Posts Tagged With: Webster Smith

Former Cadet Webster Smith’s Appellate Attorney Could Rise or Fall With Obama

Ronald C. Machen, Appellate Defense Attorney for former Coast Guard Academy Cadet Webster Smith.

Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, has never run for public office. Many successful politicians have started careers doing just what he has done. His aggressiveness as U.S. Attorney for the District has ousted two city council members from city hall and has turned up the heat on anyone within reach of the tainted money that floated around Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s successful mayoral campaign in 2010. Rudolf Giuliani was the U.S. Attorney in New York. After he had successfully prosecuted a number of high-profile Mafia cases and cases against Wall Street financiers, he ran for Mayor of New York. He went on to serve two terms.

The career of Attorney Machen could rise or fall with the fortunes of President Obama. Some new presidents retain a batch of U.S. attorneys but the coveted appointments typically are dictated by the winds of national politics.

Voters who decide in November whether to re-elect President Obama or replace him with Republican challenger Mitt Romney also might determine the fate of the most powerful man in D.C. politics.

Former Coast Guard Cadet, Webster Smith, the first USCG cadet ever to be court-martialed.

Machen is no stranger to high profile cases, and he has taken his share to the U.S. Supreme Court. He represented former Coast Guard Academy cadet, Webster Smith in his efforts to overturn his 2006 court-martial conviction.

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

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.

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. Every once in a while a case comes along that puts our humanity as a people on trial. Everything that we profess to stand for as Americans was on trial.

“The expectation is if Gov. Romney becomes President Romney, he’ll replace all the U.S. attorneys. Because that’s what presidents do,” said Paul Butler, a Georgetown law professor and former prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Conversely, analysts say, Mr. Machen, whom Mr. Obama tapped to lead the District’s office in December 2009, is on the shortlist of federal prosecutors qualified for a promotion to the upper echelons of the Justice Department if the president wins a second term and reorganizes his top law enforcement offices. Machen could even replace Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. who was sworn in as the 82nd Attorney General of the United States on February 3, 2009 by Vice President Joe Biden.

Mr. Machen, a former partner at the WilmerHale law firm who played football at Stanford University, leads the largest of the 93 U.S. attorney’s offices in the nation and its territories. Because of the District’s quasi-federal status, the office has an annual operating budget of about $70 million and roughly 300 assistant attorneys equipped to handle both federal crimes and local prosecutions that normally would fall to a state- or county-level district attorney, office spokesman Matt Jones said.

Mr. Jones, who declined to discuss potential post-election changes, said more than half of the office’s assistant U.S. attorneys are assigned to local prosecutions.

U.S. attorneys are given wide latitude in the types of cases they prosecute, and the dual caseload affords the top D.C. prosecutor a broad spectrum of cases to pursue. During the George W. Bush administration, U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr. said he wanted to “beef up” the District Court side of the District’s office to attract higher-profile cases, including terrorism cases and cases with international effect, in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

During the current administration, Mr. Machen’s office has taken on a range of high-profile matters, such as the unsuccessful prosecution of baseball pitcher Roger Clemens on charges that he lied to Congress and the convictions of five D.C. men involved a series of shootings in 2010 that killed five city youths, including three teenagers on South Capitol Street.

Mr. Machen quickly made local corruption a top priority after a trickle of scandal from city hall tarnished the local government’s reputation and prompted oversight hearings and sweeping reforms. The well-worn path from the John A. Wilson Building to the U.S. District Courthouse may have stained city politics, but Mr. Machen’s crew has rewritten the narrative on how federal prosecutors handle local corruption in the nation’s capital.

“This is not a city in which we’ve had effective and aggressive public-corruption prosecutions in the past,” Mr. Butler said, citing prosecutors’ inability to obtain verdicts on many of the charges that resulted from “mayor for life” Marion Barry’s high-profile drug arrest in 1990.

