issues than addressing Cadet Steven’s long overdue Mast for drunkenly walking into another’s room in error.

I, for one, did not lose the irony of the drawn-out investigation culminating with a hearing that began with the start of the Coast Guard’s Sexual Prevention and Awareness Month. This is showmanship at the taxpayer’s expense, folks, and nothing more.

 
(2)  The woman is definitely not officer material as she won’t hold up in a war front or during a battle… thrown into the mist of a battle or fight, she would be complaining someone touch her precious body. Now if he grab some titty or fondle her #$%$ or box, then that would be not acceptable. She just made the ultimate mistake in the military and this will follow her every place she goes and NO ONE will respect her.

Signed,

Disgusted

 
(3)   So a person has to let the courts take care of something that should have been dealt with on the spot. I don’t think this attitude works for the decisiveness required of future officers.

Signed,

Concerned Citizen

 
(4)  In mixed dorms, with the history of abuse in the academy, don’t these people have locks on their doors? Is it some kind of statement of female independence not to lock door at least at night?

This situation is a bit fuzzy and in a world now where any even anonymous allegation is given major notice, how much truth is there here. On either side.

Signed,

johnb

 
(5)  Oh please, grow up. What is she, ten? A REAL woman would just demand he takes his hand off of her and if he doesn’t comply, slap him. It’s worked for centuries. And what evidence is there? She could be making up the whole thing. I’m a bit tired of people making accusations for which there is no proof. It’s too easy.

Signed,

Mike

 
(6)  No locks on the doors??

Signed,

Peter

 
(7)  Girls, guys–they are all equal now. If a guy had been in this girl’s place, what would he have done? He’d kick the #$%$ out of the offender; so this gal should have done the same thing.

Signed,

Jonathan

 
(8)  I miss the good old days, where she’d have a guy friend beat some sense into this guy and the issue would be resolved. Now everything has to be a sensational court drama. The new USSA – any violation and off to the goolag. We have more people incarcerated in this country than any other civilized country in the world. Won’t be long before we start throwing people in jail for not having health insurance(IRS aka SS is involved).

Signed,

Scooter

 
(9)  She is just trying to get extra treatment in a very difficult place for any one to gain the upper hand. Wow, I guess no more parties, Mardi Gras, ridding NY subway, buses at rush hour as I’m bound to bump into someone and sometimes it’s their #$%$ or bellies or legs and sometimes oversized boobs. Lets get unserious on this type of accidental touching. Shocked it made the news unless someone is looking to bash the Academy… jealous are you!

Signed,

Disgusted
 
(10)  Having graduated from that Academy myself, I’m almost embarrased that such a trivial event as a guy getting drunk, thinking he’s in his girlfriend’s room, putting a hand on her leg, being yelled at, quickly removing his hand, and quickly leaving the room is a call for JAIL time? Court martial? Sexual Predator list? C’mon, there was no intent here. No “sexual” contact. No “housebreaking” (as I’m sure the door was not locked.) Does this guy have a record of ever doing anything like that before? Does this girl have a record of being overly sensitive about herself? When I was there this is the kind of thing that the Corps would handle without ever involving the authorities. Now I guess it’s like everywhere else.

Signed,

HansenJG

 
(11)  HansenJG, I am inclined to agree with you but we don’t know all of the facts. I did note that she said her grades suffered after the incident. Was she about to be dismissed from the Academy for grades and then brought this up as a way to continue her education on the taxpayer’s dime?

Signed,

Troy

 
(12)  The woman is definitely not officer material as she won’t hold up in a war front or during a battle… thrown into the mist of a battle or fight, she would be complaining someone touch her precious body. Now if he grab some titty or fondle her #$%$ or box, then that would be not acceptable. She just made the ultimate mistake in the military and this will follow her every place she goes and NO ONE will respect her.
 
(13)  I’ll bet you would change your tune if it were a gay soldier who came into your room and touched YOUR leg… I mean really, how do you expect to hold up in battle if you can’t handle a man coming into your room and touching your leg in a sexual fashion.

Signed,

Star Spangled

 
(14)  His story adds up…hers sounds more emotionally driven. Was it traumatic? I’m sure. Was he at fault for being drunk and disorderly? Of course. Does a brush of the hand on a thigh constitute serious sexual assault? No…a mistake he needs to rectify, but shes not a much a victim as she thinks she is. If there was no malicious intent and no real harm done, then where is the major crime?

Signed,

Doug

 
(15)  She sounds like she is extremely sensitive and is not good with startling situations considering she is not sleeping and her grades are suffering. The military or any high stress and or potentially dangerous job is really not the place for her. I do see a problem with the guy not sticking around, apologizing and explaining the error at the time it happened.

Signed,

M

 
 
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The Case of Cadet Webster Smith, The Last Word

WebsterSmithBookCoverPreview.do

http://www.amazon.com/Case-Cadet-Webster-Smith-Last/dp/1533400806/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

Synopsis:

 

We, as Americans, cherish fairness. We like to believe that people are not punished or unjustly rewarded without justifiable cause. We like to dwell on parables of white virtue and black advancement culminating in the flowering of goodwill all around. Events sometimes force us to widen our gaze and focus on terrain we would rather not see. The 2006 court-martial of Cadet Webster Smith at the United States Coast Guard Academy did just that. The Webster Smith case was a litmus test for justice in America. Every once in a while a case comes along that puts our humanity as a people, and as Americans, on trial. Everything that we profess to stand for as Americans was on trial. Our sense of justice in America and particularly in the U.S. Military was on trial. This was no ordinary trial. Our humanity was on trial. Our system of justice was on trial. This case dissolved the deceptive façade and exposed certain moral deficiencies in our system of justice. This case alone puts the legitimacy of the entire military justice system at risk.

Webster Smith availed himself of every path to justice that we have. He filed an Article 138 Complaint under the UCMJ. He faced the Article 32 Investigation with two lawyers. He asserted all of his Constitutional Criminal Guarantees. He knew and made appropriate use of the Right to Counsel, the Right to Remain Silent, the right to a jury trial, the Right to Confront the witnesses against him, the right call witnesses on his behalf, the right to present evidence favorable to him, the presumption of innocence until his guilt was proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and the right to argue his case before the Jury.

His Appellate Counsel, Ronald Machen, was top notch. He became the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. In April 2015, he left the position and returned to the law firm WilmerHale.  Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr®  has played a leading role in historic events and landmark cases that have shaped the nation and left their mark across the globe. In matters ranging from the Army-McCarthy hearings to the legal defense of civil rights, from the 9/11 Commission to the restoration of the rule of law in apartheid-torn South Africa, their lawyers have made contributions that have profoundly affected our society. Because the law is still a profession as well as a business, lawyers have special obligations to the administration of justice and the development of the law. Their lawyers are  encouraged to meet these obligations through pro bono work. Attorney Machen represented Webster Smith on a pro bono basis. He received no fee.

Webster Smith appealed his conviction all the way to the United States Supreme Court. He lost at the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals. He lost at the Court Of Appeals for the Armed Forces of the United States. The U. S. Supreme Court dismissed his appeal without comment. And, on top of the aforesaid, he filed a Complaint of Discrimination, pursuant to Commandant Instruction 5350.11. He had an air tight and fool proof case of disparate treatment. Yet, he lost. He lost because the System was manned by the most incompetent people God ever created. They did not have a clue as to what was going on in their office. The most significant case in the history of the Department of Homeland Security and the Armed Forces of America came to them and they were not capable of processing it properly.

On top of everything else, Webster Smith had bad luck. At some juncture along the way, most other people would have won, but not Webster Smith. One has to wonder why. There are some who will say that it was because he was Black. They will say that the System was designed and administered by white men and women; and, no Black man can obtain justice in that System. They might have a point, even though some of the decisions made concerning his case were made by Black people in key offices.

We now see that there is little or no justice in military justice. Any reasonable person who looks at this case or any other high profile military justice case would have to conclude that the Military Justice System is not designed to render justice. It is a system designed to punish. The entire courts-martial system, from Summary Court-martial to General Court-martial, has one specific purpose; that is to punish anyone who commits an offense against the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

This is intended to be the definitive word on the first and only court-martial of a United States Coast Guard Academy cadet. The Case of Cadet Webster Smith, The Last Word is written from the perspective of the accused, Cadet First Class Webster Smith. It is not written from the perspective of his accusers. A prior account of this case focused on the women involved. Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Lady told the story of the court-martial from the perspective of the witnesses for the prosecution.

Why now? Well, there are several reasons. This Case is unique in that this has never happened before. No other Coast Guard Academy Cadet has ever been punished at a General Courts-martial. That is saying a lot for an institution that has been around since 1876.

Also, it has been ten years since the trial and conviction. An entire decade has passed. The sentence has been served. The Supreme Court Petition for A Writ of Certiorari has been denied. The Record is complete.

Cadet Smith was a senior when the trial began. He was within months of graduating from the Academy, but he was expelled. No Clemency was granted. His career was ruined. His life was irreparably harmed. For ten years he was required to register in the State of Texas as a Sexual offender. He married, had children, and for ten years he was not allowed to attend the birthday parties of his children.

This Case has been hotly debated in certain quarters. The Coast Guard has tried its best to forget that this court-martial ever occurred. However, I fear that this Case will be debated and talked about for years to come. Long after the political and social climates that gave rise to this Case have abated; cadets, officers, politicians and parents will be discussing the Webster Smith Case.

What distinguishes this book from other books on the Case is that this book distinguishes how the Coast Guard Legal Officers and the senior Academy officers disposed of this case as opposed to other cases with similar fact patterns. This Case will serve as a witness to an era in the United States Military and its Service Academies that was ripe with cultural and ethical upheavals, proceedings with plenty of due process and little justice, sexual assaults in the military, retaliation against whistleblowers, mind blowing results, aggravation and frustration. 

The Case of Cadet Webster Smith, The Last Word

Title ID: 6293877

ISBN-13: 978-1533400802

 

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The Case of Cadet Webster Smith, The Last Word

Unrestricted Coast Guard Chronicles Vol 02 Nr 01

BY_AUTHOR Judge London Steverson

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ISBN-13: 978-1533400802

6″ x 9″ on WHITE Paper

(198 pages, Black & White)

15.24 x 22.86 cm

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Interior: The Case of Cadet Webster Smith, The Last Word – updated version edited 2- formatted15Apr11.docx

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Cover Finish: Glossy

Cover: cover-creator.pdf

 

The Case of Cadet Webster Smith, The Last Word

Title ID: 6293877

ISBN-13: 978-1533400802

Categories: Military Justice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Webster Smith Case, Another American Tragedy

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The Court-martial Of Cadet Webster Smith.

The Webster Smith case was a litmus test for justice in America. Every once in a while a case comes along that puts our humanity as a people, and as Americans, on trial. Everything that we profess to stand for as Americans was on trial. Our sense of Justice in America and particularly in the U. S. Military was on trial. This was no ordinary trial. Our humanity was on trial. Our system of justice was on trial. This case dissolved the deceptive façade and exposed certain moral deficiencies in our system of justice.

On Dec. 4, 2005 an officer on duty at the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) received an allegation of sexual misconduct from a cadet, setting off an inquiry by the Coast Guard Investigative Services (CGIS), based in Washington, D.C..

The commandant of cadets, Captain Douglas Wisniewski, took immediate action to initiate the investigation into these allegations.

Sexual misconduct at the USCGA is defined as “acts that disgrace or bring discredit on the Coast Guard or Coast Guard Academy and are sexual in nature,  including lewd or lascivious acts, indecent exposure or homosexual conduct.”

But the definition also includes consensual acts that are prohibited on Academy grounds, such as holding hands, kissing in public or having sex.

Cadet First Class Webster Smith was charged with sexually assaulting six female cadets in Chase Hall, the cadet living quarters at the United States Coast Guard Academy, and in other locations.

An Article 32 Investigation was convened on March 21, 2006 to determine whether there was probable cause to convene a court-martial to prosecute the charges. The Investigating Officer received the testimony of seven female cadets who accused Cadet Smith of assaulting them between May and November 2005.

The USCGA Superintendent, Admiral James Van Sice, decided to refer the charges against Cadet Smith to a General Court-martial. In his opening statement to the Jury Panel on June 26, 2006 the prosecutor described Cadet Smith as a manipulative senior who preyed on lonely women.

Cadet  Smith of Houston, Texas pleaded not guilty in the first court-martial of a cadet in Coast Guard Academy history. The charges ranged from rape, sodomy, and extortion to assault of the female cadets.

Cadet Smith was tried before a jury panel of Coast Guard officers including four white men, one white woman, three Black men and a man of Asian descent. The senior member was a captain with command experience. There were no cadets on the panel. Since there were no cadets on the jury panel, it can truly be asked whether he was afforded a jury of his peers. Were the best qualified members appointed to the panel, as the Manual For Courts-martial (MCM) and UCMJ mandate?

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), (10 USC sec.801 et seq.) supplemented by the Manual For Courts-martial (MCM) provides guidance for a commander empowered to convene a court-martial. The UCMJ and the MCM both contain the following sentence:

When convening a court-martial the convening authority shall detail as members thereof, such members of the armed forces as, in his opinion, are best qualified for the duty by reason of age, education, training, experience, length of service, and judicial temperament”. (UCMJ Art. 25(d)(2).

I, LCDR London Steverson, USCG (Ret.) have made this or a similar argument many times while defending service members in courts-martial. None of the members of Webster Smith’s jury panel had been a cadet at the USCGA while female cadets were living in Chase Hall. Only one had ever attended the USCGA; none had socialized with female cadet; none had attended cadet athletic parties; none had read the cadet regulations; none had counseled a cadet concerning sexual assault; none had first-hand experience with the four class system; none had indoctrinated female cadets; and none had ever had a girl friend who was the first female brigade commander, who got pregnant, had an abortion, and continued to date the putative father for another six months before she was counseled by Coast Guard lawyers that she might have been raped at some point during her 18 month relationship with the accused in this court-martial.

If, at least, one cadet had been on that jury, he could have explained to the members during deliberations many of the things that they were completely ignorant of. I contend that the jury did not have a clue as to what living conditions were like in Chase Hall, nor did they know what the social environment was like between Black male upper-class cadets and white female cadets in any of the four classes.

That being the case, the jury was not composed of the best qualified people available in accordance with the UCMJ and Art 25(d)(2).

On June 28, 2006 after about eight hours of deliberation, the panel found Cadet Webster Smith guilty of indecent assault, extortion in exchange for sexual favors and sodomy, which in military parlance includes oral sex. All those charges involved one of the four accusers.

Cadet Smith was sentenced to be separated form the service and to spend six months in jail at a Navy brig.

