Posts Tagged With: Uniform Code of Military Justice

Lawyers, Liars, and Virtual Predators.

LCDR Shawn Gray, USCG.(In Center of photo)

Lieutenant Commander Shawn Gray,U S Coast Guard, an attorney and officer with the U.S. Coast Guard Judge Advocate General Corps, drove from his home in Miami to Sarasota recently to meet an 8-year-old girl he had met in a chat room. But when LCDR Gray arrived in Sarasota County, to a house where he thought the child would be home alone, he was instead greeted by Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office deputies who arrested him. “He had hoped to have sex with an 8-year-old girl,” Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight said of Gray, who was charged with use of a computer and traveling to seduce, solicit or entice a child to commit sex acts. LCDR Gray is being charged with a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, said Chief Assistant State Attorney Ed Brodsky. LCDR Gray was one of 31 nabbed in a six-day sting called Operation Intercept, an attempt to protect Manatee and Sarasota counties’ children from online predators, Knight said Monday during a news conference at the sheriff’s office in downtown Sarasota. Two of the 31 arrested were from Miami-Dade County. Besides LCDR Gray, 21-year-old Dalbert Borges of Hialeah was also charged with the same crime. All 31 suspects responded to Internet-based ads and engaged in sexually explicit written and verbal conversation, according to a Sarasota Sheriff’s Office press release. What also is disturbing about the sting, in which the sheriff’s office also was able to take the suspect’s vehicles as “tools of their trade,” is that this form of predation seems to be able to fool children who are not fooled when someone tries to entice them in person. “This is a different way of doing the stranger danger, and now they are using technology,” said Venice Chief of Police Thomas McNulty. “An informed child is a child not likely to be victimized,” McNulty added. The suspects all agreed to come to a secret location in Sarasota County with the intent to have sex with a child or children.

LT Jason Frank, USCG.

LT Jason Frank, U S Coast Guard, a Gaithersburg, Maryland man who repeatedly sneaked into a Stafford County, Virginia teenager’s room to have sex with her pleaded guilty to six charges in 2008. Jason F. Frank, 37, was convicted in Stafford Circuit Court to three counts of computer solicitation of a minor, two counts of carnal knowledge and attempted carnal knowledge. He faced a maximum penalty of 55 years in prison. According to evidence presented by prosecutor Lori DiGiosia, Frank met the girl on MySpace a few years ago and communicated with her by phone and text-messaging. LT Frank, a member of the Coast Guard was assigned to the Command Center Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington DC. He is married and has a teenage daughter. He told the Stafford girl that his name was “Eric” and that he was 28 years old. He came to see the girl at her home at least three times, according to the evidence. He entered the home in the middle of the night through her bedroom window. In September and December of 2006, LT Frank and the girl had consensual sex. He told her that he loved her and that she was special to him. They were about to have sex again on August 1, 2007 DiGiosia said, but the girl’s mother heard a noise and came downstairs and confronted LT Frank.

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

Lawyers Fight Among Themselves Before They Fight The Opposition

Seattle-based John Henry Browne is the civilian attorney representing Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, the U.S. soldier accused of murdering 17 Afghan villagers. Attorney Browne wants to replace the military lawyer assigned to the case. They are having serious disagreements over how to handle the defense.

“You are fired, sorry, but we have much more experience than you,” Attorney Browne, said to military lawyer Major Thomas Hurley. Major is an experienced military lawyer. He has handled more than 60 military courts-martial; three involved homicide charges; however, none were capital cases.

The Army assigns defense counsel such as Hurley to soldiers facing court martial but defendants also have the right to hire additional civilian counsel. The military assigned counsel is called the Detailed Military counsel (DMC). The hired civilian counsel is called the Individual Military counsel (IMC).

“Major Hurley is not a team player and has no experience in murder cases, we do,” Attorney Browne has said. “We have gotten 17 not guilty verdicts in murder cases and have gotten life verdicts in all our death penalty cases.”

Browne unleashed a unilateral public attack on the way U.S. prosecutors are handling the investigation into the shooting and accused U.S. authorities of blocking access to potential witnesses. There is also disagreement over the decision to put Bales’ wife on the television talk show circuit.

