Posts Tagged With: Claire McCaskill

Balboni Case Was A Precursor Of Today’s Military Toxic Environment

United States Coast Guard Seal, in correct PMS...

United States Coast Guard Seal, in correct PMS colors. This emblem shall only be used in accordance with the Coast Guard Heraldry Manual, and is not to be reproduced commercially without prior approval of the U.S. Coast Guard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(LTJG Christine D. Balboni and her attorney, LCDR London Steverson at her hearing on sexual harassment allegations at Coast Guard Base Alameda California in 1984)

 

Today Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, (Dem,N.Y.) said  “Commanders can’t always be objective, nor can all of them distinguish between a “slap on the ass” and more serious cases such as rape.

 

Lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives led by Senator Gillibrand, who serves on the Armed Services panel, have introduced legislation that would remove sexual-assault cases from the military chain of command.

 

“After speaking to victims, they have told us that the reason they do not report these crimes is because they fear retaliation,” Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, told the military leaders at the hearing. “You have lost the trust of the men and women who rely on you that you would actually bring justice” in their cases.

 

Victims’ advocacy groups say service members who are attacked often are reluctant to step forward in a system in which commanding officers decide whether to bring charges, choose the military jury and can reduce or overturn a sentence.

 

The Sexual Harassment case of LTJG Christine D. Balboni was a harginger of today’s military environment.  In that case the military was treated to a preview of the toxic environment that the Senators are hearing about today. The Coast Guard did not take the warning that the Balboni Case presented them with. The military did not accept it as an omen.

 

The uniformed leaders of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, in a Senate hearing room with dozens of other military officers, admitted to lawmakers that the Defense Department had failed to effectively prevent or respond to sexual assaults despite years of trying.

 

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., grew heated in questioning military leaders during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., grew heated in questioning military leaders during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearingtoday, June 4, 2013.

 

The Pentagon doesn’t know how many members are raped or sexually assaulted because surveys don’t distinguish between “predatory” behavior and an “unhealthy” working environment, she said at the hearing.

 

The military has “sexual predators who are not committing crimes of lust,” she said. “This isn’t about sex.” Rather it’s about “domination” and violence, she said.

 

When asked by Levin, only the chiefs of the Coast Guard and Army said that leaders have been relieved of command as a result of a climate of sexual assault and harassment. (Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Papp relieved a Captain of command in 2010 because of inappropriate relationships. It is too bad he was only a junior officer and was not in a position of senior leadership in 1980 when LTJG Balboni filed her case against three senior Coast Guard officer aboard the USCGC Rush WHEC in Alameda, California.)

 

 

BALBONI v. DOT; USCG; L. Telfer, P. Keyes, A. Cascardi.

 

United States Coast Guard Civil Rights Hearing, DOT Case No. 82-177.

 

Case was heard February 6, 1984 and following at U.S. Coast Guard Base Alameda, Ca. before The Honorable Paul E. Weil, Administrative Law Judge for the Department of Transportation.

 

APPEARING for the United States Coast Guard;

LCDR Gary Heil, 12th Coast Guard District, Government Island, Alameda, Ca. 94501

 

APPEARING for Captain Larry Telfer; an Alleged Discriminating Official (ADO)

LCDR Tom Barrett, Commandant (G-L)

 

APPEARING for Commander Phil Keyes; an Alleged Discriminating Official (ADO)

Lcdr. Robert Allard, Commandant (G-L)

 

APPEARING for LT Andrew Cascardi; an Alleged Discriminating Official (ADO)

Lcdr. Michael Kudalis Commandant (G-L)

 

APPEARING for the COMPLAINANTS LT(jg) Christine D. Balboni and CWO Charles VanMeter,

Lcdr. London Steverson, Chief, Investigating Officer, MIO, New York, NY.

 

WITNESSES:

LTJG Christine D. Balboni, USCG

LTJG Ann Flamang, aka Gang-bang Flamang, USCG,

LTJG Jodie Turner, aka Diesel Dyke Turner, USCG,

LTJG Margaret Carlson, USCG Communications Officer onboard USCGc RUSH (WHEC)

Mr. Jeremiah Healy, formerly a Coast Guard enlisted man, ST2 Jerry Healy.

MST1 Smith.

CDR Phil Keyes, USCG, Executive Officer onboard USCGC RUSH (WHEC)

LT Andrew Cascardi, USCG Operations Officer onboard USCGC RUSH (WHEC)

CAPT Larry Telfer, USCG, Commanding Officer, USCGC RUSH (WHEC)

CWO Charles Van Meter, USCG.