This was not a rape case. Many senior Coast Guard officers tried to portray it as such. Webster Smith was not and is not a rapist. The court-martial, with all of its faults, proved that this was not a rape case.

Neither was Webster Smith a sexual predator as he was called. He simply refused to stay on his side of the color-line. Someone felt that a message had to be sent; a lesson had to be taught. Just as East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet; the Coast Guard Academy was not going to become a breeding ground for miscegenation.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of the conviction  of Webster Smith, the only Coast Guard Academy cadet ever  court-martialed.

Smith had sought a Supreme Court review based largely on the argument  that he had not been able to question the credibility of one of his  accusers, known only as Cadet SR.

Smith’s attorneys wanted a chance to question the female cadet  because, according to a legal brief, she had lied about the consensual  nature of a previous sexual encounter with an enlisted man, contrary to  Coast Guard rules and possibly jeopardizing her military career. The  female cadet claimed Smith used knowledge of her previous dalliance to  extort sexual favors from her.

“The defense maintained that the two cadets’ sexual encounter was  consensual and that SR was fabricating her accusations because the  encounter occurred in Chase Hall, the Academy dormitory, where sexual  activity is prohibited by cadet regulations,” according to a brief in  the case.

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces’ (CAAF) minority opinion, including Chief Judge C.J. Effron, agreed that  Smith’s attorneys should have been allowed to question the female cadet.  In a dissenting opinion, they said Smith’s “allegation that SR had  previously lied about a sexual encounter” was relevant to the case.

Why was Cadet 1st Class Webster Smith investigated, charged, tried, and convicted? Why must this talented young man register as a sexual offender for the remainder of his life? Why did he not find any justice in the military justice system? How could his case go through the entire appeal’s process and end up at the United States Supreme Court without being granted any relief? Why would Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security refuse to grant clemency in a case that clearly cries out for justice?  (Get the answer. Read:

http://www.amazon.com/CONDUCT-UNBECOMING-Officer-Lady-Conviction/dp/1460978021)

At this point in history when America had come far enough to elect a Black President why was this shining example of the best and the brightest of the African Americans of his generation denied the equal protection of the law? Why was he relegated to the second rail of military justice? On the second rail one receives “almost equal protection“.  Like much else in the law, equal protection is a myth for America’s citizens of color. The myth gives one the illusion of fairness.

Could the answer have anything to do with the nature of the criminal justice system or the definition of crime?  Crime is a legal concept, and the law creates the crimes it punishes. But, what creates the criminal law?  Behind the law, above it, and surrounding it is our society. Before the law made certain behavior a crime, some aspect of social reality transformed certain behavior into a crime.

Justice is blind in the abstract. It cannot see or act on its own. It cannot create its own morals, principles and rules. That depends on society. Behind every legal determination of “guilty” lies a more powerful and more basic social and societal judgement, a judgement that this type of behavior is not acceptable. This type of behavior deserves to be prohibited and punished. Our society has long chosen to prohibit and punish interracial sex.

After society makes a social judgement that certain behavior, acts, or conduct is wrong, the criminal justice system goes to work. It refines and transforms the list of prohibited acts and behavior. It interprets the list of acts, and does whatever is necessary to catch, convict and punish the lawbreakers.

Bias is inevitable. Crime and punishment are highly charged, emotional, and political subjects. There is no way to wring prejudice, attitude, or race out of the system.

 The Webster Smith Story Is An American Tragedy.

The Webster Smith Story is an American tragedy. It is not just the story of a Black Coast Guard Academy cadet; it is the story of an American family. It is the story of his mother, Belinda; and his father, Cleon; his wife, Lindsey and their daughter; and of his sister and brothers. It is the story of the friends of Webster Smith. They have all been harmed by the violence directed at their son, brother, husband, father and friend.

At the Coast Guard Academy, Webster Smith was a member of the Eclipse, Track Team, Football team, Regimental Staff, and a Swab summer Staff. He represented the Coast Guard in Washington DC concerning fitness and nutrition programs. He received numerous silver stars and never received a demerit prior the incident and investigation in 2005 that led to his court-martial.

To his classmates, teachers, and coaches Webster Smith appeared to be a magnetic, charming and gifted man, who had risen above his circumstances. Yet, in a moment, as if in the twinkling of an eye, a swift series of events diminished his popularity, vilified his name, and assailed his honor. His image was converted by senior Coast Guard officers from a popular athlete and nice guy to that of a sexual predator and public enemy number one at the Coast Guard Academy.

Webster Smith had dared to dream some big dreams. Like Alex Haley he had dared to believe that he could rise in the USCG to the highest level to which his talents and initiative could take him.

His parents were middle class African Americans. His father, Cleon Smith, was a graduate of the Coast Guard Academy in the Class of 1978 along with Vice Admiral Manson K. Brown.

His mother, Belinda Ingram Smith, believed in God and a good education. After attending college at WSSU for four years she went on to become the first Black female Crime Scene Investigator in the history of the Winston-Salem police Department.

This unbelievable turn about in what had been a Black success story is a singularly American tragedy.

That a cadet so deeply respected and loved by his coaches and classmates could evoke such an outpouring of hate and anger from the senior officers at the Coast Guard Academy is a Coast Guard tragedy and an American tragedy.

All of the female cadets involved with and associated with Webster Smith escaped clean without any consequences for their actions or their behavior. Mother Nature was the only one who exacted a penalty. Natural Law resulted in a pregnancy for his girlfriend. An abortion followed.

If women are equal, they should be treated as equal. Not a single woman was disciplined under the UCMJ or the cadet regulations. All of the female cadets involved in the Webster Smith case graduated and were commissioned as Coast Guard officers. Their testimony at the court-martial painted a picture of female cadets who were untrustworthy, arrogant, and certainly not ladies. Their conduct was unbecoming an officer and a lady. (Read more at http://www.judgelondonsteverson.com)

These women were witnesses at a public trial yet they were accorded the equivalent of rape shield protection. This was not a rape case. Not one of the women had been raped. There was testimony of consensual sex acts. Some of the consensual sex acts were unlawful because, among other things, they occurred in Chase Hall, or at Academy functions. How could unlawful consensual sex acts result in charges against only one of the participants? It takes two to tango.

Is it wrong for Black people to ask if there is a double standard? Would that amount to paranoia on the part of Black people? Or would that be considered playing the race card simply to inquire? Is it absurd to believe that anything more than pure chance resulted in the court-martial of Webster Smith? The fact that he was court-martialed speaks to a social reality that African-Americans are acutely aware of in America. Race is not a card to be dealt, but it determines whom the dealer is and who gets dealt a losing hand.

According to a 2008 General Accounting Office Report, from 2003 to 2006 there were NO sexual-harassment complaints at the Coast Guard Academy, but there were 12 incidents of sexual assault reported to the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS), with one incident in 2003, one in 2004, “NONE” in 2005 and 10 in 2006. It is hard to conceive of the facts relied upon by, Captain Douglas Wisniewski, the Commandant Of Cadets when he asserted in 2005 that there was a climate of fear of sexual assault in Chase Hall.

The 10 incidents reported in 2006 would appear to have occurred after the Webster Smith court-martial. Webster Smith was removed from Chase Hall in 2005. Who was doing all of the sexual assaulting in 2006? Why were none of these people brought to justice? They could have been tried along with Webster Smith.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Webster Smith. The justices declined to hear the case without comment. The decision of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) became the final decision in the case.

Thirteen female cadets and 11 males at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (CGA) reported anonymously in an April 2008 survey that they experienced “unwanted sexual contact,” ranging from touching to forced sexual acts, during the 2007-08 school year.

More than three-quarters said that alcohol or drugs were involved and that the offender was a fellow cadet.

None of the women sought professional help and only 7 percent discussed the incident with authorities.

When Alexander Hamilton organized the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790 it was established in the Department of the Treasury. Later it became known as the Coast Guard. In 1966 it was placed in the Department of Transportation. Today it is the nucleus of the Department of Homeland Security. Webster Smith’s case is currently being reviewed for clemency by the Secretary of the Department of Home Land Security, Janet Napolitano.

Webster Smith would have made an excellent military officer. It is Webster Smith and people like him that I want on the wall as our last line of defense for our American way of life protecting us from the great unwashed horde that is coming. Secretary Napolitano who do you want on that wall?

When the Supreme Court rejected Smith’s petition seeking a  hearing on the case, it effectively made the CAAF’s  decision the final decision in the case.

(By USALJ-ret. )

 

Categories: militaryNjustice | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

DHS Employees May Be Incompetent

DHS Civil Servants May Be Incompetent

One of the major reasons the Department of Homeland Security may be doomed is because the rank and file civil employees may be incompetent for the jobs they are trying to perform. The Senior Executive Staff was filled by professional job-hoppers from other agencies looking for a raise in pay and another career enhancing paragraph on their resume’ or curriculum vitae. Today the DHS appears to be a bloated  and mismanaged bureaucracy of marginally qualified civil servants.
http://voices.yahoo.com/why-believe-department-homeland-security-12669563.html?cat=9
How were the top DHS positions filled? It was Ruling Class cronyism, favoritism, and nepotism. And in a few isolated cases, it may have been some affirmative action.
In the case of  Carmen H. Walker, Deputy Officer for EEO Programs, Office of Civil Rights and Liberties, it may have been a combination of all four, because she certainly was not qualified to render the decisions that she made. The most egregious was in the Case of Cadet Webster Smith.
http://cgachasehall.blogspot.com/2011/04/american-tragedt-webster-smith-case-is.html
It took a long time for the Dept Homeland Security, Office of Civil Rights to make a decision on the Webster Smith Discrimination Complaint. Webster Smith received a fatal blow from Ms Carmen Walker, the Deputy Officer for EEO Programs in the Department of Homeland Security. That decision was the death knell for Cadet Smith in his fight to get justice from the Coast Guard Academy and the Coast Guard?

Carmen H. Walker, Deputy Officer for EEO Programs, Office of Civil Rights and Liberties, in her 20 August 2007 letter said that because Webster Smith was court-martialed, he could not have been discriminated against, as a matter of law. Well, that was just flat out patently wrong. A court-martial does not bar a civil rights action. The court-martial was just one act in a chain of events, each of which constituted racial discrimination. The same set of facts could have given rise to actionable relief in different arenas. The several discriminatory actions taken against Webster Smith before he was even charged under the UCMJ were completely separate and distinct from any possible legal errors that were committed during the course of the court-martial.
Only the legal and procedural errors committed by the prosecution at trial were the subject of the appeal to the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals. The decision by Ms Walker was the dumbest decision I had ever seen, and the shortest. There was more meat on the shadow of the chicken that died of starvation than in her Report. There were no Findings of Fact. There were no Conclusions. There was no Rationale, or any reasoning whatsoever. There was nothing in the Final Report to show how she had arrived at her decision. No comparisons are made with any other cases or sets of facts.The Report and her decision simply defied reason and logic.

H. Jerry Jones, the Coast Guard’s director of the Office of Civil Rights in Washington D.C., authorized an inquiry Dec. 7, 2006  into whether former cadet first class Webster Smith was treated differently during the investigation into his case than others who had committed similar offenses.
After reviewing Smith’s complaint, Jones dismissed 16 separate claims but authorized an investigation into the alleged inequity of treatment, headquarters spokesman Commander Jeff Carter said Dec. 15.
The Coast Guard hired JDG Associates Inc., a San Antonio-based consultant company that specializes in equal opportunity and civil rights issues, to examine the complaint, Carter said.
Carter explained that the Coast Guard does not maintain a large Equal Employment Opportunity Commission staff and needed to hire the firm to ensure fairness.

Consistent with 29CFR 1614.107(b) when an agency dismisses some but not all of the claims in a complaint, the dismissed claims will not be investigated and the dismissal is not immediately appealable. The Department of Homeland Security was supposed to review them together with the Report of Investigation when it prepared the Final Agency Decision (FAD) on the accepted claims. It does not appear that Ms Walker did anything remotely comparable to that. She did not appear to have followed the letter or the spirit of the Regulation, 29CFR 1614.107(b).

Webster Smith has the right to request reconsideration of the FAD, including the dismissal determination if it had been sustained. It appears that Ms. Walker did that by default. Even though the dismissed claims were not processed as discreet and separate claims, the information regarding the dismissed claims were required to be used as evidence during the investigation of the accepted claim. Ms. Walker certainly could not have done that.
However, it is hard to tell just what Ms Walker did, if anything. She gave very few clues as to what she did, if she did anything. She could have flipped a coin, or rolled the dice for all we know. The FAD is brief and uninformative. It gives very little insight into the inner workings and hidden mechanisms of her mind.
Ms Carmen Walker was faced with a living room full of pink elephants. She chose to ignore all of them. She ignored what would have been obvious to even a child, and instead she grasped at two invisible straws. She chose to hang her hat on a technicality that has proven to be a gross embarrassment to her and the Department of Homeland Security.

It looked like Ms Walker had not looked at the complaint since it first had arrived on her desk. She must have noticed that the First Anniversary of the filing of the complaint was fast approaching. On 5 September, it would have been one year since the complaint had been filed. Ms Walker was required by Agency Regulations to provide Webster Smith with a copy of the investigative file, to notify him in writing that he had a right to request a hearing and a decision from an administrative law judge (ALJ) or to request an immediate final decision from the agency (29 CFR 1614.110). Ms Walker’s Final Decision looked like nothing more than a half-hearted attempt to avoid letting the 360 day period run out without taking the required Agency action.

Oscar Wilde said that the easiest way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Ms Walker obviously believed the easiest way to get rid of a complaint was to simply say that it did not state a claim for which relief could be granted.

In her decision no evidence was evaluated. Statements were taken by the Investigating Officer, but no Facts were deduced. There were two apparently implied facts: One, that Webster Smith had been in the military; and, Two, that he had been court-martialed. From those two apparently implied facts, Ms Walker concludes that Webster Smith’s Discrimination Complaint failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted.

If Webster Smith had been trying to overturn his court-martial conviction by filing a civil rights complaint, then he would not have filed an appeal to the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals. That is a separate action. It is designed to remedy the errors committed during and after the court-martial conviction.