Major Hurley believes making public statement on television before the trial “limit our options at trial or expose important witnesses to effective cross-examination that they would otherwise not have to face”.

I faced similar situations when I was a retired officer Coast Guard Law Specialist representing Coast Guard members in Coast Guard Base  New York in courts-martial. However, I never had to assert my authority as lead counsel, Individual Military Counsel (IMC). The Coast Guard always detailed the most junior and inexperienced military counsel to the members that I represented. They were only qualified to carry my brief case and take notes, and they knew it. They were content to observe and listen and sometimes offer a helpful comment. I had just retired, I knew the Uniform  Code of Military Justice; I knew the accused; and I knew the judges and all of the members of the Prosecution team; so, I was better qualified to represent the accused. And the military counsels knew this, so , they never challenged my decisions in conducting the defense of the accused.

In the case of the Coast Guard Academy court-martial of Cadet Webster Smith there was similar tension and disagreement between CDR Merle Smith, (IMC) and LT Stuart Kirkby, (DMC). LT Kirkby was not even a Coast Guard Law Specialist. He was a Navy Judge Advocate General from the Naval Submarine Base at Groton, CT..

There was serious tension between CDR Smith and LT Kirkby. The tension and friction became so acute that it required several emergency sessions with the parents of Cadet Webster Smith to settle the issues. (THIS SUBJECT WILL BE TREATED IN DETAIL IN MY NEXT BOOK, THE SEQUEL TO CONDUCT UNBECOMING an Officer and Lady)

There were disagreements about who to put on the witness list, who to call as a witness, who wouldl make the Opening Statement, who wouldl make the Closing Argument, who would argue which motion, which motions to bring, who wouldl examine which witnesses, who would make objections to statement and questions by the Prosecution, whether to give interviews to the news media, which questions to ask which witness; and , the biggest issue of all, whether to put the Accused, Webster Smith, on the witness stand. That is always a crucial decision.  In the Webster Smith Case, it may have been the one issue decided the final verdict in the case.

http://www.amazon.com/CONDUCT-UNBECOMING-Officer-Lady-ebook/dp/B006VPAADK

 

 

This review is from: CONDUCT UNBECOMING an Officer and Lady (Kindle Edition)

CONDUCT UNBECOMING an Officer and a Lady: A Review.

 

I read this book. Judge London Steverson, the author, a 1968 Coast Guard Academy graduate, and retiree, did an outstanding job of parsing the facts of what is arguably a judicial tragedy.

 

According to the book, leaders at the Coast Guard Academy failed to follow the recommendation of the investigating officer, which was not to prosecute the accused of sexual assault, among other allegations, because evidence of the alleged crimes seemed insufficient; failed to follow procedures in responding to the defendant’s Article 138 claim and failed to allow the defendant the customary grace period before reporting for confinement. There are a few other apparent missteps–like failing to instruct the jury that the defense does not have a burden of proof in criminal cases–that are capably documented in the book. Rather, according to the author, the Coast Guard Academy leadership chose to prosecute on the recommendation of a staff attorney in spite of the recommendation of the investigating officer the leadership appointed.

 

As for the defendant, some of his alleged conduct could, conceivably, call into question his judgment and discretion. To that end, he seemed to overlook a common, conspiratorial axiom: “There is no honor among thieves.” As it relates to discretion, at his age he may not have heard the axiom, “Loose lips sink ships.” The defendant was popular and athletic according to the book. These are traits that some others usually find attractive. Judge Steverson details how these traits attracted several cadets to the defendant. Consequently, one of the attractees had a mishap that directly involved the defendant and the two entered into a secret pact not to reveal the mishap because it could have an impact on both of their lives as cadets. Well, the defendant’s second error seemed one of indiscretion because this particular attractee subsequently got wind of the tale involving the shared secret and turned her apparent affection into unabated vengeance. Not only did she turn to vengeance towards the once popular, now vilified athlete, but another five or six attractees also seemed to act in concert, according to the text. According to the author’s account. All it took to convict the defendant was the allegations of sexual assault among other allegations.