Although the top prosecutor sets the tone for the office, analysts say, it is unlikely that a new president – a Republican in this instance if Mr. Romney wins – would select a U.S. attorney who wants to quash investigations into majority-Democratic city officials and their associates. It is typically the line assistants – career assistant attorneys who are not political appointees – who do the heavy lifting in each investigation.

“There’s so much momentum from the work being done at the line attorney level,” said Stephen Vladeck, a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law. “That’s why the politics are not always partisan in that respect. Is it worth exerting yourself to stop the already moving boulder?”

Mr. Machen’s office is eight for eight in securing guilty pleas from city politicians and their associates in the city’s highest-profile corruption cases since the start of the year. After a civil case by D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, the prosecutor’s office charged council member Harry Thomas Jr., Ward 5 Democrat, in January with stealing public funds intended for youth sports programs. Thomas resigned his council seat and is serving a three-year prison term.

Six months later, Mr. Machen’s office took down council Chairman Kwame R. Brown on felony bank fraud and misdemeanor campaign finance charges, but a long-running probe into financial irregularities during the 2010 Gray campaign has yet to reach its zenith.

While many D.C. politicians frequently took a wait-and-see approach to their colleagues’ legal troubles, Mr. Machen and FBI investigators lambasted the ousted leaders’ “sense of entitlement.”

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

Coast Guard Academy’s 131st Graduation Speaker Was Janet Napolitano, Secretart of Homeland Security

English: United States Coast Guard Academy seal

English: United States Coast Guard Academy seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coast Guard Academy’s 131st Graduation Speaker is Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano

by London Richter on Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 3:16pm ·

HC HC Coast Guard Commencement02 NEW LONDON 05/16/12 Derek Balke (center) grips his cadet shoulder boards in his hands as he and fellow newly commissioned ensigns Anthony Bareno, (left) Emily Balingit Clark, (second from right) and Trevor Auth (right) take theirs off at the end of commencement ceremonies at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy‘s 131st commencement exercises at the New London campus.

May 16, 2012

New London, Connecticut

U.S. Coast Guard Academy

Good afternoon! Thank you, Admiral Papp, for the introduction, and for inviting me to speak today at your graduation, or as I’ve heard, roughly your 12th “culmination” since 2008.

By the way, I was challenged to see whether I could fit the names of all 16 of the Coast Guard’s 210’ cutters in this speech. Listen close: I have confidence you can count them all.

It’s good to be back at the Coast Guard Academy. I thank your Superintendent, Admiral Stosz, and all the members of the faculty who have helped get you to this point.

On behalf of your Commander in Chief, President Obama, (who will speak at the Air Force Academy on 22 May) congratulations to each of you. And thanks to all who have supported you: your families, your friends, and your (undoubtedly relieved) parents. Please join me in giving all those who have helped you a round of applause.

As the Service Secretary of the Coast Guard, it is my honor to address you as you embark on a career of service to your nation.

After four years of studying with diligence, you enter active duty with the confidence instilled by the finest multi-mission maritime military education in the world.

You have learned about both teamwork and self-reliance, and you have remained resolute in the face of many obstacles. You are well on your way to becoming steadfast leaders.

And that’s critical, because once you leave here, you will be given a lot of responsibility very quickly. I was on the Cutter Kittiwake just a couple weeks ago, and the majority of her crew, including the Commanding Officer, were 25 years old or younger.

Leadership in Uncertain Times

The qualities you have developed over the last four years, that strength of character, are exactly what our nation needs as your careers get underway during uncertain times.

Cadets, we live in a world of evolving threats and unconventional enemies; a world where the battlefield often has no boundaries or uniforms.

You will don many hats as you leave this Academy, because it means a lot to be a member of the Coast Guard – you are rescuers, protectors, first responders, law enforcers, teachers, public servants.

You graduate in a 21st Century anchored in neither the Cold War nor the conventional rules of warfare. In this ever-changing world, the only certainty is that you will be called on to carry out many missions around the globe:

You will help people who are in danger at sea. Last year, the Coast Guard rescued 3,804 men and women.