The Court of Criminal Appeals has no jurisdiction to render a finding concerning whether Webster Smith was discriminated against when he was forcefully removed from Chase Hall at midnight in December 2005 by Coast Guard Intelligence, or when he was prevented from attending class, or when he was made to work on the boat docks in June 2006, or when he was forbidden to speak to any other classmates or cadets, or when he was forbidden to go within 100 yards of Chase Hall. Moreover, it was discrimination when a press release was distributed to the media with his photograph calling him a sexual predator and saying that his presence created an intimidating environment in Chase Hall. All of these prohibited actions occurred long before a charge sheet was drawn up, and well before a court-martial was convened and most certainly before a verdict was rendered. On these acts alone Webster Smith was discriminated against because of his race. These all occurred long before the court-martial and the other related acts occurred.

http://www.uscg.mil/Legal/cca/Court_of_Criminal_Appeals.asp
The Court of Military Review is a military forum and can only give a military remedy. It has no jurisdiction to give relief in the administrative, employment area.  The Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals, established under Article 66, UCMJ, by the Judge Advocate General is composed of the Chief Judge and not less than two additional appellate military judges. The judges may be commissioned officers or civilians. The Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals is currently composed of six appellate judges organized in panels of three for consideration of referred cases. All but the Chief Judge have other primary duties, so that their service on the Court constitutes a collateral duty. In general, the Court reviews and acts on the records by affirming, reversing, or modifying in part the findings or sentence in each case of trial by court-martial in which the sentence, as approved, extends to death; dismissal of a commissioned officer or cadet; dishonorable discharge; bad conduct discharge; or confinement of one year or more. The Court also reviews other courts-martial with lesser sentences if the Judge Advocate General so directs. Also reviewed by the Court are petitions for extraordinary writs, petitions for new trial which have been referred to the Court, and appeals by the United States under Article 62, UCMJ.
That is why there is a civil rights complaint procedure. It is designed to address those areas where one has been treated differently than others based on his race, or sex.
In a perfect world, Ms Carmen H. Walker’s actions alone would have done irreparable harm to an innocent man, but this is not a perfect world; and, Ms Walker may have had her strings pulled by others. Her actions and decisions had a snowball effect.


The Day newspaper in an article written by Jennifer Grogan on 9/11/2007 reported that “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has ruled that Webster Smith was not discriminated against on the basis of his race when he was court-martialed for sexual assault last summer.” That was not true, nor was it correct.

She reported that “The Smiths declined to comment.” That was true; however, after the Smiths saw what she had written, they had plenty of comments. Mainly, they commented that Ms Grogan’s article was not correct. And they were right. The Day was forced to print a correction on 9/12/2207. As one might expect, the CORRECTION was not as conspicuous, nor as easy to locate as the first blatantly erroneous article. The damage had been done. As Webster Smith’s mother, Belinda, said”After the article has gone nationwide with the Associated Press, they quietly corrected the article but the damage was done.”
The Day, unlike the Navy Times, printed an article short on facts, but long on quotes from the people who had slandered Webster Smith, and who were trying to save face. The same people who tried to label Webster Smith as a sexual predator and released his private cadet photograph to the news media to be beamed around the world.
At the Coast Guard Academy,” Chief Warrant Officer David M. French, an Academy spokesman, on Monday, 10 September, was quoted as saying “We feel the Department of Homeland Security’s final decision on the civil rights complaint from Webster Smith validates the Coast Guard Academy’s actions in this matter as appropriate.”

The CORRECTION buried in the B Section of The Day simply said “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security denied a discrimination claim filed by Webster Smith, a black man expelled from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy following his court-martial for sexual assault. The department ruled that the complaint was not filed in the appropriate forum.”

To deny a complaint and then to give 30 days for one to appeal the denial, is a long ways from saying there was no discrimination. There has not yet been a decision on the ultimate issue of whether Webster Smith was a victim of racial discrimination. Here it is eight years later and justice has not been done in the Webster Smith Case. If a few of the people in the Department of Homeland Security had been marginally qualified, or had simply performed their jobs properly, this might have ended differently. As it is, the Case of Webster Smith remains An American Tragedy.

http://cgachasehall.blogspot.com/2011/04/american-tragedt-webster-smith-case-is.html
Categories: Social Security Benefits | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Security Administration Uses IRS To Seize Poor Peoples’ Tax Refunds To Pay For Debts Incurred By Their Parents

Social Security, Treasury target taxpayers for their parents’ decades-old debts.

Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post – Mary Grice of Takoma Park, MD, talks with her attorney Robert Vogel, at Vogel’s home in Rockville Maryland, April 5, 2014.

A few weeks ago, with no notice, the U.S. government intercepted Mary Grice’s tax refunds from both the IRS and the state of Maryland. Grice had no idea that Uncle Sam had seized her money until some days later, when she got a letter saying that her refund had gone to satisfy an old debt to the government — a very old debt.
When Grice was 4, back in 1960, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them.

Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family — it’s not sure who — in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. Why the feds chose to take Mary’s money, rather than her surviving siblings’, is a mystery.

Across the nation, hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who are expecting refunds this month are instead getting letters like the one Grice got, informing them that because of a debt they never knew about — often a debt incurred by their parents — the government has confiscated their check.

The Treasury Department has intercepted $1.9 billion in tax refunds already this year — $75 million of that on debts delinquent for more than 10 years, said Jeffrey Schramek, assistant commissioner of the department’s debt management service. The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago — the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam.

No one seems eager to take credit for reopening all these long-closed cases. A Social Security spokeswoman says the agency didn’t seek the change; ask Treasury. Treasury says it wasn’t us; try Congress. Congressional staffers say the request probably came from the bureaucracy.

The only explanation the government provides for suddenly going after decades-old debts comes from Social Security spokeswoman Dorothy Clark: “We have an obligation to current and future Social Security beneficiaries to attempt to recoup money that people received when it was not due.”

Since the drive to collect on very old debts began in 2011, the Treasury Department has collected $424 million in debts that were more than 10 years old. Those debts were owed to many federal agencies, but the one that has many Americans howling this tax season is the Social Security Administration, which has found 400,000 taxpayers who collectively owe $714 million on debts more than 10 years old. The SSA expects to have begun proceedings against all of those people by this summer.

“It was a shock,” said Grice, 58. “What incenses me is the way they went about this. They gave me no notice, they can’t prove that I received any overpayment, and they use intimidation tactics, threatening to report this to the credit bureaus.”

Grice filed suit against the Social Security Administration in federal court in Greenbelt,MD., alleging that the government violated her right to due process by holding her responsible for a $2,996 debt supposedly incurred under her father’s Social Security number.

Social Security officials told Grice that six people — Grice, her four siblings and her father’s first wife, whom she never knew — had received benefits under her father’s account. The government doesn’t look into exactly who got the overpayment; the policy is to seek compensation from the oldest sibling and work down through the family until the debt is paid.

The Federal Trade Commission, on its Web site, advises Americans that “family members typically are not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased relative from their own assets.” But Social Security officials say that if children indirectly received assistance from public dollars paid to a parent, the children’s money can be taken, no matter how long ago any overpayment occurred.

“While we are responsible for collecting delinquent debts owed to taxpayers, we understand the importance of ensuring that debtors are treated fairly,” Treasury’s Schramek said in a statement. He said Treasury requires that debtors be given due process.

Social Security spokeswoman Clark, who declined to discuss Grice’s or any other case, even with the taxpayer’s permission, said the agency is “sensitive to concerns about our attempts to arrange repayment of overpayments.” She said that before taking any money, Social Security makes “multiple attempts to contact debtors via the U.S. Mail and by phone.”

Grice, who works for the Food and Drug Administration and lives in Takoma Park, in the same apartment she’s resided in since 1984, never got any notice about a debt.

Social Security officials told her they had sent their notice to her post office box in Roxboro, N.C. Grice rented that box from 1977 to 1979 and never since. And Social Security has Grice’s current address: Every year, it sends her a statement about her benefits.

Their record-keeping seems to be very spotty,” she said.

Treasury officials say that before they will take someone’s refund, the agency owed the money must certify the debt, meaning there must be evidence of the overpayment. But Social Security officials told Grice they had no records explaining the debt.

“The craziest part of this whole thing is the way the government seizes a child’s money to satisfy a debt that child never even knew about,” says Robert Vogel, Grice’s attorney. “They’ll say that somebody got paid for that child’s benefit, but the child had no control over the money and there’s no way to know if the parent ever used the money for the benefit of that kid.”

Grice, the middle of five children, said neither of her surviving siblings — one older, one younger — has had any money taken by the government. When Grice asked why she had been selected to pay the debt, she was told it was because she had an income and her address popped up — the correct one this time.

Grice found a lawyer willing to take her case without charge. Vogel is exercised about the constitutional violations he sees in the retroactive lifting of the 10-year limit on debt collection. “Can the government really bring back to life a case that was long dead?” the lawyer asked. “Can it really be right to seize a child’s money to satisfy a parent’s debt?”

But many other taxpayers whose refunds have been taken say they’ve been unable to contest the confiscations because of the cost, because Social Security cannot provide records detailing the original overpayment, and because the citizens, following advice from the IRS to keep financial documents for just three years, had long since trashed their own records.

In Glenarm, Ill., Brenda and Mike Samonds have spent the past year trying to figure out how to get back the $189.10 tax refund the government seized, claiming that Mike’s mother, who died 33 years ago, had been overpaid on survivor’s benefits after Mike’s father died in 1969.

“It was never Mike’s money, it was his mother’s,” Brenda Samonds said. “The government took the money first and then they sent us the letter. We could never get one sentence from them explaining why the money was taken.” The government mailed its notice about the debt to the house Mike’s mother lived in 40 years ago.

The Social Security spokeswoman said the agency uses a private contractor to seek current addresses and is supposed to halt collections if notices are returned as undeliverable.

After hours on the phone trying and failing to get information about the debt Mike’s mother was said to owe, the Samondses gave up.

After waiting on hold for two hours with Social Security last week, Ted Verbich also concluded it wasn’t worth the time or money to fight for the $172 the government intercepted last month.

In 1977, Verbich, now 57, was in college at the University of Maryland when he took a full-time job in an accountant’s office. Because he was earning income, he knew he had to give up the survivor’s benefits his mother had received since his father died, when Verbich was 4. But his $70 monthly checks — “They helped with the car payment,” he said — kept coming for a short time after he started work, and Verbich was notified in 1978 that he had to repay about $600. He did.

Thirty-six years later, with no notice, “they snatched my Maryland tax refund,” said Verbich, a federal worker who has lived at the same address in Glendale, Md,. for 30 years and regularly receives Social Security statements there. The feds insisted that he owed $172 but could provide no documents to back up the claim.

Verbich has given up on getting his refund, but he wants a receipt stating that his debt to his country is resolved.

“I’ll put in the request,” a Social Security clerk told Verbich, “but in reality, you’ll never get anything.”

Grice was also told there was little point in seeking a waiver of her debt. Collections can only be halted if the person passes two tests, Clark said: The taxpayer must prove that he “is without fault, and [that] repayment of the overpayment would deprive the person of income needed for ordinary living expenses.”

More than 1,200 appeals have been filed on the old cases, Clark said; taxpayers have won about 10 percent of those appeals.

The Treasury initially held the full amount of Grice’s federal and state refunds, a total of $4,462. Last week, after The Washington Post inquired about Grice’s case, the government returned the portion of her refund above the $2,996 owed on her father’s account.

But unless the feds can prove that she ever received any of the overpayment, Grice wants all of her money back.

“Look, I love a good fight, especially for principle,” she said. “My mom used to say, ‘This country is carried on the backs of the little people,’ and now I see what she meant. This is really sad.”

(Fisher, Marc, The Washington Post, April 11, 2014, p. A1)

FORT THOMAS, Ky. – Cathy Frost opened her mail last week expecting to receive her tax refund. Instead, the Treasury Department sent her a notice that Uncle Sam was keeping her $344.

“I was taken aback. I had already allocated the funds. I couldn’t believe it,” the Fort Thomas woman said Friday.

“I didn’t know the government could just keep your refund. I felt like I was being robbed.”

Thousands of Americans had the same feeling when they got the same letter.

Most of them didn’t know that the Treasury Department has been confiscating tax refunds to recover government over-payments – mainly in Social Security benefits –  from beneficiaries or their survivors.

Some of the debts, as in Frost’s case, are their parents’ and are decades old.

There was such an outcry from taxpayers and politicians that the Social Security Administration announced this week that it was going to stop seizing tax refunds pending an SSA review.

But that doesn’t help Frost, a 55-year-old single woman who just lost her job due to downsizing.

She found out she might not get her money back, even though the SSA overpaid her father – and not her – some  40 years ago, when Frost was a minor.

The whole episode has left her shaking her head, frustrated with her government.

Frost said she called the 800 number on the letter last week and talked with an SSA office worker in Chicago.

They were unable to give me any details, only that there was an overpayment of $869.20 that may have been dispersed to myself or any family member,” she said.

Frost said she told the SSA rep that her father had died when she was 18.

“I wasn’t eligible for benefits, but my younger brother was 17 and my sister was 15, so they would have received benefits for a short period of time,” she said.

“It could even have been my father, because my mother died when I was 9, so he might have received benefits from her.

“They said, ‘Well, that must have been it.’ But they couldn’t tell me for sure. They said they didn’t have any details.

“They said all they could do is take a request to have somebody contact me and send me more information.

“I thought, ‘This is insane! How could people do that? And this is our government!’ “

When the SSA announced that it was suspending the seizure program, the agency directed Frost and other taxpayers to visit a field office and request a waiver for the overpayment.

Frost said she went to the SSA office in Florence on Good Friday, April 18th.

“They checked the records and told me it was an overpayment to my father when I was a minor, so I’m eligible for a waiver,” she said.  “They gave me a list of things I’m supposed to turn in, and if they determine I’m not able to afford the overpayment, they will waive it.”

Talk about government red tape.

The SSA wants to see Frost’s rent or mortgage payments, utilities, loans and credit card payments, medical and dental payments, insurance, property taxes and other fees and obligations, she said.

Before she left the office, the staffer gave her a list of local attorneys, she said.

She said she’s thinking about calling one.

“We’re not talking about that much money, and they’d probably decide I’m able to afford it. But I don’t make that much and I just got downsized from Avon after 17 years,” Frost said.

It doesn’t seem fair for the government to penalize me for something that happened when I was a minor, that I was not a part of.”

She said the government did not seize her brother’s or sister’s tax refunds – only hers.

The Social Security Administration says it has identified about 400,000 people with old debts. They owe a total of $714 million.

So far, the agency says it has collected $55 million.

There used to be a 10-year limit on collecting old debts, but thanks to an unidentified legislator who slipped a rider into the 2008 farm bill, the government can legally recover any overpayment, even from 40 years ago.

“It’s totally nuts,” Frost said.

CNBC (Apr 11, 2014)

US seizing tax refunds of children over parents’ debt?!

Friday, 11 Apr 2014

The government is now going through old records to see if it overpaid people on Social Security. If it thinks it did, it can now seize the IRS tax refund checks of the CHILDREN of those people it thinks it overpaid.

This isn’t a proposal—it’s already happening. For the past three years, the government has been confiscating hundreds of thousands of Americans’ tax refunds, according to the Washington Post. It has already confiscated $1.9 billion in tax refunds this year alone.