 

The gist of the book is the author’s plea to the Coast Guard to live up to the Constitution that its members, including the Court Martial’s convening authority and the defendant, swore to uphold and protect. He pleads with Coast Guard Academy leadership not to substitute their personal feelings of how they think the world should operate for justice. The author asks them to remain faithful to this nation’s long-standing creed of “Equal protection under the law.” Finally, the author pleads with the Coast Guard Academy leadership to adhere to established legal procedures. Rather than answer the author’s pleas to uphold and protect the Constitution, ensure equal protection under the law and adhere to established legal procedures, the author asserts the Coast Guard seemed to want to send a message to this cadet. Why this cadet? We may never know. He was talented, athletic and popular, but it is fairly certain most cadets are talented and athletic, even if not popular. Perhaps, the timing was wrong; perhaps the Coast Guard thought it was time to address the issue of sexual assault at the Coast Guard Academy or was it just bad timing for this cadet? That this cadet was the first cadet in Coast Guard history to be court martialed and had a distinguishable ethnicity is germane. Wrong place? Wrong time? You decide.

 

The author gives you a lot to work with. It is readily apparent the esteemed author thoroughly researched this matter and presented exhaustive explanations of law and fact. Transcripts of the legal proceedings are provided in the appendixes. This book is recommended to anyone interested in military legal proceedings or simple justice. The author’s assertion that this case will live in infamy does not seem like an exaggeration. Only time will tell if it is the Coast Guard Academy’s or the defendant’s infamy.

 

Categories: Military Justice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who Played The Race Card in the Webster Smith Case? A 2nd Look at The Case That Will Live In Infamy.

United States Coast Guard Academy - graduation...

Image via Wikipedia

Who Played The Race Card In The Webster Smith Case?

Who played the race card in the Webster Smith case? Was it Commandant of Cadets Doug Wisniewski and CWO2 David French? Or was it Webster Smith’s defense team? Could it have been the news media? Someone certainly did, because the race of the accused was reported before the trial began. Early newspaper reports of the investigation and pending trial carried a picture of the accused. Cadet Webster Smith was shown wearing his formal mess dress uniform. Only the Commandant of Cadets at the Academy had access and authority to release such a personal photo of Cadet Smith. It was a deliberate move to put a face on the alleged crime. The Coast Guard wanted to paint it black. Webster Smith was intended to become the poster child of the sexual predator at the Coast Guard Academy.

Playing the race card in this instance was clearly a racist act. The social and legal meaning of “racism” is in a state of flux. In this post-Civil Rights era, we have no clear and agreed-upon meaning for the term. This has lead to confusion and disagreement. Reasonable people of goodwill may make sincere claims of racist behavior that strike others as wrong and misdirected. The Civil Rights movement succeeded in convincing most Americans that racial bias and prejudice is wrong and fundamentally un-American.

Playing the race card is not new. It is wrong and troubling for several reasons; it is dishonest; and, it typically involves jumping to a conclusion that is not compelled by the facts. The Case of Webster Smith involves objective facts that people can observe and verify.

What the people who singled out Webster Smith for court-martial did not seem to foresee was that playing the race card is dangerous and shortsighted. Also, it is just plain mean-spirited. Racism ruins careers and destroys reputations. Webster Smith’s career as a Coast Guard officer died before it was born. Captain Douglas Wisnewski’s career was side-tracked; and, Admiral Van Sice’s career was not permitted the honorable end that it deserved.

Overuse and abuse of the claim of bias is bad for the Coast Guard and military justice, as well as society at large. Any claim that the race card was played in the Webster Smith Case inevitably provokes defensiveness and resentment from certain quarters. Playing the race card in this case probably lead to a presumption of guilt. Webster Smith was not able to receive a fair trial in that environment. He was constitutionally entitled to a presumption of innocence. Presuming the worst is understandable in a society in which racism persists but is rarely openly expressed. About two generations after the Coast Guard Academy opened its doors to its first Black cadet, racism reared its ugly head in a most daring and pernicious way.

Excerpts from The Day newspaper concerning the court-martial of Cadet Webster Smith said as follows:
Defense lawyers say race is a factor in the case. Smith is black, his accusers are white, and defense attorneys suspect the women conspired to bring false accusations against him.
If race wasn’t a factor when six women accused Smith of sexual misconduct, Merle Smith said, it might have been when a seventh woman came forward and the academy added new charges. Most of the sex-related charges have been dismissed.