You will enforce our laws, ensuring that drugs and contraband stay away from our shores, and that our waters are protected from pollution and overfishing. Last year, the Coast Guard accounted for approximately 40% of all U.S., allied nation and partner nation interdictions in the drug transit zone.

You will stop human traffickers and others who are trying to come to our shores illegally, while saving those who have become stranded in crafts not worthy of the sea. Last year, the Coast Guard saved the lives of 2,474 refugees who otherwise would have drowned in their attempt to reach our country’s shores.

You will keep vital shipping lanes half a world away open to commerce – training and patrolling with allies to keep pirates at bay. Last year, the Coast Guard interrupted or defeated four pirate attacks.

You will help ensure the safety of America’s ports, as well as foreign ports that serve as last points of departure to the United States. The Coast Guard operates as the Captains of the Port in 42 locations around our nation.

You will support the defense of our nation during war. Currently, the Coast Guard has men and women in locations like Kuwait, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

And you know that no matter how routine the mission may seem, you must remain vigilant on unforgiving seas. Those in the Coast Guard who gave their lives in the last year bear silent, but eternal witness to the risks of your chosen profession.

But while we know you would give your life – “dearly to an enemy, but freely to rescue those in peril,” as your Creed says, we as your leaders are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that you remain safe and that you have the tools and equipment necessary to succeed in your jobs.

That’s why we invest in you, providing one of the finest educations in the world here at this Academy. And that is why we are investing in new cutters, and helicopters, and other resources to meet your needs.

Our continued investment means that even as the world around us evolves, the Coast Guard will remain a durable and versatile multi-mission force, a force that never rests.

Preparing Future Coast Guard Leaders

But above and beyond equipment and technology, the Coast Guard’s work will continue to require people with a range of talents possibly unmatched anywhere else in public service.

And I have to say, after reviewing the research on your class, I am impressed. You have already distinguished yourselves in so many ways.

Your Distinguished Graduate, Katie Schumacher finished with a 3.97 GPA, despite the major time commitment of serving as regimental Executive Officer.

Your Honor Graduate Justin Daniel finished with the highest GPA at 3.99.

Members of your class including Eric Doherty and Garrick Gillan helped designed and build the “SailBot” autonomous sailboat. Jacob Conrad, Nick Powell, Tom Kane, and Brian Gracey designed and built a “Mobile Biodiesel Batch reactor” that can pull up to a McDonald’s, take the fryer oil, and produce diesel fuel on the spot.

As an attorney myself, I was particularly proud to hear that David Rehfuss’ team won a worldwide “Competition on the Law of Armed Conflict for Military Academies,” beating Army, Navy, and Air Force! I hear we also beat Army in Action Pistol.

And your class has excelled athletically as well:

The softball team won three games in one day earlier this month to come from behind, win the conference, and make it to the national tournament.

And Hayley Feindel overcame a lot to become, as the newspaper said, ‘the most accomplished athlete in the venerable history of the Academy.’ Talk about dependable – she was conference Pitcher of the Year – for the third time – she’s a two time All-American, AND she’s the all-time Division III leader in wins and strikeouts.

And it’s only fitting that you’re good at water sports, with women’s Crew ranked 5th in the country, under leaders like All-American Sarah Jane Otey. If you need any help at the upcoming crew championships, I want you to know I’ve been named an Honorary Coast Guard Coxswain by Coast Guard Station Washington, where I had the chance to show off my small boat driving skills last year.

And Trevor Siperek, a two-time All-Conference Cross Country runner, is ranked near the top of the country at steeplechase, and is also competing in the national finals later this month.

The list I have given is only illustrative, not exhaustive. In fact, your class has many other impressive achievements. No parade field rejects here!

After your Academy education, I am confident all of you will be well prepared to excel at whatever comes next, ready to join a long line of leaders in an organization with a rich history.

In short, I believe your extraordinary achievements and valiant service merit special consideration. Therefore, and using the powers vested in me, I hereby absolve all cadets of the restrictions associated with minor conduct offenses!