Peter Zander | Workbook Stock | Getty Images

The amazing thing is that the government is doing this even if it has little or no proof and no exact details. And the letters the government sends to unsuspecting taxpayers are frightening, use accusatory language, and include other financial threats.

“They gave me no notice, they can’t prove that I received any overpayment, and they use intimidation tactics, threatening to report this to the credit bureaus,” Mary Grice, who had her tax refunds seized a few weeks ago, is quoted as saying.

 

As usual, no one in the government is willing to take the responsibility for this new policy—Social Security said it didn’t do it, ask the Treasury Department. Treasury said—ask Congress.

If you think this is some kind of unprecedented outrage, you’re right. But here’s some advice: get used to it.

Tax refunds are clearly becoming the new promised land for government regulators and bureaucrats desperate for more revenues. We already know that confiscating tax refunds are the only real way the IRS will be able to impose Obamacare non-compliance penalties, and now it seems like the Social Security Administration is jumping on that bandwagon.

But there’s a more powerful and disturbing message here. Remember that the people who benefited from these alleged Social Security payments have not committed any crime—that’s why the government doesn’t need to provide any proof or real documentation. It’s more likely that the SSA simply screwed up and expects the descendants of its accidental beneficiaries to pay up. And again, the money comes out first before you can protest and find out why.

 

So, now we have yet another very good reason to make sure you don’t get a tax refund. First, getting a tax refund means you’ve given the government a free loan for 12 months.

Second, tax refunds are the only way you can be punished—rightly or wrongly—for any ObamaCare (Affordable Care Act) individual mandate non-compliance. And third, your tax refund is now a possible target for government bureaucrats who screwed up in the past and want to come after your money to make it right. If the SSA can do it, what’s to stop the other agencies?

After hearing this story, you wouldn’t think anyone would have to remind the public that Washington already controls too much of their money and has trampled on too much of our financial rights. But I will anyway since so many politicians and other elites don’t seem to be backing down on their incessant calls for more regulations, oversight and of course, more taxes.

 

Once again, we have a case of the government saying: “When you screw up, you pay. When we screw up, you also pay.”

If only our elected leaders would be so honest with us at election time.

This is commentary from Jake Novak, the supervising producer of “Street Signs.”

This is commentary from Jake Novak, the supervising producer of “Street Signs.”

 

POLITICS

Government suspends controversial program to recover money from adult children of dead taxpayers

social_security_benefits.jpg

The Social Security Administration announced Monday it is suspending a controversial program that goes after adult children of deceased taxpayers who the government claims were recipients of overpayments more than a decade ago.

Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin said she has directed an immediate halt to the three-year-old program while the agency does a review. The controversial program seized tax refunds in an effort to recoup the funds.

The move to stop the program came after many of the recipients and members of Congress complained to the federal agency.

“While this policy of seizing tax refunds to repay decades-old Social Security overpayments might be allowed under the law, it is entirely unjust,” Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland said in a letter to Colvin.

The program was authorized by a 2008 change in the law that allows Social Security and other federal agencies to use a Treasury program to seize federal payments to recoup debts that are more than 10 years old. Previously, there was a 10-year limit on using the program.

In most cases, the seizures are done through tax refunds.

The change was tucked into the 2008 farm bill — but trying to track down which lawmaker added in the one line that lifted the 10-year statute hasn’t been easy. And, not surprisingly, Washington lawmakers haven’t been eager to step up to the plate and take the blame.

Leslie Paige, vice president of policy and communications at Citizens Against Government Waste, says it’s a common problem in Congress.

“Lawmakers try to sneak in these one or two lines into gigantic legislative packages,” Paige told FoxNews.com. “It’s a dirty little secret. Members of Congress don’t know what they are voting on most of the time.”

Paige said the “unintended consequences” of these bills are felt hardest on Americans often left powerless to fight the federal government.

“All [lawmakers] care about is ‘Did my pork, my earmark, my little provision get into this gigantic mess of a bill?’” she said.

Following Colvin’s announcement Monday, Boxer said in a statement: “I am grateful that the Social Security Administration has chosen not to penalize innocent Americans while the agency determines a fair path forward on how to handle past errors.”

Mikulski added, “Garnishing these refunds to collect overpayments incurred through no fault of their own and based on decades-old errors is a policy that must not continue.” 

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, praised the Social Security Administration for suspending the debt collection but continued to raise questions Monday about how this started.

It’s not clear where that authority came in. There’s a difference between collecting decades-old debt from the debtors and decades-old debt from their kids,” he said.

The Social Security Administration says it has identified about 400,000 people with old debts. They owe a total of $714 million.

So far, the agency says it has collected $55 million.

Colvin said she was suspending the programpending a thorough review of our responsibility and discretion under the current law to refer debt to the Treasury Department.”

“If any Social Security or Supplemental Security Income beneficiary believes they have been incorrectly assessed with an overpayment under this program, I encourage them to request an explanation or seek options to resolve the overpayment,” Colvin said.

The Washington Post first reported on the program.

There are several scenarios in which people may have received overpayments as children. For example, when a parent of a minor child dies, the child may be eligible for survivor’s benefits, which are typically sent to the surviving parent or guardian.

If there was an overpayment made on behalf of the child, that child could be held liable years later, as an adult.

Also, if a child is disabled, he or she may receive overpayments. Those overpayments would typically be taken out of current payments, once they are discovered.

But if disability payments were discontinued because the child’s condition improved, Social Security could try to recoup the overpayments years later.

“We want to assure the public that we do not seek restitution through tax refund offset in cases when the debt in question was established prior to the debtor turning 18 years of age,” Social Security spokesman Mark Hinkle said in an email. “Also, we do not use tax refund offset to collect the debt of a person’s relative — we only use it to collect the overpaid benefits the person received for himself or herself.”

Hinkle said the debt collection could be waived if the person is without fault and repayment would “deprive the person of income needed for ordinary living expenses or would be unfair for another reason.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

 

‘Government suspends controversial program to recover money from adult children of dead taxpayers’

 

Social_security_card cc

In the words of 2 people I spoke to about this story – “How can this be legal?”

Good question. At least they’re stopping it.

 

(From FoxNews.com)

The Social Security Administration announced Monday it is suspending a controversial program that goes after adult children of deceased taxpayers who the government claims were recipients of overpayments more than a decade ago.

Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin said she has directed an immediate halt to the three-year-old program while the agency does a review. The controversial program seized tax refunds in an effort to recoup the funds.

Another win for social media.

Click here for the article.

 

9


Source

“Government suspends controversial program to recover money from adult children of dead taxpayers.” Foxnews.com, 2014-04-14.

 

Nick Sorrentino

About Nick Sorrentino

Nick Sorrentino is the co-founder and editor of AgainstCronyCapitalism.org. A political and communications consultant with clients across the political spectrum, his work has been featured at Breitbart.comReason.com, NPR.com, Townhall, The Daily Caller, and many other publications. A graduate of Mary Washington College he lives just outside of Washington DC where he can keep an eye on Leviathan.

House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Charles Boustany, and Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Sam Johnson seek answers on Treasury debt recovery program

TreasuryHouse Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) and Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) recently sought answers about the Treasury Department’s Offset Program and its effects on children who once received Social Security benefits.
Boustany and Johnson wrote to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and acting Social Security Administration Commissioner Carolyn Colvin about recent reports that adults who may have once received Social Security benefits as children had their tax refunds withheld for overpayments made decades ago to their parents.
The parents of some of the affected citizens are deceased and many of the taxpayers never received notice that they owed a debt as provided under law.
Colvin announced last week that the SSA would stop additional referrals of debts to the Treasury Department owed to Social Security that are 10 years or older for collection under the Treasury Offset Program.
“SSA’s decision to stop referrals was the right thing to do,” Boustany and Johnson said. “However, Treasury and Social Security still owe an explanation to the American people. While the government must protect taxpayer dollars, it is difficult to justify the practice of seizing innocent Americans’ tax refunds to pay debts resulting from benefits they may or may not have received when they were children, with little or no notice or evidence documenting the overpayment. The sooner we have those answers the sooner we can work to protect Americans from agency actions that are harsh and unfair.”
The Washington Post reported on April 10 that the Treasury has intercepted $1.9 billion in tax refunds this year, including $75 million of delinquent debts 10 years of age or older. Additionally, 400,000 taxpayers who owe a total of $714 million in debts more than 10 years old have been identified by SSA.

Categories: Social Security Cases | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Travesty? Mockery? Justice? Was It Worth It?

 (Brig Gen. Jeff Sinclair as he arrives to the Fort Bragg courthouse, for his sentencing hearing, Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Fort Bragg, N.C. Sinclair, who was accused of sexually assaulting a subordinate, plead guilty to lesser charges in a plea deal reached with government prosecutors.)

Disgraced Army general, Jeffrey A. Sinclair, gets $20,000 fine, no jail time.

 (FORT BRAGG, NC – MARCH 17: Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair leaves the Fort Bragg Courthouse after sexual assault charges against him were dropped after he plead to lesser charges March 17, 2014 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Sinclair, a former deputy commander with the 82nd Airborne Division, has admitted to an extramarital affair with a junior officer. “Unlawful command influence” caused a delay in the trial last week.) (Photo by Davis Turner/Getty Images)

 

Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair carried on a three-year affair with a captain and had two other inappropriate relationships with subordinates. He was reprimanded and fined $20,000 in pay. He will not serve any jail time.

 

 Coast Guard Academy Cadet Webster Smith had consensual sex with a confidant and girl friend; he received six months jail time and a bad conduct discharge. Is it fair? Is that what we call “equal protection of the law”? It was an American Tragedy. It was a mockery of justice. It was a case that will live in infamy. It was a travesty!

(Read all about The Webster Smith Case at http://www.amazon.com/CONDUCT-UNBECOMING-Officer-Lady-Conviction/dp/1460978021/ref=la_B006WQKFJM_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395709342&sr=1-1)

Admiral Thad W. Allen, Commandant of the Coast Guard, speaking at the Academy on 8 September 2006 did not mention the Webster Smith Case. But, talking with reporters afterward, Allen said THE PROCESS used to deal with the issue worked as it should.

Apparently, Commandant Allen did not know that the System was stalled. He did not seem to be aware that his fellow Admiral, the Superintendent, was stonewalling the System.

(Read more at http://cgachasehall.blogspot.com/2006/10/admiral-van-sice-has-no-respect-for.html)

 

 

 

 

 Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair admitted carrying on a prolonged, turbulent affair with an officer under his direct command and having improper relationships with two other women was reprimanded and fined $20,000 by a military judge Thursday March 20th.
To his visible relief, however, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair was spared a jail sentence. The decorated combat veteran hugged his lawyers and friends after his sentence was imposed by Col. James Pohl, the military judge who oversaw his court-martial at Fort Bragg, N.C.

 

The system worked. I’ve always been proud of my Army,” Sinclair told reporters. “All I want to do now is go north and hug my kids and wife.”

 

 

Yes, the System worked. That sounds awfully like what Admiral Thad Allen said about the court-martial of Cadet Webster Smith when he was interviewed at the United states Coast Guard Academy after the first court-martial of a cadet in Coast Guard history.
The big question is “for whom’? For whom did the System work? It works a lot better for some than for others.
The Defense Department’s failure so far to change the military’s male-dominated culture is driving a vocal group of mainly female lawmakers led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to advocate aggressive reforms.

(Senator Kirsten Gilllibrand, D-N.Y.)
Tinkering at the edges, they argue, won’t produce the seismic shift needed to send the message that sexist attitudes and behaviors will no longer be tolerated. Victims need to be confident that if they report a crime their allegations won’t be discounted and they won’t face retaliation.

For two years, Sinclair’s court-martial had made him the public face of the military’s struggle to prevent and police sexual misconduct in the ranks. He was only the third Army general to face court-martial in 60 years, a measure that critics called emblematic of the military’s reluctance to hold senior commanders accountable for all kinds of wrongdoing.
Although Sinclair was pleased with the outcome, his chief accuser and some advocacy groups for sex-crime victims expressed deep disappointment. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) called the sentence “a mockery of military justice” and a “laughable punishment.
Sinclair was originally charged with crimes that could have landed him in prison for life.
His accuser, a much younger female captain who served on his staffs in Iraq and Afghanistan, reported in March 2012 that she had been the married general’s lover for three years. She also said that he had sexually assaulted her on two occasions and once threatened to kill her and her family if she told anyone about the affair.
The Army prosecuted Sinclair for those offenses for nearly two years, but suddenly dropped the charges this month and cut a plea deal with the general after prosecutors admitted they had doubts about the reliability of the general’s mistress. Their hand was also forced after the judge ruled that there was evidence the Army had allowed politics and external considerations to influence its handling of the case.
In the end, Sinclair pleaded guilty to adultery, maltreatment of his accuser and two other improper relationships. He also admitted to making derogatory comments about women and, when challenged by his staff, replying: “I’m a general, I’ll say whatever the [expletive] I want.”
The accuser’s attorney, Jamie Barnett, a retired Navy rear admiral, said she was “obviously devastated” that Sinclair’s sentence wasn’t more severe.
“It’s a terrible outcome, and by failing to render justice today, the Army’s going to face the reality that this could happen again,” said Barnett, now a lawyer in private practice. “It’s really beyond disappointing. It’s a travesty for the Army and military justice in general.”

Coincidentally, Sinclair was sentenced on the same day that another high-profile sexual assault prosecution in the military collapsed.
In that case, a military judge at the Washington Navy Yard found a former Navy football player not guilty of sexually assaulting a female classmate at an April 2012 party. The Navy had originally charged two other midshipmen in the same incident but later cleared both as the case slowly crumbled.
In the past, military leaders have been criticized for not taking sex abuse allegations seriously and for mistreating victims. But in the courts-martial that culminated Thursday, the evidence of sexual assault rested largely on the testimony of the accusers, both of whom struggled to give a consistent and clear account.
Advocacy groups for sexual-assault victims were quick to seize on the outcomes as another sign that the military justice system is ill-equipped to handle such cases.
Nancy Parrish, the president of Protect our Defenders, said the results would discourage other members of the military from coming forward to report sex crimes.
“The military’s promises of ‘zero tolerance’ for sexual offenses continues to ring hollow as yet another high ranking official is let off the hook,” she said of the Sinclair case. “It has been long known within the military that General Sinclair conducted himself in outrageous and inappropriate, even unlawful ways. His behavior was not addressed until this victim came forward.”
Sinclair’s attorney, Richard Scheff, retorted that people who thought the general got away with a light sentence were ignoring the facts. “Critics of this ruling who weren’t in court and haven’t seen the evidence have no idea what they’re talking about.”
Sinclair admitted the affair but vigorously denied assaulting or threatening the woman. His lawyers portrayed her as a jealous mistress who spoke out after she read suggestive e-mails he had sent to other women, and because he refused to divorce his wife.
He could be punished further financially. His attorneys have said they expect he will have to retire from the Army at a lower rank, which would diminish his pension benefits.
Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, declined to comment on Sinclair’s sentence. But he acknowledged that the military needed to do more to deter and prosecute sex crimes.
We know we need to get better. We know that there are changes that need to continue to be made,” Kirby told reporters. “Our focus is on making sure victims have the confidence to report and that those who are proven guilty of a crime are held accountable.”