“…as this thing has continued to evolve, I guess, as the first 16 charges didn’t appear to be going well, I guess they had to find another eight to see if they could make that case,” Merle Smith said.
Academy officials have said they will not comment on specific allegations before the trial.

The jury of Coast Guard officers included four white men, one white woman, three black men and a man of Asian descent.

Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen was correct. In his State of the Coast Guard address he said, “We have never been more relevant and we have never been more visible to the Nation we serve”.

We are more visible because we have received more publicity. For some people craving recognition, all publicity is good. It is free advertising. Not for an old and venerated service. For an old public service, bad publicity can be dangerous and disastrous.

There was security in our obscurity. Publicity is a blessing and a curse. You can no longer be hidden and presumed to be ethical, and competent. Now you have to demonstrate that competence, and you have to demonstrate the high moral behavior that you claim to have and want to instill in those coming after you. You cannot just talk that talk; now, you have to walk that walk.

The Smith case is the first court-martial of a cadet in the Academy’s history. The Smith case brought a lot of sudden attention.

The end of Admiral James Van Sice’s military career was more difficult news for the Academy. It has experienced a series of cadet run-ins with the law. The first and most prominent incident happened under Van Sice’s watch. He is the father of the Webster Smith debacle; however, he may not be the author. History will be the final judge, but it appears that the conspiracy was hatched in the Halls of Congress. Most of the evidence that I have been able to uncover and place in context points to former Connecticut Congressman Christopher Shays.

The Commandant of the Coast Guard would have gone a long way toward restoring public faith in the Coast Guard and in the Academy, if he had punished Admiral Van Sice more appropriately and if he had been more forthcoming with the details of his misconduct and the type of punishment.

Smith’s attorneys, who raised the possibility that the charges could have been racially motivated, said they were pleased by the jury’s diversity. Smith was Black and all of the accusers were white.

In a January 21, 2006 article in The Day newspaper it was reported that from 1993 until the spring semester of 2005, the Coast Guard Academy had 10 reported incidents of sexual misconduct, according to information provided by the Academy. Of those, six incidents resulted in dismissal of the accused and two ended in resignation. In the remaining two cases, there was insufficient evidence to pursue charges.

One of the other two complaints, stemming from the first semester of 2005-06, resulted in a confession and the Dec. 15 dismissal of a first-year male student, who departed immediately, according to Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) French. He stated that a female cadet reported non-consensual sexual advances from a freshman male in the Chase Hall barracks, the dormitory where all students reside.

No criminal charges were filed, according to CWO French. Notice French said non-consensual sexual advances, when in point of fact it was rape, since the female cadet did not give her consent.

It is safe to assume that none of the male cadets involved were African American, because whenever a Black male is involved the news report very explicitly points out that the male was Black, as was reported in the Webster Smith case. Smith, a linebacker on the academy’s football team, was charged Feb. 9, 2006 under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) ,military law ,with rape, assault, indecent assault and sodomy against female cadets.

The Associated Press reported on February 25, 2006 that a cadet was kicked out instead of prosecuted.

A local civilian prosecutor in New London, CT said he was reviewing how information is exchanged with the U.S. Coast Guard Academy after learning a cadet who admitted sexual misconduct wasn’t prosecuted but kicked out of school last year.

New London State’s Attorney Kevin Kane would not say whether he believes he has jurisdiction in the case.

An academy spokesman said he could not comment on the case, citing privacy rules.

“It was fully investigated and handled appropriately,” Chief Warrant Officer David French, the Academy spokesman, said.

According to an Academy discipline summary, the male cadet was expelled in December after admitting to sexual misconduct that was determined to be non-consensual.

So, there were 10 reported cases from 1993 to 2005, and not one resulted in a court-martial. The first report of sexual misconduct involving a Black cadet resulted in a General court-martial. It was not just any court-martial, but the type reserved for murder, treason, and assault with intent to commit grievous bodily harm.

The Coast Guard Academy had 982 students, nearly 30 percent of whom were women. If a report involving sexual assault or misconduct is made to the chain of command the Coast Guard Investigative Service, CGIS, must examine it.