(But I cannot, I will not, and I shall not Pardon cadet Webster Smith, Class of 2006)

But as much as you have already accomplished, this is also just the beginning.

One DHS and USCG Role

Remember, the Coast Guard does not carry out its missions alone – you are part of something larger – the homeland security family. More and more, we are working together as one DHS to protect against terrorism, secure our borders, and respond to disasters of all types.

Our components support each other by sharing information, leveraging resources, and conducting joint operations. And while complementary missions bring us together, it is the venturous spirit shared by all who willingly put service over self that bonds us as One DHS.

Embodying Core Values

That spirit shows in the way you will face the overarching challenge of the Coast Guard, and of DHS as a whole: the challenge of leading in an uncertain world.

You are the first class to be born after the end of the Cold War, and to grow up in the Internet age.

You have faced uncertainty and change throughout your lives. And the world around you will continue to change, often in unpredictable ways. You must think about how you will confront these challenges as proud Coast Guard Officers, sworn to uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States.

My advice is to always remember that you are decisive leaders of character, guided by the three Core Values of honor, respect and devotion to duty – three values that you’ve already made your own.

You’ve lived “honor” through your decision to serve, and the integrity you’ve upheld through your time as cadets. As honorable leaders of character, I encourage you to look to other leaders and learn about how they approached challenges. Understanding their successes – and mistakes – can help guide you through difficult times.

There is no clearer example of an honorable leader of character than George Washington. As much as we know about our first President, each generation finds that it has more to learn.

Today, we have a picture of a complex figure who could have assumed near absolute power after the American Revolution, but who resisted that temptation, voluntarily serving only two terms as president.

It is difficult to overstate how rare it is for anyone in history to refuse absolute power, or how much this selflessness shaped our nation. It is the very definition of honor.

And yet this deeply honorable man also had his flaws and struggles, as his biographers have noted. So let the actions of leaders inspire you, but let them also teach you that no one is perfect, and that our success comes despite our imperfections.

Now, we come to the core value of “respect,” which, in the Coast Guard, is all about treating the people around us with “fairness, dignity, and compassion.” Indeed, you’ve demonstrated respect in many ways:

Your compassion has shown through in your commemoration of the life of classmate Kenny Link, and the love and support you’ve shown his family since he passed on;

By building a children’s home for a small community in Honduras, you have helped those who have next to nothing gain a measure of dignity.

Raising funds to fight leukemia and lymphoma is another example of your compassion; and accruing the most community service hours of any class in the past two years shows your dedication to building a fairer world.

You have lived respect, and I encourage you to continue to live this value. Show it in how you deal with both your colleagues and your superior officers. Show it, as well, in how you deal with those under your command. After all, it is difficult to inspire a crew if they sense you do not respect them.

The third core value is devotion to duty. You have embodied this value by volunteering to serve your nation, persevering through every obstacle of the last four years, and by remaining alert, even on a leisure cruise, noticing and rescuing stranded young boaters off Key West. And you will live it in a thousand other acts, large and small, over the course of your careers.

For devotion to duty, I encourage you to follow the example David Henry Jarvis, first in the cadet class of 1883, and namesake of the Jarvis Inspirational Leadership Award.

As a First Lieutenant, he led his men, dogs and 400 reindeer in one of the greatest displays of devotion to duty in our history – the Overland Expedition. And while I know the graduates know the story, I’ll tell it briefly for everyone else.

In November 1897, a fleet of eight whaling ships with some 300 people aboard had become stranded off the northernmost tip of the United States – Point Barrow, Alaska, high in the Arctic – and courageous rescuers were needed to relieve them.

And so America turned to her Revenue Cutter Service, now known as the Coast Guard.

On the orders of President McKinley himself, (Captain “Hell roaring Mike Healy”) and the Revenue Cutter Bear headed north, into the frigid Arctic Winter, landing Lieutenant Jarvis and just two other men near Cape Vancouver.