(By Craig Whitlock. Ernesto Londoño contributed.)

APPENDIX I. Background on the handling of this case.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — It was an illicit and volatile love affair that spanned two war zones and four countries. The married general couldn’t stay away from a captain on his staff. She fell hard for her boss and called him “Poppa Panda Sexy Pants.” The three-year entanglement ended disastrously for both, at a time that could not be worse for the Army.
All the raw and sordid details are spilling out in an austere military courthouse here, where the Army is girding — for only the third time in half a century — to court-martial one of its generals.

(Uncredited/AP) – Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair faces court martial on charges that include forcible sodomy and adultery.

Video

<caption> Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair is accused of sexually assaulting a female captain and inappropriately communicating with three others. </caption>

Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair is accused of sexually assaulting a female captain and inappropriately communicating with three others.

 

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, an Army Ranger and paratrooper, stands accused of forcible sodomy, adultery and other charges that could land him in prison. Prosecutors say he abused his command authority by sleeping with a subordinate officer, a taboo in the armed forces and a violation of military law.
They charge that the relationship turned violent on two occasions, when he allegedly forced her to perform oral sex.
In addition, Sinclair faces charges that he had inappropriate communications with three other female officers.
Sinclair has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Besides the rare spectacle of a general in the dock, however, the case poses a critical test of how the U.S. military handles allegations of sexual assault and misconduct, crimes that have long bedeviled the armed forces.
Congress and President Obama have demanded a crackdown, alarmed by a recent string of scandals and frank admissions by military leaders that they have systematically failed to address the problem.
A growing faction of lawmakers is pushing to rewrite the underpinnings of military law by giving power to uniformed prosecutors, instead of commanders, to oversee investigations of sexual abuse and other serious crimes. The Pentagon is resisting, arguing that commanders must retain the authority to enforce order and discipline in their units.
The last Army general to face court-martial was Brig. Gen. Roger B. Duff, who pleaded guilty in June 2012 to making false official statements and wearing unauthorized decorations. The Army did not publicly disclose that Duff had been court-martialed until months later, when Sinclair was charged.
In 1999, Maj. Gen. David R.E. Hale pleaded guilty at court-
martial after he was accused of committing adultery with the wives of four subordinates. He was fined and demoted. Before that, no Army general had faced court-martial since 1952, when Maj. Gen. Robert W. Grow, a military attache in Moscow, was suspended and reprimanded on charges of dereliction of duty.
Given the intense debate in Congress over possible far-reaching changes to military law, all sides are intently watching how Sinclair’s court-martial plays out. It is scheduled to begin Sept. 30 after months of evidentiary hearings and pretrial wranglings that have foreshadowed what is at stake.
Last week, the Army finished selecting a jury of five major generals, all men, who will determine Sinclair’s fate. Under military law, each juror must be senior in rank to the defendant. More than 40 generals were summoned to Fort Bragg from around the world to be interviewed. Most were rejected because they knew Sinclair or other key potential witnesses.
During jury selection, lawyers for both sides acknowledged the heavy political pressures swirling around the case.
They asked the potential jurors if they were worried that they might be passed over for promotion if they reached an unpopular verdict. They also questioned whether the generals could resist outside influences, such as Obama’s angry comments in May, when he demanded that military sex abusers be “prosecuted, stripped out of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged — period.”
Virtually all the generals said that sexual assault is a serious problem in the ranks and that they had previously heard about the charges against Sinclair. One revealed that he had attended an Army-mandated training session on sexual assault prevention in which Sinclair was depicted as a case study in bad behavior.
Another commander, Maj. Gen. Kendall W. Penn of the 1st Army, candidly recalled what he thought when he first read news accounts of the case. “My general reaction was, this is going to be a black eye on the Army,” he said. He was later culled from the jury pool.
Retired Maj. Gen. Charles J. Dunlap Jr., a Duke University law professor and a former deputy judge advocate general for the Air Force, said the atmosphere surrounding sexual assault cases in the military has become “hyper-politicized.”
He said that Sinclair could receive a fair trial but that the five jurors will have to “exercise moral courage in a way they’ve perhaps never been asked to do before in a military justice setting.”

Final straw
Although Sinclair has pleaded not guilty, his attorneys acknowledge that he carried on an affair with a subordinate officer 17 years his junior. The Washington Post generally does not name alleged sex-crime victims.
During a pretrial hearing last year, the woman testified that the pair had sex in the general’s quarters in Iraq, in her car in a German parking lot, in plain sight on a hotel balcony in Arizona and in her cramped office in Afghanistan, among other places. Some soldiers wondered and snickered about their relationship, but nobody reported it.
The depth of their passion might have remained hidden if the general and the captain hadn’t bombarded each other with explicit text messages. Defense attorneys have read many out loud in court.
“You are my heart and world you beautiful magnificent man,” the captain texted the general in September 2011, during one of their tamer exchanges. “I need you and I mean really deeply profusely need you.”
Many of the text messages betray a dark side to the affair — angry accusations from the unmarried captain, as well as threats to kill herself or expose the affair to Sinclair’s superiors. During an evidentiary hearing at Fort Bragg, she testified that they fought continually but usually made up afterward.
“You are going to make me do something really stupid,” she wrote early last year in a typo-filled text. “How about I just [expletive] call [Sinclair’s commander] and have him resolve this, Im sure he will take the time to keep me from being suicidal. I well not let yoy continue to screw me over.”
The final straw came in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in March 2012. The captain was snooping through Sinclair’s e-mail in his office and discovered tender messages to his wife, as well as love notes to another female Army officer.
“I felt so stupid,” the captain testified. “I finally had something to slap me in the face and say, ‘See, he never loved you. He was just using you for sex.’ ”
By her own admission, she flew into a jealous rage. First, she fired off an e-mail to the other female officer, saying, “I hope you don’t think you’re the only girl that he’s sleeping with.”
Later that night, she burst into the office of Maj. Gen. James L. Huggins, then the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and leader of all U.S. forces in southern Afghanistan. Tears streaming down her face, she spent two hours confessing to the affair, according to court testimony.
That set off a flurry of phone calls and e-mails among senior Army brass, who were stunned but immediately ordered a full investigation that eventually roped in more than 100 witnesses.
The case grew more serious when the captain gave a formal statement accusing Sinclair of sexual assault by forcing her to perform oral sex against her will on two occasions in Afghanistan.
She also asserted that he had once vowed to kill her and harm her family if she ever told his wife about the affair. Sinclair’s attorneys deny that he made the threat.

‘It’s tearing me up’
The Army charged Sinclair with forcible sodomy because of the oral sex allegations. The captain testified that the assaults occurred between December 2011 and February 2012 but said she cannot recall the exact dates.
During an evidentiary hearing in November, she said that she still had feelings for Sinclair and that she had not wanted the Army to charge him with forcible sodomy or a violent crime.
“It’s tearing me up, and in a [expletive] way I still love him, and I don’t want him to be upset with me,” she said. “I know it’s very messed up, but there’s a part of me that wants to believe that he really did love me and that I just misinterpreted his actions.”
Defense attorneys have accused her of making up the assault allegations to save her Army career. They said she first told one confidant that the relationship was entirely consensual but gave investigators a different version after she realized that she, too, could be kicked out of the Army for adultery.
Richard L. Scheff, an attorney for Sinclair, noted that the woman has since been granted immunity by the prosecution. “The evidence in this case is paper-thin,” he said. The captain, he said, has “changed her story again and again.”
Legal representatives for the woman did not respond to a request for comment placed through Army public affairs officials at Fort Bragg.
In an unusual move in the button-down world of military justice, Sinclair has hired four civilian defense lawyers and a national public relations firm, MWW Group. They have created a Web site — sinclairinnocence.com — to dissect the case and challenge the Army.
In an interview, Scheff said the Army “grossly overcharged” his client. Given Washington’s marching orders to the military to get tough on sexual assault, he said, he doubts that any jury could render a fair verdict for Sinclair.
“They’re in the spotlight on this,” he said. “They’re under such enormous pressure to change the culture on sexual assault.”
A Fort Bragg spokeswoman said prosecutors are not permitted to comment on a pending case.

‘It’s draining’
Sinclair also is charged with having inappropriate relations with three other female junior officers.
In combing through his e-mails, investigators found nude photos and flirtatious messages from two of the women but no evidence that he had sex with them. One of those officers testified that she repeatedly avoided meeting him in person, however, because she assumed he wanted to have a tryst.
At the same time, each of the three female officers testified that they admired Sinclair, considered him a mentor and didn’t want to cut off contact. Instead, they frequently sought out the general for career advice and professional favors.
In November, Sinclair’s wife, Rebecca, stunned many in the Army when she wrote an op-ed column in The Washington Post to declare that she was sticking by her husband and that she blamed his infidelity on “the stress of war.”
In an interview this month, Rebecca Sinclair said her husband may be a cheater but not a violent abuser. “I don’t excuse my husband’s bad behavior or bad judgment,” she said. “I never said it’s okay. I said I understand how it could happen.”
Although she has not attended most of the court proceedings, she said she’s still living with the general. “We’re doing the best we can,” she said. “It’s draining.”
 

APPENDIX II  

A Wife Responds

Why I Stand By My Man

When the strains of war lead to infidelity

By Rebecca Sinclair, Published: November 15, 2012

 

 

Rebecca Sinclair is married to Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, a former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan, who is being tried at Fort Bragg, N.C., on charges including adultery and sexual misconduct.

Like most Americans, I’ve been unable to escape the current news cycle regarding several high-ranking military generals entangled in sex scandals. Unlike most Americans, however, for me the topic is personal. My husband, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, is one of the officers.
Spectators will try to make this scandal about many things: the arrogance of powerful men; conniving mistresses; the silent epidemic of sexual assault in the armed services. But these explanations obscure an underlying problem: the devastating influence of an open-ended war — now in its 11th year — on the families of U.S. service members.

 

Gallery

Video

<caption> Ann Telnaes cartoon: Petreaus case reveals reach of nation’s surveillance programs. </caption>

Ann Telnaes cartoon: Petreaus case reveals reach of nation’s surveillance programs.

 

 

 

Let me first address the elephant in the room. My husband had an affair. He violated our marriage vows and hurt me tremendously. Jeff and I are working on our marriage, but that’s our business.
Jeff also needs to answer to the Army. That is his business, not mine, and he accepts that. I believe in and support him as much as ever.
I wish I could say that my husband was the only officer or soldier who has been unfaithful. Since 2001, the stress of war has led many service members to engage in tremendously self-destructive behavior. The officer corps is plagued by leaders abandoning their families and forging new beginnings with other men and women. And many wives know about their husbands’ infidelity but stay silent.
For military wives, the options are bad and worse. Stay with an unfaithful husband and keep your family intact; or lose your husband, your family and the financial security that comes with a military salary, pension, health care and housing. Because we move so often, spouses lose years of career advancement. Some of us spend every other year as single parents. We are vulnerable emotionally and financially. Many stay silent out of necessity, not natural passivity.
In many ways, ours is a typical military story. Jeff and I married 27 years ago. While he rose through the officer corps, I earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees and taught at community colleges in the places where we were stationed. We later had children.
Since 2001, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have destabilized our life. We have moved six times in 11 years. On average, our kids change schools every two years. Between five deployments, site surveys and training operations, Jeff has spent more than six of the past 10 years away from his family.
None of this is meant to excuse infidelity. I expected more of Jeff, and I think he expected more of himself. But we’re fooling ourselves if we don’t recognize the larger reality. My friends who are married to other combat leaders have been my anchor during this crisis. We understand that our soldiers may come home disfigured or injured in such a way that we will become lifelong caregivers. We also understand that they may not come home at all, and if blessed with a reunion, they may carry emotional baggage few could understand. My friends know that it could have been their heartbreak as much as mine. This is the only time in U.S. history that our nation has fought a decade-long war with a volunteer Army. Doing so has consequences. Nothing good can come of families being chronically separated for a decade or more.
Jeff’s case has its own complications. He was involved with a woman who confessed to a superior officer. As a servicewoman, she stood to be charged with criminal conduct under the military code of justice. She alleged sexual assault, and no such allegation should ever go unanswered. We are confident that the charges will be dropped. Hundreds of text messages and journal entries came to light in pretrial hearings last week that establish the affair was consensual. The woman in question admitted under oath that she never intended to have Jeff charged, and Jeff has passed a polygraph test. Ironically, if Jeff had decided to leave his family he would be in the clear.
There are many accusations against Jeff, some of which have already fallen apart. Jeff has been charged with possessing alcohol in a combat zone; a visiting dignitary gave him a bottle of Scotch that remained unopened on a bookshelf. His personal computer was used to access pornography; time stamps and Army records show that he was out of the country or city when most of the files were downloaded. We expect those charges, too, to be dismissed.
But the damage has been done. It will take years for Jeff to shed the false image of a hard-drinking, porn-dependent aggressor. The other generals will also struggle to rehabilitate reputations they spent decades building. All of these men are human beings, with strengths and fallibilities, and they have families who are under real strain. How we address this strain will say much about what kind of country we are; it will also determine how stable and strong our military is.

 

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Dr Ben Carson Targeted By IRS After Prayer Breakfast Speech

Ben Carson

Ben Carson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Freedom of Speech isn’t Free. It  is not free from intimidation or retaliation. Sometimes silence may be golden and more peaceful.

If you are an educated, critical thinker and of a different opinion concerning the current political hot topic, you may want to think twice before voicing your opinion. You may find it is true that no good deed or opinion goes unpunished.

If you think that ObamaScare is a train wreck, or that the Democrats or the Republicans are more responsible for the Government slowdown, or that the NSA spies on American citizens, or that Cadet Webster Smith was a victim of racial bias, you might want to hold your tongue; or, at least, think twice of the possible adverse consequences to you personally before making your opinion known. Discretion may be the better part of valor; and silence may be golden. Your silence may allow you to keep a greater portion of your hard-earned gold, because the IRS is alive and well and going to and fro like a roaring lion seeking which First Amendment free thinker it may devour.

 

Tea party groups, Reverend Franklin Graham, Christine O’Donnell, and a pro-marriage group have all discovered that the price of free speech in today’s society is an audit of your personal finances by the IRS. And now Dr. Ben Carson has made the “List”.