“The commandant of cadets, CAPT Douglas Wisniewski, took immediate action to initiate the investigation into the allegations”, CWO2 David French said. French declined a request for an interview with Commandant of Cadets, Capt. Douglas Wisniewski. The Coast Guard Academy largely limited its responses to brief written statements delivered by e-mail.

Captain Doug Wisniewski, who graduated from the Academy with the last all-male class, was replaced by the first woman to hold the post, Captain Judith Keene, who graduated in the second class to accept women.

“Sexual misconduct at the academy 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 sex. This does not include rape, because rape is not a consensual act.

If the Academy disposes of 10 cases of sexual misconduct without a court-martial, but on the 11th case of a report of sexual misconduct it convenes a General court-martial, is that playing the race card? What if all 10 of the first cases involved only white cadets, but the 11th case involved a Black cadet? One has to ask why the Black cadet was singled out for a court-martial. Of the three types of courts-martial available, the most extreme was chosen; that is, a General Court-martial. If found guilty, a Summary Court-martial could have awarded 30 days in jail as punishment; a Special Court-martial could have awarded up to six months; but, a General Court-martial could have awarded life imprisonment or the death penalty.

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. In this case Doug Wisniewski dealt the cards, and he dealt from the bottom of the deck

Whites are generally reluctant to acknowledge racism, but they are quick to accuse Black people of playing the race card. The tendency for whites to deny the extent of racism and racial injustice is reflected in the opinions solicited in Norwich on the day that Webster Smith was found guilty and later sentenced to six months in the brig. White comments were generally that this was a reasonable conclusion to the entire sorry affair. An Academy employee said that this is good. It shows that the Academy took timely and effective action. This was evidence of white denial and total indifference to Black persecution.

The Convening Authority for the court-martial was the Superintendent of the Academy, Admiral James Van Sice. Unbelievably, Admiral Van Sice went out of his way to talk to Belinda Smith, Webster Smith’s mother, during the trial. He kept assuring her that everything was going to be alright. On several occasions he told her that as soon as the trial was over, everything was going to be alright. One has to wonder for whom was he speaking. Was Admiral Van Sice in denial or did he think that Belinda and Cadet Webster Smith were expendable?

Perhaps this is why, contrary to popular belief, research indicates that people of color are actually reluctant to allege racism, be it on the job, or in schools, or anywhere else. Far from playing the race card at the drop of a hat, it is actually the case that black and brown folks typically stuff their experiences with discrimination and racism, only making an allegation of such treatment after many, many incidents have transpired, about which they said nothing for fear of being ignored or attacked.

So says Tim Wise, activist, lecturer and director of the new Association for White Anti-Racist Education (AWARE). Tim Wise works from anecdote rather than academic argument to recount his path to greater cultural awareness in a colloquial, matter-of-fact quasi-memoir that urges white people to fight racism ‘for our own sake.’ Wise is the author of two books: White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son (Soft Skull Press, 2005), and Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White. In White Like Me, Wise offers a highly personal examination of the ways in which racial privilege shapes the lives of most white Americans, overtly racist or not, to the detriment of people of color, themselves, and society.

Precisely because white denial has long trumped claims of racism, people of color tend to under-report their experiences with racial bias, rather than exaggerate them. When it comes to playing the race card, it is more accurate to say that whites are the dealers with the loaded decks.

Categories: Coast Guard Cases | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Did Bradley Manning Expose War Crimes or Commit War Crimes?

HAGERSTOWN, Md. – Military District of Washington Commander Major General Michael Linnington is the Convening Authority (CA) in the case of U.S. vs Pfc Bradley Manning. He has taken the recommendation of the Article 32 Investigating Officer (IO) and referred all charges against Pfc. Bradley Manning to a General Court-martial. Manning is a low-ranking intelligence analyst charged in the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history.

This means Pfc. Manning will stand trial for allegedly giving more than 700,000 secret U.S. documents and classified combat video to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks for publication.

Manning is a 24-year-old native from Crescent, Oklahoma. He faces 22 charges, including aiding the enemy. A General Court-martial has the power to impose the death penalty. The Convening Authority has said that it has taken the death penalty off the table. So, the maximum punishment that Manning faces if convicted is life imprisonment.