Dauntless in the face of ice, snow, mountains and weather as cold as 60 degrees below zero, they traveled 1,500 miles at breakneck speed across the Alaskan wilds.

Halfway through, with the help of Native Alaskans, they gathered hundreds of reindeer – self-propelled food – and drove them the rest of the way to Point Barrow.

The whalers were saved, the nation was grateful, and the legacy of devotion to duty the Coast Guard would inherit was born.

That legacy lives on, as we were reminded this year. When the harsh winter placed Nome, Alaska, in peril, America turned again to the Coast Guard. With its heating oil supplies close to running out, the Coast Guard icebreaker Healy came to the rescue, clearing the path for an oil tanker, staying close, bringing her along, leading her forward until the cargo was safely delivered.

Conclusion

You can trace an unbroken line of devotion to duty from the valiant feat of First Lieutenant Jarvis’s team to the men and women of the Healy.

And I am confident you will extend that line forward for decades to come in your own careers, in every way imaginable.

Because for all its history, the Arctic is still a young frontier that you can explore. For all our success against terrorists, our adversaries will adapt, and you will too.

For all we know about ocean science, there is still so much more to learn. And for all the advances in maritime safety, we still know that no ship is unsinkable, and there will always be tragedies to respond to and lives to be saved.

You are not only heirs to a great tradition in each of these areas, you enter a force that is vibrant and vigorous today. And you represent its future – a future that is undoubtedly and incredibly bright – a future where you will conquer challenges yet undreamed of.

You are ready. You are prepared. Go forward to meet those challenges. Semper Paratus!

Unlike · · Unfollow Post · Share · Delete

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

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

Coast Guard Honors First Black Academy Graduate

United States Coast Guard Academy seal

United States Coast Guard Academy seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NEW LONDON, Conn. — The Coast Guard Academy in New London honored its first African-American graduate on April 1st with a new award that is named after him.

The Day newspaper of New London reports that CDR Merle James Smith Jr., USCG (Ret.) received the inaugural Merle J. Smith Pioneer Award at the Academy on Sunday, April 1st. The 67-year-old Mystic resident graduated in the Academy Class of 1966 and served 23 years of regular and reserve active duty in the Coast Guard.

CDR Smith was the first Black cadet to be admitted to the United States Coast Guard Academy. The Academy was founded in 1876.

This recognition is well deserved and long overdue. Honoring the first Black graduate honors all Black graduates. The Academy was founded in 1876. The exclusion of African Americans from the Academy from 1876 until 1962 is a tragic fact of American history. The meager resources allotted to Black recruitment is just as tragic.

CDR Smith was the first Black cadet to be admitted to the United States Coast Guard Academy. He was not an Affirmative Action cadet. He was not appointed in direct response to President Kennedy’s directive to find qualified Black high school graduates for the Academy.

The Academy was not aware at first that there was an African American cadet at the Academy. He had not been recruited as a “Black cadet”; nor, was he recognized as one by the Coast Guard Academy Admission’s Office. He was not recognized as an African American because he did not physically resemble one. None of his school records labeled him as Black, and he had not been recruited as a minority candidate. When Black spectators came to watch the entire corps of cadets march in parade, they frequently mistook Anthony Carbone and Donnie Winchester as the possible Black cadet. Carbone was an Italian, and Winchester was a Native American. They both were considerably darker than Merle Smith.

CDR Smith’s appointment had been tendered before President Kennedy issued the directive to find and appoint Black candidates for the Coast Guard Academy. His father, Colonel Merle Smith , Senior, was the Professor of Military Science at Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland; and, he had formerly been an Army Staff officer at the Pentagon.

The only two Black cadets to have been recruited under President John F. Kennedy’s Directive were London Steverson and Kenneth Boyd. they both entered the Academy in 1964 and graduated in 1968.

CDR Smith is a 1974 graduate of the National Law Center at George Washington University, Washington, DC. He attended law school while serving in the Coast Guard. He became a Coast Guard Law Specialist.