The list of conservatives targeted by the Internal Revenue Service for audits, tax-exempt reviews or tax privacy breaches keeps growing, raising fresh questions in Washington about whether a scandal the Obama administration has blamed on bureaucratic incompetence and coincidence may in fact involve something more nefarious.

The latest revelation came Thursday from Dr. Carson, the renowned neurosurgeon who told The Washington Times that he was targeted for an audit just months after he gave a speech in front of President Obama that challenged America’s leadership. The agency requested to review his real estate holdings and then conducted a full audit.In the end, the IRS found no wrongdoing, Dr. Carson said, but it raised his suspicions about being singled out for his speech.

“I guess it could be a coincidence, but I never had been audited before and never really had any encounters with the IRS,” Dr. Carson said in an interview. “But it certainly would make one suspicious because we know now the IRS has been used for political purposes and therefore actions like this come under suspicion.”

Melanie Sloan, head of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and a former Justice Department prosecutor during the Clinton years, said she had not been that concerned about the IRS reviews of the growing number of tea party groups but the story of Dr. Carson’s audit raised red flags.

“I have not been particularly persuaded in the past with the IRS targeting of the tea party groups. But this one seems a little odd. This certainly raises questions that I assume someone will begin to investigate,” she said.

Dr. Carson, whose rise from poverty and medical work with pediatric patients were celebrated in the movie “Gifted Hands,” is the latest in a growing number of high-profile figures to come forward and

The Rev. Franklin Graham and others have said either they or their organizations were singled out by the IRS, while former Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell said she was audited and that someone used the IRS system to access her private tax information.On Wednesday, the National Organization for Marriage announced that it would sue the IRS, saying it has evidence that someone within the agency leaked the group’s donor list to its political enemies in 2012.

As in the other instances, the organization claims no one at the IRS has been held responsible.

Calls to the IRS went unanswered Thursday. Much of the agency’s staff has been furloughed as a result of the federal government shutdown.

In the past, the IRS has declined to discuss specific audits, citing privacy laws. Such instances typically come to light only when individuals or businesses divulge that they’ve been targeted.

That was what happened this week. During a speech in Alabama, Dr. Carson made a vague reference to having his first “encounter with the IRS.”

The encounter came just four months after his speech in February at the National Prayer Breakfast, an address that brought him into the national spotlight and one in which he decried the “moral decay and fiscal irresponsibility” of the U.S. in recent years.

Since then, he has electrified the conservative world and fueled talk of a presidential run with speeches and other works, including his weekly column for The Times.

Dr. Carson said IRS agents contacted him in June and asked to look at his real estate holdings. After finding nothing that concerned them, the agents informed him that they were conducting a full audit of his finances and asked to go back an additional year to review his records, he said.

They ended the review in August after finding no problems.

“They told me everything was in good standing and left,” Dr. Carson said.

Asked whether he thought the audit was a retaliation for his speech, Dr. Carson quipped: “I guess I’m surprised it took them that long.”

He said the more serious issue is that the IRS has been politicized — “something that never should have happened” — and that leaves all of its activities open to suspicion.

 

Indeed, Dr. Carson isn’t the first high-profile conservative figure to come under fire from the IRS.

Earlier this year, Ms. O’Donnell — a former Senate candidate from Delaware who rose to prominence amid heavy tea party backing — revealed to The Times that she, too, had been audited and also had her personal tax information breached.

Ms. O’Donnell’s tax records were accessed by David Smith, an investigator with Delaware’s Division of Revenue.

Revelations about that access, which took place in March 2010, spawned an inquiry by the U.S. Treasury Department and denials by Delaware officials that anything inappropriate had taken place.

It also has spawned a congressional investigation spearheaded by Sen. Chuck Grassley, a powerful Iowa Republican.

Ms. O’Donnell’s story, which also includes an erroneous lien placed on a home she no longer owned, broke just as the IRS inspector general acknowledged that at least four politicians or political donors have had their personal tax records improperly accessed since 2006. One of those cases involved a willful violation of federal law.

The Justice Department has declined to prosecute any of the cases.

Also this year, Mr. Graham, son of legendary evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham, wrote a letter to Mr. Obama in which he accused the IRS of targeting two of his nonprofit organization for political purposes.

Mr. Graham heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, a worldwide relief group.

 

In his letter, Mr. Graham said he believes “someone in the administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us.”

(Solomon, John and Ben Wolfgang, Washington Times, 4 Oct 2013)

 

Categories: American History | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Former Mental Institution Will Be The Home Of The Coast Guard and Homeland Security

English: Seal of the United States Department ...

English: Seal of the United States Department of Homeland Security. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Homeland Security’s Future Home: A Former Mental Hospital

As
we celebrate the Coast Guard’s Birthday on August 4, 2013, we reflect
upon the progress the United States Coast Guard has made since its
inception in 1790. Originally the Coast Guard was the nucleus of the
Treasury Department. Later it was moved to the Transportation
Department, and finally to the Department of Homeland Security.

 

Some are beginning to wonder if the move to the DHS was such a good idea.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has became a case study in mismanagement. DHS’s top ranks swelled with appointees with questionable
credentials
, such as, the Civil Rights Officer. A more famous political appointee was Michael Brown, who totally mismanaged the Government’s efforts following Hurricane Katrina. The former FEMA director had been previously employed for a decade by the International
Arabian Horse Association
. There were frequent interagency tussles. For
instance, two separate agencies—the Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—were supposed to safeguard
the nation’s peripheries together. It didn’t go well. “It’s vital to
recognize that the two bureaus barely interact,” David Venturella,
former director of ICE’s office of detention and removal operations,
told a congressional committee in 2005. “When they do, they argue over
budget, operations, and jurisdiction.” DHS’s goof-ups were spectacular
and sometimes comical
. In 2005, Congress chastised its Directorate of
Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection for including
mini-golf courses, petting zoos, and a bourbon festival alongside
nuclear power plants on its list of places in danger of terrorist
attacks. DHS also had a habit of entering into no-bid contracts with
politically connected companies.

shock

Chris Mills frequently gives tours of St. Elizabeths Hospital, a
former mental institution
where the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
is building a $4.5 billion headquarters. It’s the largest construction
project in the District of Columbia since the Pentagon was completed in
1943. So there’s a lot of ground to cover. Mills prefers to chauffeur
his guests around the place in a golf cart.

A cheerful 55-year-old with a neatly trimmed mustache, Mills, who is
managing the project for DHS, tells visitors to look out for animals.
There are loads. Herds of deer, a flock of wild turkeys, and a bald
eagle reside in the fenced-in facility. They might not last long
outside. St. Elizabeths is located in Anacostia, one of D.C.’s toughest
neighborhoods
. But they have little to fear inside the high-security
fences. “It’s like the wild kingdom in here,” Mills says with a chuckle.

Then he’s off in his golf cart with his passengers. His boss, Jeffery
Orner, DHS’s chief readiness support officer, who oversees all of the
department’s real estate, has come along for the ride. There’s a DHS
public-relations person on board, too. She sits in the back, smiling and
saying nothing. Everybody is wearing hard hats and DHS safety vests.

As Mills meanders through the leafy campus on a splendid June
morning, he explains that the headquarters is mission-critical. He says
DHS is currently scattered in 50 locations throughout the capital. After
its dismal performance in Hurricane Katrina in 2005 under FEMA’s Michael Brown, the agency decided
it would be better able to fight terrorists and respond to natural
disasters if its leaders worked side by side in one place. “We really
needed a consolidated headquarters,” Mills says.

 

St. Elizabeths’ Center Building, c. 1900(Courtesy National ArchivesSt. Elizabeths’ Center Building, c. 1900)

He
explains that DHS will use many of the old hospital buildings on the
176-acre campus. He pulls up to the dining hall where inmates once took
their meals. It has been painstakingly restored and will serve as a
festive 300-seat cafeteria for Homeland Security employees. The kitchen
has been completely refurbished and the dining room is now lit with
hanging pastel-colored globes. “As you can see, this is ready to go,”
says Mills proudly.

From there it’s a quick trip to the future
seat of the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Until
recently, that would have been Janet Napolitano, but she announced her
retirement on July 12. Whoever runs DHS will occupy the former office of
the St. Elizabeths asylum superintendent. They were surrounded by the
inmates.

It isn’t ready, not by a long shot. There aren’t lights, for
one thing. Mills passes out flashlights and leads the way inside. There
are holes in the floors. The ceilings are collapsing in some areas.
Mills says St. Elizabeths moved patients out of the building in the
1960s, but somebody forgot to turn off the heat. “The steam was left on
for years and years and years and years,” Mills laments. “The building
literally rotted from the inside. The floors collapsed on each other.”

“This
renovation of this building would make a great HGTV episode,” Orner
says, “except they tend to complete their work in one show.”

It’s a
clever line, one that Orner has undoubtedly uncorked previously. But he
raises an important issue. The project is moving slowly, even by the
geologic standards of the U.S. government. It’s been plagued by delays
and mounting costs. People might not even remember Napolitano when the
building is completed, which might be around 2026
.

 

 

In the
months after the Sept. 11, 2001attack on the World Trade Center, the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress
decided that Americans would be safer from terrorists if they combined
22 federal agencies into a single unit—including the Coast Guard, the
Customs Service, the Secret Service, the Immigration and Naturalization
Service (INS), the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
, the National Infrastructure Protection
Center, the Federal Computer Incident Response Center, and the Animal
and Plant Health Inspection Service
, to name just a few. It was the
largest reorganization of the federal government since the creation in
1947
of what would become the U.S. Department of Defense.

The new Department of Homeland Security would have 180,000
employees and a $36 billion budget, but its supporters promised it would
be nimble. There were a few dissenters in Congress. One was
Representative John Mica, a Florida Republican. “I gave a little speech
at the time,” he remembers. “I said anyone who thinks you can combine 22
agencies and 200,000 people and it’s going to be more efficient and
economical
needs to have their head examined.

He turned
out to be prophetic. DHS became a study in mismanagement. The
department’s top ranks swelled with appointees with questionable
credentials
, such as, the Civil Rights Officer, and Carmen Walker. The most famous was Michael Brown, the former FEMA director
who had been previously employed for a decade by the International
Arabian Horse Association. There were frequent interagency tussles. For
instance, two separate agencies—the Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—were supposed to safeguard
the nation’s peripheries together. It didn’t go well. “It’s vital to
recognize that the two bureaus barely interact,” David Venturella,
former director of ICE’s office of detention and removal operations,
told a congressional committee in 2005. “When they do, they argue over
budget, operations, and jurisdiction.” DHS’s goof-ups were spectacular
and sometimes comical
. In 2005, Congress chastised its Directorate of
Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection for including
mini-golf courses, petting zoos, and a bourbon festival alongside
nuclear power plants on its list of places in danger of terrorist
attacks. DHS also had a habit of entering into no-bid contracts with
politically connected companies.

(Devin Leonard, Bloomberg Businessweek)

 

Webster Smith Took A Hit from CG Office of Civil Rights.

It
took a long time for the Dept Homeland Security, Office of Civil Rights
to make a decision on the Webster Smith Discrimination Complaint.
Today, Webster Smith is on the ropes after receiving a sucker punch from
Ms Carmen Walker, the Deputy Officer for EEO Programs in the Department
of Homeland Security. The big question is will he be able to survive a “standing 8 count”, or will this be the final round in his fight to get justice from the Coast Guard Academy and the Coast Guard?

 

Carmen H. Walker, DHS, Deputy Officer for EEO Programs, Office of Civil Rights and Liberties, in her 20 August 2007 letter says that because Webster Smith was court-martialed, he could not have been discriminated against, as a matter of law.
Well, that is just flat out patently wrong. A court-martial does not
bar a civil rights action. The court-martial was just one act in a chain
of events, each of which constituted racial discrimination. The same
set of facts can give rise to actionable relief in two different arenas,
as here. The several discriminatory actions taken against Webster Smith
before he was even charged under the UCMJ are completely separate and
distinct from any possible legal errors that were committed during the
course of the court-martial.

Only the legal and procedural errors
committed by the prosecution at trial are the subject of the appeal to
the Coast Guard Court of Military Revue. This decision by Ms Walker is the dumbest decision I have ever seen, and the shortest. There was more meat on the shadow of the chicken that died of starvation than in this Report. There are no Findings of Fact. There are no Conclusions. There is no Rationale, or any reasoning whatsoever. There is nothing
in the Final Report to show how she arrived at her decision. No
comparisons are made with any other cases or sets of facts. This was a
pure anal extraction.

 

H. Jerry Jones, the Coast Guard’s director of the Office of Civil Rights in Washington D.C., authorized an inquiry Dec.
7 of last year into whether former cadet first class Webster Smith, who
is Black, was treated differently during the investigation into his
case than whites who had committed similar offenses.

After reviewing Smith’s complaint, Jones dismissed 16 separate claims but authorized an investigation into the alleged inequity of treatment, headquarters spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Carter said Dec. 15.

The
Coast Guard hired JDG Associates Inc., a San Antonio-based consultant
company that specializes in equal opportunity and civil rights issues,
to examine the complaint, Carter said.

Carter explained that the
Coast Guard does not maintain a large Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission staff and needed to hire the firm to ensure fairness.

 

Consistent
with 29CFR 1614.107(b) when an agency dismisses some but not all of the
claims in a complaint, the dismissed claims will not be investigated
and the dismissal is not immediately appealable. The Department of
Homeland Security was supposed to review them together with the Report
of Investigation when it prepared the Final Agency Decision (FAD)
on the accepted claims. It does not appear that Ms Walker has done
this. She does not appear to have followed the letter or the spirit of
the regulation.

 

Webster Smith has the right to request reconsideration of the FAD,
including the dismissal determination if it is sustained. It appears
that Ms. Walker has done that by default. Even though the dismissed
claims were not processed as discreet and separate claims, the
information regarding the dismissed claims were required to be used as
evidence during the investigation of the accepted claim. Ms. Walker
certainly could not have done that. However, it is hard to tell just
what Ms Walker did, if anything. She gives very few clues as to what she
did, if she did anything. She could have flipped a coin, or rolled the
dice for all we know. The FAD is brief and uninformative. It gives very
little insight into the inner workings and hidden mechanisms of her
mind.

Ms Carmen Walker was faced with a living room full of pink elephants. She chose to ignore all of them.
She ignored what would have been obvious to even a child, and instead
she grasped at two invisible straws. She chose to hang her hat on a
technicality that will prove to be a gross embarassment to her and her
Agency. She had a chance to be on the right side of History. She
followed the path that leads into the woods, and she chose the most
frequently traveled path. That might prove to make all the difference in
the world.