A judge who is yet to be appointed will set the trial date. The military judge will immediately face a “speedy trial” issue. Under the UCMJ, Uniform Code Of Military Justice, an accused must be brought to trial within 120 days of the preferral of charges.

Manning’s lead defense counsel, is a civilian attorney, David Coombs.

Defense lawyers say Manning was clearly a troubled young soldier whom the Army should never have deployed to Iraq or given access to classified material while he was stationed there from late 2009 to mid-2010.

At a preliminary hearing in December, military prosecutors produced evidence that Manning downloaded and electronically transferred to WikiLeaks nearly half a million sensitive battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables, and video of a deadly 2007 Army helicopter attack that WikiLeaks shared with the world and dubbed “Collateral Murder.”

Manning’s lawyers countered that others had access to Manning’s workplace computers. They say he was in emotional turmoil, partly because he was a gay soldier at a time when homosexuals were barred from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces.

The DADT (Don’t ask, Don’t Tell) policy of the military will loom large as part of the defense strategy. It is possible that the Defense Witness List would include the names of such people as retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullens.

On February 2, 2010, Admiral Mike Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that they fully support President Obama’s decision to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which prevented openly gay people from serving in the military. “It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do,” Mullen said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. “No matter how I look at the issue…I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens…For me, it comes down to integrity – theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”

The defense also claims Manning’s apparent disregard for security rules during stateside training and his increasingly violent outbursts after deployment were red flags that should have prevented him from having access to classified material. Manning’s lawyers also contend that the material WikiLeaks published did little or no harm to national security.

In the December hearing at Fort Meade, Md., prosecutors also presented excerpts of online chats found on Manning’s personal computer that allegedly document collaboration between him and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Federal prosecutors in northern Virginia are investigating Assange and others for allegedly facilitating the disclosures.

The Bradley Manning Support Group, which contends Manning heroically exposed war crimes, issued a statement calling his prosecution “fundamentally unjust.”

“This administration owes all Americans an honest explanation for their extraordinary retaliation against Bradley Manning,” said Jeff Paterson, one of the group’s lead organizers.

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

I Will Fight No More Forever.

I Will Fight No More Forever.

America‘s fighting men have come in many guises, shapes and sizes. They have had to fight all of America’s enemies, both foreign and domestic. Cadet Webster Smith had to fight his own senior officers, friends, and mentors. In the end he was proud. He had fought the good fight. Even TIME magazine carried the quote of the first cadet in Coast Guard history to be tried by a General Court-martial.

http://www.time.com/time/quotes/0,26174,1209244,00.html

Less than 60 days after the verdict was rendered in the Webster Smith case, I predicted that the case would make it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court justices are not elected. They are appointed with the advice and consent of the Congress. The Nine Justices of the Supreme Court are the least democratic branch of the federal government. They have no constituency. They do not have to conform to the biases of the majority. They are the Court of Last Resort; so, they are infallible. With few exceptions, they have dealt evenhandedly with all of America’s citizens.

They do not have to sit for re-election. They are appointed for life. They are totally isolated from busy bodies on the Right or Left Side of the political spectrum. With one stroke of the pen, they may act to curb injustices, correct unsavory attitudes, and breathe new life into a living Constitution.

Historically we have looked to them to solve our most vexing social problems. They are America’s ultimate arbiters of justice; and, that includes military justice.

Aside from the Webster Smith Case, I cannot think of any case or incident in Coast Guard history that affected more directly the hearts, minds, and daily lives of all members of the United States Coast Guard.

The U.S. Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals had to review the Webster Smith case. It had no choice. Article 66 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, requires the Coast Guard Criminal Appeals Court to review all cases of trial by court-martial in which the sentence as approved by the Convening Authority extends to dismissal of a cadet from the Coast Guard, and/or a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge, unless the accused waives appellate review. Webster Smith did not waive appellate review. He appealed his conviction. Oral argument in the Case of The Appeal of the Court-martial Conviction of Cadet Webster Smith was scheduled for January 16, 2008 in Arlington, Virginia.