 

(Regulatory Authority: Pursuant to Department of Transportation (DOT) Order 1000.8A, and the U. S. Coast Guard Civil Rights Manual Commandant USCG Instruction M5350.11B)

 

COMPLAINT: The Complainant, LTjg Christine D. Balboni, alleges and contends that the three Alleged Discriminating Officials (ADO) discrininated against her on the basis of her sex; that they sexually harassed her; that they verbally abused and slandered her; that they created a hostile and intimidating work environment for her onboard the USCGC RUSH (WHEC) that made it impossible for her to do her job; that they circulated rumors and malicious gossip concerning her among the other officers and the enlisted men on the ship; that they memorialized this same gossip and rumors when they reduced it to writing in the form of regular and special officer fitness for duty reports that they swore to and forwarded up the chain of command; and that they did it recklessly and with knowledge of its probable affects upon her Coast Guard career. The Complainant further alleges and contends that this conduct on the part of the ADOs was unbecoming of an officer and a gentlemen, and that it was to the predjudice of good order and discipline.

 

EXCERPTS from the Official Transcript of the Formal Hearing on the record.

 

OPENING STATEMENT: (LCDR L. Steverson, Counsel for the Complainants.)

May it please the Court, Your Honor, the United States Coast Guard is the last bastion of white male supremacy among the Armed Forces of the United States. Discrimination, bias, prejudice, abuse of power, hatred, and harassment have all been employed to keep it that way. These are evils that withstand the winds of logic by the depth and toughness of their roots in the past.

It was inevitable that this case maybe even others would have to be brought to see which way the Coast Guard would go and to see wherein does justice lie.

It is only be happenstance that the Complainant in this case is LTjg Christine D. Balboni, or that the Alleged Discriminating Officials are Captain Larry Telfer, Commander Phil Keyes, and Lieutenant Andy Cascardi. They are all victims of the twin forces of history and destiny.

We believe that the evidence in this case will show that the Complainant, Ms. Balboni, has been greatly wronged. The evidence will show that the workplace onboard the U. S. Coast Guard Cutter RUSH was pervaded with sexual slurs, insults and innuendo; that Ms. Balboni was personally the object of verbal sexual harassment; that this harassment took the form of vulgar and offensive, sexually-related epithets addressed to and employed about her by the ADO’s.

We will show that she was forced to work in a hostile and intimidating environment where the walls were papered with the pictures of nude women; where pornographic movies were were regularly shown on the ship’s videotape T.V. monitors; where a prophylactic was unrolled and taped to her state room door; where male crew members bursted into her room uninvited around midnight; where she could not even close her state room door in privacy whenever a friend or a crew member of the opposite sex was in the room; where she was prohibited, ordered not to associate with the only friend that she had on the ship; where she was accused of compromising acts that had actually been done by other female members of the crew, and other acts that, in one instance, had not even occured; where she was penalized with adverse officer performance ratings, or fitness reports, as you will, because of these incidents where she was falsely accused and where no investigation or verification of the facts had been done; where her pleas to higher authority for help fell on deaf ears, or she was further demeaned by being told that she did not have the right plumbing, an obvious reference to her sex and that she was not a man, all in an atmosphere of motion pictures depicting fellatio, cunnilingus, “menage-a-tois” in the officer’s ward room during the evening meal and Sunday morning breakfast.

The Complainant, Ms. Balboni, was accused of being immoral, unethical, and unprofessional simply because she whispered and giggled with and had a close platonic friendship with a fellow officer who happened to be married.

The evidence will show that LTjg Balboni was never seen holding hands or kissing or anything else with Chief Warrant Officer Van Meter; that she was never seen by Commander Phil Keyes sitting in Chief Warrant Officer Van Meter’s lap with her arms around his neck; that she was never seen by a crew member in a male officers state room naked or with no bra on while a male officer was present. Yet she has been accused of these very acts. She has been reprimanded for these very acts.

The evidence will show that the incidents of harassment in this case were so pervasive that all of the Alleged Discriminating Officials and maybe even their supervisors were aware of them, that they had actual and constructive knowledge of the existence of a sexually hostile working environment and that they took no prompt action or in some cases no action at all to remedy the situation.

Thank you, Your Honor.

 

 

Categories: Coast Guard Cases | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Categories: Military Justice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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