 

It looks like Ms Walker has not looked at
this complaint since it first arrived on her desk. She must have noticed
that the First Anniversary of the filing of the complaint was fast
approaching. On 5 September, it will be one whole year since the
complaint was filed. Ms Walker was required by Agency Regulation to
provide Webster Smith with a copy of the investigative file, to notify
him in writing that he has a right to request a hearing and a decision
from an administrative judge or may request an immediate final decision
from the agency (29 CFR 1614.110). This Final Decision looks like
nothing more than it really is, and that is, a half-hearted attempt to
avoid letting the 360 day period run out without taking the required
agency action.

 

Oscar Wilde said that the easiest way to
get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Ms Walker obviously believes
the easiest way to get rid of a complaint is to simply say that it does
not state a claim for which relief can be granted.

 

In her decision no evidence was evaluated. Statements were taken by the Investigating Officer, but no Facts were
deduced. There were two apparently implied facts: One, that Webster
Smith had been in the military; and, Two, that he had been
court-martialed. From those two apparently implied facts, Ms Walker
concludes that Webster Smith’s Discrimination Complaint fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted.

 

Is
this woman a lawyer? Where did she go to law school? She said that
Webster Smith cannot challenge the results of a court-martial through
the employment discrimination complaint process. Well, Ms. Walker, we
were well aware of that fact one year ago. If Webster Smith were
trying to overturn his court martial conviction by filing a civil rights
complaint, then he would not have filed an appeal to the Coast Guard
Court of Military Review. That is a separate action. It is designed to
remedy the errors committed during and after the court-martial
conviction for disobeying an order and extorting sexual favors from
Shelly Raudenbush.

 

 

The Court of Military Review has no jurisdiction to render a finding concerning whether Webster Smith was discriminated against when he was forcefully removed from Chase Hall at midnight in December 2005 by Coast Guard Intelligence, or when he was prevented from attending class, or when he was made to work on the boat docks in June 2006, or when he was forbidden to speak to any other classmates or cadets, or when he was forbidden to go within 100 yards of Chase Hall.
Moreover, it was discrimination when a press release was distributed to
the media with his photograph calling him a sexual predator and saying
that his presence created an intimidating environment in Chase Hall. All of these prohibited actions occurred long before a charge sheet was drawn up, and well before a court-martial was convened and
most certainly before a verdict was rendered. On these acts alone
Webster Smith was discriminated against because of his race. These all
occurred long before the court-martial and the other related acts occurred.

 

 

The
Court of Military Review is a military forum and can only give a
military remedy. It has no jurisdiction to give relief in the
administrative, employment area. That is why there is a civil rights
complaint procedure. It is designed to address those areas where one has
been treated differently than others based on his race, or sex.

 

A comparison may be drawn between a civil court and a criminal court.
O J Simpson was found not guilty in a Los Angeles criminal court of the
murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. That did not prevent a
civil court in Santa Monica using the exact same facts from
finding him liable to the Goldman family for the wrongful death of Ron
Goldman. By the same token, if O J Simpson had been found guilty in
criminal court that would not have been a bar to trying him in civil
court for damages.

 

The fact that Webster Smith was
court-martialed and appealed the court-martial proceedings, in no way
can lead to the unnatural conclusion that he is trying to overturn his
criminal conviction by using a civil rights complaint. If he succeeds in
his criminal appeal and is able to reverse the conviction, that still
does not mean that he was not treated differently than Matt
Bialuk, and John K. Miller, and about 12 other cadets whose cases were
handled differently. Even if Webster Smith had not been court-martialed,
he would still have a valid claim of discrimination. Just being removed
from the cadet barracks at midnight in hand cups, and forced to work at
hard labor on the boat docks, and not being allowed to continue going
to class would constitute a case of disparate treatment.

 

Is
it any wonder that Department of Homeland Security waited so long
before responding to Hurricane Katrina? With this caliber of decision
making, we should be surprised that they showed up at all. We are
left scratching our heads at the range of inefficiency and
ineffectivness that characterized the Department Homeland Security

and FEMA’s behavior right before and after Katrina. The failure of
initiative cost lives, prolonged suffering, and left all Americans
justifiably concerned our government is not prepared to protect its
people. It does not appear to be any more capable, or willing to defend
our civil rights either. I sleep a little less securely just knowing who
is in charge.

 

There is something else quite unusual about this Decision. It was sent Certified Mail Return Receipt Request and it was date stamped 20 August 2007. It had to be signed for, so we know exactly when it arrived. It did not arrive at the Smith residence until 4 September. That is more than two weeks.
If we can send a man to the moon in a week, why did it take Ms Walker’s
decision more than 2 weeks to go from Washington DC to Houston, Texas?
This is yet another example of the sterling performance of the men and
women on the front lines of Homeland Security. How can the American people sleep soundly at night with this caliber people on watch? If I were on a ship, I would sleep wearing my life preserver. We have some difficult days ahead.

 

It took this long to spin a lie that someone would believe. All history is spin. Some spin you can believe, some you cannot.

For example, we have been taught that Abe Lincoln freed the slaves; but the truth is before the outbreak of the Civil War, Lincoln believed in freeing slaves only on condition that they be immediately exported to Africa
(Liberia). He once boasted: “I am not nor ever have been in favor of
making voters or jurors of negroes, not of qualifying them to hold
office, nor to intermarry with white people.

 

Also, we
have been taught that Thomas Jefferson believed that all men are created
equal ( except for Blacks, Native Americans, and men without property);
but the truth is Jefferson was kept busy spinning how the author of the
Declaration of Independence could also own slaves, let alone force one
of them to sleep with him and bear him children.

 

Finally
we have just been told that Webster Smith, Matt Bialuk, and John K.
Miller were all treated the same; but the truth is that they were not.
They were all cadets; they were all suspected of having committed
sexually related offenses. But, only Webster Smith was taken out of
Chase Hall, forced to work at hard labor at the boat docks, prevented
from continuing with his academic classes, and prevented from coming
within 100 yards of Chase Hall. They were most certainly treated very
differently.

 

And, oh, by the way, on top of all that, Webster Smith was also court-martialed. He could have very easily been court-martialed without being discriminated against, but he was not.
But, if it makes you feel any better, you can drop that one allegation
from the civil rights complaint. He has already been found not guilty of rape,
and he has already served his 6 months in the brig. And, his appellate
lawyers have appealed the conviction to the appropriate forum. So, now
all you have to do is deal with the discrimination complaint. Anyone who
cannot see that has been promoted up to their level of incompetence.
They are not capable of critical thinking. How many people have been
irreparably harmed by this person’s bad decisions and incompetent
advice?

 

There is an old Sicilian Proverb that says “if
you sit by the river long enough, you will see the bodies of your
enemies float by”. How long will Webster Smith have to sit by the river
before he sees the bodies of Van Sice, Wisniewski, Kristen Nicholson,
Shelly Raudenbush, et al float by?

 

THIS JUST IN:

The Day was a day late and a dollar short.
In an article written by Jennifer Grogan on 9/11/2007, The Day reported
that “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has ruled that Webster
Smith was not discriminated against on the basis of his race when he was
court-martialed for sexual assault last summer.” That is not true, nor is it correct.

 

She
reported that “The Smiths declined to comment.” That is true; however,
when they saw what she had written, they had plenty of comments. Mainly,
they commented that Ms Grogan’s article was not correct. And they were
right. The Day was forced to print a correction on 9/12/2207. As
one might expect, the CORRECTION was not as conspicuous, nor as easy to
locate as the first blatantly erroneous article. The damage had been
done. As Webster Smith’s mother, Belinda, said”After the article has gone nationwide with the Associated Press, they quietly corrected the article but the damage is done.”

The Day, unlike the Navy Times, printed an article short on facts, but long on quotes from the people who had slandered Webster Smith,
and who are trying to save face. The same people who tried to label
Webster Smith as a sexual predator and released his private cadet
photograph to the news media to be beamed around the world. At the Coast
Guard Academy,” Chief Warrant Officer David M. French, an Academy spokesman,
on Monday, 10 September, was quoted as saying “We feel the Department
of Homeland Security’s final decision on the civil rights complaint from
Webster Smith validates the academy’s actions in this matter as
appropriate.”

 

The CORRECTION buried in the B Section of
The Day simply said “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security denied a
discrimination claim filed by Webster Smith, a black man expelled from
the U.S. Coast Guard Academy following his court-martial for sexual
assault. The department ruled that the complaint was not filed in the
appropriate forum.”

 

 

To deny a complaint and
then to give 30 days for one to appeal the denial, is a long ways from
saying there was no discrimination. There has not yet been a decision on
the ultimate issue of whether Webster Smith was a victum of racial
discrimination.

 

Personally, I like The Day. I used to
read it when it was named The New London Day. It and the New York Times
were the only newspapers that I read for four years. They have a lot
more coverage of the Coast Guard Academy now than then. I wonder why.

 

Beverly
Herbert wrote on 3/31/2008: “I attended the Easter service at
Connecticut College and was glad that I did. I was pleasantly surprised
at the positive message by the former-Gov. John G. Rowland in which he
spoke of his journey from the high to the low and how faith brought him
through.

I know many people think of John Rowland as the worst
governor ever. However, during his administration I remember writing to
him and actually getting an answer and getting the issue addressed.
Also, I remember when calling the governor’s office that his staff was
always courteous, gracious, knowledgeable and helpful.

Many people seem to want to make the former governor the poster boy for political corruption in Connecticut.

Making him the poster boy can no more solve the problem of political corruption in Connecticut than making
Webster Smith the poster boy for all the sexual misconduct and abuse
that had gone on at the Coast Guard Academy for years
without anyone being held accountable.”

 

(Feb 24, 2009)Independent Audit Finds USCG Office of Civil Rights Incompetent.

Carmen Walker issued the dumbest and the shortest decision in the history of the Civil Rights Office.

Employees in the Coast Guard’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) do not have the skills or up-to-date training to handle many of the service’s cases and formal discrimination complaints are not adequately handled, according to an independent report presented to the Coast Guard on February 5.

 

Terri Dickerson,
the office’s director, requested an independent review April 25, 2008,
less than one month after an investigation by the Coast Guard
Investigative Service, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI
failed to determine who left nooses for a Black Coast Guard Academy cadet and an officer conducting race-relations training in the summer of 2007.

 

At the same time, an unofficial Coast Guard blog was posting regularly about the office and the director’s alleged inefficiencies, reducing morale among employees and casting OCR in a negative light, according to the report.

 

The findings are “deeply disturbing and completely unacceptable,”
Cummings, D-Md., wrote in a letter to Commandant ADM Thad Allen.
Cummings, the chairman of the House subcommittee on the Coast Guard and
Maritime Transportation, said he plans to call a hearing in April to
further discuss the report.

 

“The findings of this
report demand decisive and comprehensive action to correct what appear
to be a number of significant shortfalls in the administration,” he
wrote.

 

The Coast Guard retained Booz Allen Hamilton, a
consulting firm with offices throughout the country, to review the
entire civil rights program in September 2008, according to a letter
from Dickerson to the Department of Homeland Security’s Equal Employment
Opportunity Programs.

 

Coast Guard spokesman Cmdr. Ron
LaBrec said the service is thankful for the feedback and is conducting a
thorough review of the report and its recommendations.

 

“The
[DHS] Office of Civil Rights and Liberties periodically conducts
assessments on its civil rights components and the [OCR] director wanted
to do this report now with the ongoing modernization initiative to look
across the board and improve the practices in the office and address
any allegations that were coming out of blogs or even internal
discussions. We take allegations of mistreating [privacy issues]
seriously,” LaBrec said.

 

According to the report, the
Coast Guardsmen assigned to ORC often come in with little civil rights
experience and serve two-year tours, and “often they leave their post
just as they are becoming oriented to the position.” The other Coast
Guardsmen in the office are on collateral duty, with the same limited
backgrounds, according to the report.

 

Although training
is available, the report said, many employees have not completed the
legislatively mandated initial or refresher training. In some instances training was behind up to five years.

 

“Some staff members lack the requisite skills, abilities, and training to
effectively perform the duties of their positions, thereby diminishing
effectiveness of the divisions/teams,” according to the report.

 

LaBrec said the “decentralized” structure led to the delinquency in training and
the Coast Guard is looking to “standardize” and “improve” its training
program. There are 22 full-time positions within OCR, five of which are
military, but that likely is not enough to sufficiently handle the
additional responsibilities related to the increased caseload, according
to the report.

 

Although Booz Allen acknowledges that
some of the recommendations listed in the report cannot be accomplished
with the office’s $788,459 budget, OCR’s Web site says the
recommendations are under review and lists some that have either already
been completed or can be accomplished in the near future.

 

Those include:

 


Restructuring the office to “optimize the use of our military
personnel” and take advantage of existing training and resources.

 

• Analyze the workload to ensure statutory and non-statutory obligations are being met.

 

LaBrec
said it is too early to determine what recommendations would require
additional funding or how much additional money would be needed to
accomplish those goals.

 

“The review reaffirmed many
positive aspects of the Coast Guard civil rights program. The report
also makes clear there is work ahead,” Dickerson wrote in Thursday’s
Alcoast. “Foremost, consistent with past similar studies, the BAH team
found we must restructure the [equal employment opportunity] function,
and secondarily, shore up our equal employment opportunity/equal
opportunity product lines so that they more optimally support our civil
rights service providers and work force.”

 

LaBrec also said the 58 formal civil rights complains OCR received in fiscal year 2007,
roughly one per 1,000 people, shows the office is doing some things
right, since several of the other DHS departments have a much higher
number of civil rights complaints per capita.

 

Allen
told Coast Guard Academy cadets and faculty in October 2007 that racial
bigotry will not be accepted and goes against the service’s ethos and
humanitarian mission. In August 2008, he released a service-wide message
outlining plans to improve diversity throughout the service.

 

As
part of the new initiative, every flag officer and senior executive
service member is required to attend one diversity conference a year and
they are expected to build relationships with minority-based
“institutions of higher education.”

 

The first noose,
which garnered national attention, was left in the bag of a Black cadet
in July 2007 onboard the Coast Guard cutter Eagle. The second was found
in August on the office floor of a white female officer who had been
conducting race relations training.

 

Statement of

The Honorable Elijah E. Cummings, Chairman

Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation

Hearing on

“Civil Rights Services and Diversity Initiatives in the Coast Guard”

April 1, 2009

We
convene today to consider the state of the Coast Guard’s provision of
civil rights services to its military and civilian workforce and to
applicants for employment. We will also examine the initiatives being
undertaken by the service to support expanded diversity among both its
military and civilian personnel. As part of that examination, we will
assess what the service has done to benchmark its diversity-related
initiatives following a hearing we held on this subject last year.