A legal brief filed by his lawyers claimed the convictions should have been thrown out because the defense team was not allowed to fully cross-examine one of his accusers during Smith’s court martial. They said that meant the jury didn’t hear testimony that the accuser, a female cadet, Shelly Roddenbush, had once had consensual sex with a Coast Guard enlisted man and then called it sexual assault. If she lied once, she very well could have lied again.

The Coast Guard Court of of Criminal Appeals is made up of Coast Guard Officers. It has the power to decide matter of both fact and law. Decisions of the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals may be appealed to the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces (CAAF). It is made up of five civilian judges, appointed to 15 year terms. It decides only issues of law. Its decisions may be appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court. The Webster Smith Case followed this long and winding path all the way to the Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of Webster Smith. The justices declined to hear the case without comment.

Webster Smith was proud of his decision to fight the good fight all the way to the end of the road. See TIME magazine June 29, 2006.

http://www.time.com/time/quotes/0,26174,1209244,00.html

https://www.amazon.com/author/cgachall.blogspot.com

Categories: Military Justice | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bradley Manning and Webster Smith, Two Young Men Forced To Stand Before The Bar Of Military Justice.

An Army Article 32 Investigating Officer has recommended that the charges against Bradley Manning be referred to a general court-martial. An article 32 Investigation is the equivalent of a civilian grand jury. In the military it is convened under the authority of Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

So, it is official. A military tribunal will be convened in this case. This is the Friday the 13th Double Whammy for Bradley Manning. These military tribunals will probably become more common under the Imperial Presidency of Barack Obama now that he has the legal authority to detain indefinitely without trial anyone considered a terrorist.

It would be wise for most American to become acquainted with the UCMJ and its procedures. This is the same type of forum that was used to convict Cadet Webster Smith at the U. S. Coast Guard Academy for alleged sexual assault. And it is the same type of forum that will be used to try the cadets at the U. S. Air Force Academy who were charged earlier this week with alleged sex crimes.

A book about the Webster Smith case describes the UCMJ procedure from pre-trial investigation all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court. It is entitled “CONDUCT UNBECOMING an Officer and Lady”. It is available in Kindle format from Amazon.com and can be read for free on a Kindle reader.

(http://www.amazon.com/CONDUCT-UNBECOMING-Officer-Lady-ebook/dp/B006VPAADK/ref=pd_rhf_se_p_t_2)

The charges against Private Manning include aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet knowing it is accessible to the enemy, theft of public property or records, transmitting defense information and computer fraud.

If convicted, Manning, an army private before the WikiLeaks furor erupted, could be sentenced to life in prison. Webster Smith was sentenced to 6 months in prison, a bad conduct discharge, and separation form the armed forces. He was also required to register as a sex offender in the State of Texas.

The recommendation followed a seven-day Article 32 Investigation to determine if there was sufficient evidence to try the 24-year-old private from Oklahoma. The IO found that there was probable cause to proceed to a trial.

Manning is accused of giving WikiLeaks a massive trove of US military reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, 260,000 classified State Department cables, Guantanamo detainee assessments and videos of US air strikes.

Trained on various intelligence systems, Manning served in Iraq from November 2009 until his arrest in May 2010.

The anti-secrecy website began releasing the military documents in July 2010. It dumped the entire archive of diplomatic documents in September 2011, causing huge embarrassment to U.S. Government.

It is alleged that contact information for WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, military reports, cables and other classified material had been found on computers and storage devices used by Manning.

Our commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama, has publicly declared Manning guilty before he has had his day in court. One would have expected a former Constitutional law professor to show more respect for the presumption of innocence that an accused is afforded under the U. S. Constitution. This could sure taint any potential jury pool.

In his closing argument at the Article 32 hearing, Manning’s civilian defense attorney David Coombs said the government “overcharged in this case”. He begged the IO to reduce the charges to just three counts that would carry a total of 30 years in prison.

The defense portrayed Manning as suffering during his deployment near Baghdad from emotional problems stemming from his homosexuality, which his superiors did nothing to remedy.

Cadet Webster Smith was placed in pre-trial confinement and forced to work at hard labor for 6 months before he was taken to a trial. Bradley Manning was jailed for more than a year and a half. He complained of being placed in solitary confinement, of bullying by guards, and of being subjected to an ultra restrictive regime at the US military prison at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia just outside of Washington,DC.

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

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.