In
April 2008, the Director of the Coast Guard’s Office of Civil Rights
asked the Department of Homeland Security to commission and supervise an
independent assessment of the Office and of civil rights programs
within the Coast Guard. The proximate motivation for this request was
the posting of derogatory blog entries on the web. However, as the
Subcommittee has come to learn, there have long existed challenges far
more central to the provision of effective civil rights services within
the Coast Guard than those discussed in recent blog comments.

In
February 2009, Booz|Allen|Hamilton, the firm ultimately commissioned to
undertake the study of the Coast Guard Office of Civil Rights, issued
its report to the Coast Guard, which subsequently released it to the
public. I note that the Subcommittee invited Booz|Allen|Hamilton to
testify today and also invited its representatives to meet privately
with staff; they declined both offers citing their duty of
confidentiality to their client and, rather perplexingly, their internal
policy against lobbying. Despite Booz|Allen|Hamilton’s total
unresponsiveness to the Subcommittee’s inquiries about a report it
prepared on a federal agency and for which it received compensation from
U.S. taxpayer funding, the firm’s report speaks for itself.

Among
other findings, the Booz|Allen|Hamilton team’s review identified at the
Coast Guard a civil rights program that does not fully protect
confidential personal information, that does not conduct thorough
analyses of barriers to equal opportunity in employment or develop
specific plans to break these barriers down, and that has a number of
inadequately trained service providers who cannot ensure implementation
of a complaints management process that is in full compliance with
regulatory requirements.

While these findings are obviously deeply
troubling on their own, as the Subcommittee has learned in its
extensive review of the Coast Guard’s civil rights programs, they are
certainly not new. Previous reviews of the Coast Guard’s civil rights
programs, and even the self-assessments the Coast Guard submits annually
to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, repeatedly identify
many of the same problems noted in the Booz|Allen|Hamilton report.

For example, a 2001 review conducted by KPMG found that:

complaints were not handled in an efficient manner;

individuals who provided civil rights services as a collateral duty showed “great variation in … quality;”

affirmative
action-related reports were disseminated “but report interpretation and
action is left up to the individual unit commands, who may or may not
have the required time and knowledge to legally apply the affirmative
action program as a factor in hiring and promoting;” and

equal
opportunity reviews were being conducted, but there were “no measures
or metrics . . . by which to evaluate local command’s program
performance.”

A review conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers more
than a decade ago concluded that the Coast Guard’s “current civil rights
program is relatively ineffective at preventing civil rights complaints
and the current program office at headquarters is inefficient in
discharging their responsibilities.”

In May 2008, the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission sent a feedback letter to the Coast
Guard identifying the trends it observed in the Coast Guard’s annual

self-reports
from fiscal years 2004 through 2006. Again, the comments sound very
familiar. EEOC stated that in its 2004 report, the Coast Guard admitted
that “EEO officials did not have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to
carry out the full duties and responsibilities of their positions.” In
fiscal years 2005 and 2006, the service “reported that there was
insufficient staff to conduct adequate analysis of civilian workforce
data,” and in 2004, 2005, and 2006, the service noted it “has not
implemented an adequate data collection and analysis system and had not
tracked recruitment efforts.” The EEOC found that the Coast Guard’s
recruitment practices for positions in the civilian workforce created
“unintended barriers” to diversity.

Having read all this, what was
perhaps most disappointing to me was not just the devastating nature of
these individual findings, but the fact that the problems they describe
have apparently persisted for nearly a decade. Put simply, the picture
that emerges from the reports available to us shows that despite knowing
that its equal opportunity programs did not ensure full compliance with
U.S. law and regulations, the Coast Guard has taken little to no action
to ensure full compliance. Further, there have apparently been no
consequences for these failures – except perhaps the individual
consequences that Coast Guard personnel may have borne, some of whom may
have been denied the opportunity to effectively challenge what they may
have felt was discriminatory treatment.

Discrimination is an evil
that destroys the dignity of fellow human beings and robs them of the
opportunity to achieve what their abilities would otherwise enable them
to achieve. In this, the 21st Century, any agency that tolerates any
failure in the implementation of effective equal employment opportunity
processes or in the effective management of complaints is an agency that
is willing to tolerate the possibility that discrimination may exist in
its midst.

While I applaud the decision of the Director of the
Office of Civil Rights to ask for an independent assessment of Coast
Guard civil rights practices, it is also obvious that further study is
not needed. Back in 2001, the KPMG team that assessed the Coast Guard’s
civil rights program reported that the wide gaps between how the
service’s equal employment opportunity program was described in manuals
and how the program was actually

implemented “created a perception
that the program is not necessarily a priority among senior
leadership.” It is LONG PAST TIME that these gaps be closed.

Importantly,
as the Booz|Allen|Hamilton report makes clear, successful
implementation of the reforms needed to correct the gaps that their team
found “will need to be openly endorsed at the highest level of the
Coast Guard organization to ensure the cooperation of, and participation
by, key stakeholders.” I know that the Coast Guard is undertaking a
variety of initiatives to expand diversity, and I commend the written
testimony of Admiral Breckenridge, which details these efforts. I also
commend the individual efforts of Coast Guard personnel to support the
service’s diversity goals. I note that Admiral Allen himself recently
visited Morgan State University in my district and gave a very inspiring
address to students at that Historically Black University.

What I
didn’t find in Admiral Breckenridge’s testimony, however, was a
statement that the MD-715 process will now be used as intended to
identify all barriers to equal access and to inform the development of
the plans that will eliminate these barriers, or that a similar process
will be implemented on the military slide. While I appreciate discussion
of an “upward glide slope,” progress cannot be measured until specific
goals are in place – and to think that goals would need to be defined as
“specific representational objectives” is simply to think too narrowly.

I
also commend Director Dickerson’s testimony, and her decision to
request the Booz|Allen|Hamilton review. I emphasize that I understand –
as the Booz|Allen|Hamilton report indicates and the evidence clearly
shows – that many of the problems with the Coast Guard’s civil rights
program have long pre-dated her appointment.

That said, it is now
our watch and the failures and deficiencies that exist with the Coast
Guard’s civil rights programs CANNOT CONTINUE. For the Coast Guard to
truly be “Semper Paratus” – always ready – it must take all necessary
steps to ensure that it is not handicapped by discrimination in its
ranks or the divisions that discrimination produces.

As I said
when I addressed the Coast Guard Academy following the discovery of
nooses there, “Diversity – and our mutual respect for each other – are
our greatest strengths as a nation.” They must necessarily be the
greatest strengths of those who defend this nation, but they can be so
only when an agency makes the achievement of diversity and the provision
of effective civil rights services a top priority, rather than what
appears to be a second thought.

 

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Hard Cases Make Bad Law. Dissatisfaction With One Case, No Reason To Change Military Code Of Justice.

 

Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the 3rd Air Force at Ramstein Air Base in Germany convened a court-martial to try Lt. Col. James Wilkerson III on charges of, among other things, sexual assault of a female, not his wife. Lt. Col. Wilkerson was tried by a jury and found guilty as charged. In performing his duties as Convening Authority under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Lt. Gen. Franklin set aside the sexual assault conviction.

 

The February 2013 decision ignited a firestorm on Capitol Hill and drew scrutiny to the separate set of laws governing military members, known as the UCMJ. Following his review of the case, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel proposed removing the convening authority from commanders in major cases.

(He did not specify what he thought would constitute a major case.)

 

Lt. Gen. Franklin defended his decision in a six-page letter he submitted to the service in response to the uproar. He said accusations that his motivation was to protect a fellow fighter pilot are “preposterous.” Accusations that he doesn’t understand sexual assault or take the crime seriously “are complete and utter nonsense,” he wrote. Allegations that his decision was influenced by his previous role commanding a unit the pilot later served in “are equally preposterous,” he wrote.

 

In the letter, Franklin, says he struggled with the decision. However, after he reviewed the evidence, he found the defendant, Lt. Col. James Wilkerson III, and his wife, Beth, more credible than the alleged victim, Ms Kimberly Hanks, who has since come forward publicly to discuss the matter.

Approving the jury’s finding of guilt “would have been an act of cowardice,” Franklin wrote. “I hold a genuine and reasonable doubt that Lt. Col. Wilkerson committed the crime,” he wrote. “My court-martial action to disapprove findings and to dismiss the charges was the right, the just, and the only thing to do.”

 

Wilkerson, then the inspector general at Aviano Air Base in Italy and a former F-16 pilot, was found guilty of multiple charges to include aggravated assault. He was sentenced to a year in prison and dismissal from the service before Franklin overturned the conviction.

 

Ms Hanks accused him of fondling her breasts and genitalia as she slept in his guest bedroom, according to court documents. The two met at a club with groups of friends after a rock concert that was held on base, organized by the USO and featuring the alternative rock band, Seether, according to her testimony.

 

Ms Hanks is a divorcee. She worked as a civilian contractor in the medical clinic on the base. She alleged that she previously did not know Lt. Col.Wilkerson but some how she wound up at his home in Roverado. Ms Hanks said she awoke in a bedroom with Lt. Col.Wilkerson when his wife entered the room, turned on the lights and said: “What the hell is going on?”

 

Ms Hanks testified that the woman then ordered her to, “Get the hell out of my house.”

In his letter, Lt. Gen. Franklin said he was persuaded in part by the many letters of clemency from family, friends and colleagues of the Lt. Col. Wilkersons that “painted a consistent picture of a person who adored his wife and 9-year-old son, as well as a picture of a long-serving professional Air Force officer.”

 

Lt. Gen. Franklin also makes a point to cast doubt on Lt. Col. Wilkerson’s failed polygraph test.

“A polygraph is only an investigative tool to assist in the potential focus of the investigation and/or to attempt to elicit admissions of guilt,” he wrote. “It is not a ‘lie-detector test,’ nor is it ‘pass’ or ‘fail.’ Because of the inherent unreliability of polygraphs, they are entirely inadmissible in a court-martial.”

 

As one would expect, lawmakers and supporters of sexual-assault victims were shocked by Lt. Gen. Franklin’s letter.

 

“This explanation crystalizes exactly why the convening authority should not have the unilateral ability to overturn a jury verdict — and why we need legislation that restricts their ability to do so,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said in a statement. “This letter is filled with selective reasoning and assumptions from someone with no legal training, and it’s appalling that the reasoning spelled out in the letter served as the basis to overturn a jury verdict in this case.”

 

In light of the case, McCaskill introduced legislation that would curtail the authority of military commanders to dismiss jury convictions against sex offenders.

 

Protect Our Defenders, a nonprofit based in Burlingame, Calif., called for Lt. Gen. Franklin to be dismissed from the military. “Lt. Gen. Franklin made a deeply flawed and inappropriate decision,” the group’s president, Nancy Parrish, said in a statement. “Rather than rely on the credibility determinations of the senior members of the jury he selected, Franklin chose to accept the word of Wilkerson’s supporters.”

 

Lt. Col. Wilkerson will remain on active duty and is being transferred to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., where he will become chief of flight safety for the 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern), according to Master Sgt. Kelly Ogden, a spokeswoman for the unit. He is expected to arrive later this month or in early May.

 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on April 8 said he would ask Congress to pass legislation that would prevent commanders from overturning convictions without explanation.

In 2011, less than half of the reported 3,200 sexual assaults in the military resulted in disciplinary action, according to the Defense Department. The number of actual sexual assaults each year is probably closer to 19,000, based on anonymous surveys of active-duty service members.

 

 

                       (U. S. Air Force Academy cadets charged with sexual assault.)

 

The number of sexual assaults at military academies has been on the rise. No cadet tried or convicted of sexual assault has had his conviction set aside by the Convening Authority.

Sexual assault reports at the Air Force Academy jumped nearly 60 percent during the last academic year while the prevalence of the crime remained about the same, according to a new Defense Department study.

The results, which mirror the two other service institutions — the Military Academy and the Naval Academy — signal greater victim confidence but show that efforts to reduce sexual assaults among future military leaders have been unsuccessful.

Air Force cadets made 52 sexual assault reports during the 2011-2012 year, up 58 percent from 33 in 2010-2011. They also accounted for 65 percent of the 80 reports made at all three academies, despite sim­ilar student populations.

In 44 of the 80 reports, victims said they were victimized by a fel­low cadet or midshipman, the study said. Twenty-five incidents occurred on academy grounds.

 

 

 

(U. S. Coast Guard Academy cadet, Webster Smith)

A cadet at the U. S. Coast Guard Academy was convicted of sexual assault in 2006. It was the first court-martial of a cadet in the history of the U. S. Coast Guard. Cadet Webster Smith was only six months away from graduating when he was accused, tried, and convicted. He protested his innocence. His case was appealed all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court refused to grant a review of the conviction. Cadet Smith’s petition was dismissed without comment by the Supreme Court.

 

 

 

The Webster Smith Story is an American tragedy. It is not just the story of a Coast Guard Academy cadet; it is the story of an American family. To his classmates, teachers, and coaches at the Coast Guard Academy Webster Smith appeared to be a magnetic, charming and gifted man, who had risen above his circumstances. Yet, in a moment, as if in the twinkling of an eye, a swift series of events diminished his popularity, vilified his name, and assailed his honor. His image was converted by senior Coast Guard officers from a popular athlete and nice guy to that of a sexual predator and public enemy number one at the Coast Guard Academy. The Webster Smith case was a litmus test for justice in America.

 

                                              (Ariana Klay, former USMC officer)

Lt. Ariana Klay, a U. S. Naval Academy graduate, served as a protocol officer for the U. S. Marine Corps Barracks, Washington, DC. She alleged that while there, she was sexually harassed by a lieutenant colonel, a major and a captain. She said she was gang-raped by a Marine officer and his civilian friend, a former Marine.

Lt. Klay alleged that the Marine officer threatened to kill her and told his friend he would show him “what a slut she was” and “humiliate” her. After she reported the alleged rapes and subsequent harassment, the Marine Corps investigation ruled that she welcomed the harassment because “she wore makeup, regulation-length skirts as a part of her uniform and exercised in running shorts and tank tops.”

The Marine Corps did not punish any of those who were accused of sexually harassing Lt. Klay. One of her alleged harassers was granted a waiver by the Corps that permitted him to get a security clearance despite accusations of hazing and sexual misconduct against not only Lt.  Klay but many others. He was selected to be in a nationally televised recruitment commercial while he was still under investigation.

The Marine Corps finally court-martialed one of Lt. Klay’s alleged attackers but didn’t convict him of rape, instead finding him guilty of adultery and indecent language (a common escape by military courts from the rape charge). The military court ruled that Lt.  Klay “consented” to having sex with the men despite the evidence that the accused threatened to kill her.Lt. Klay has attempted suicide since the alleged rapes and harassment and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

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