After graduating, his Coast Guard career took him to Vietnam in 1969, where he commanded a patrol boat for a year. He became the first sea-service African-American to be awarded a Bronze Star. After receiving his law degree from George Washington University in 1974 he became a Coast Guard Law Specialist. Later, he returned to the New London, CT area to work as an attorney for Electric Boat, the Groton-based submarine builder.

It was after retiring from active duty in the Coast Guard, he became an adjunct law professor at the Coast Guard Academy.

In 2006 while teaching law at the Academy CDR Smith was retained as the Individual Military Counsel for Cadet Webster Smith who became the first Coast Guard Academy cadet to be court-martial in the history of the Coast Guard Academy. CDR Smith is no relation to Cadet Webster Smith. Cadet Webster Smith was detailed a Navy Judge Advocate Ggeneral (JAG) officer as his detailed military counsel. The Individual Military counsel is the lead counsel. He is a civilian and he is in charge of the defense team.

CDR Smith received a Pioneer Award. What does that mean? A “Pioneer” is a person who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation and development by others.  What was the criteria for selection? Who was on the Selection Committee? Was there anyone else in contention? Will there be subsequent recipients? How many times can one do something for the first time?

The Award could have been called the Trailblazer Award. Trailblazer is a synonym for Pioneer. The term trailblazer signifies those who strike out on a new path or break new ground, either literally or symbolically, using skills of innovation or brave constitutions to conduct their lives off the beaten path. Often known for independent thought, rugged individualism and pioneering ways, trailblazers throughout history have included cutting-edge inventors, explorers and healers. Trailblazers throughout history all have shared an innovative spirit that kept them going when told their endeavors would be fruitless or against impossible odds. All have made their mark on history and mankind by refusing to quit and pushing ahead, most often into uncharted territory. When Merle James Smith entered the Coast Guard Academy in June 1962 he was sailing into uncharted waters. He had no chart, compass or navigator; yet, he reached his destination.

Minority recruitment remains an area that the Academy alleges is the impossible dream. Thirty-three percent of Coast Guard cadets are female; one out of three cadets is a female. The first female classes produced several flag rank officers. We have a plethora of female admirals.

In February, 1976 the Coast Guard Academy announced the appointments of female cadets to enter with the Class of 1980. Fourteen women  graduate as part of the Academy’s Class of 1980.

In 1991 a Women’s Advisory Council was established.

In 2000 the Coast Guard  promoted its first female officer to Rear Admiral. She was Captain Vivien S. Crea. She was not an Academy graduate.

In 2009 CAPT Sandra L. Stosz was promoted to Rear Admiral, becoming the first female graduate of the Coast Guard Academy to reach flag rank.

The Coast Guard was the first to select a woman superintendent of a military service academy.  Rear Adm. Sandra L. Stosz, Coast Guard Director of Reserve and Leadership, was selected as Superintendent of the Academy. Rear Admiral Stosz graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in the Class of 1982.

In 2008 the Academy hosted a free, public Women’s Equality Day information fair on August 26 in Munro Hall at the Academy.

Each year since 1971, when President Jimmy Carter designated August 26 as Women’s Equality Day, the United States has recognized the struggle for equal rights for women.

The Coast Guard Academy celebrates the event with the theme “Strengthening Our Communities” by hosting various Coast Guard and regional community groups on campus.

“This was billed as a great opportunity for members of our Coast Guard and surrounding New London community to network and learn from the organizations that help support and strengthen Academy leadership,” said LTJG Colleen Jones, Assistant Civil Rights Officer at the Academy and the event organizer.

The various organizations in attendance were the Greater New Haven National Organization of Women, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Connecticut, National Naval Officers Association, Academy Women, Toastmasters, CG Educational Services, CG Child Development Center, and the League of Women Voters.

Categories: Military Justice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Sexual Assault Conviction Thrown Out By (CAAF) Court Of Appeals For The Armed Forces.

Sexual Assault Conviction Thrown Out By Armed Forces Court Of Appeals.

by London Steversonon Monday, March 12, 2012 at 10:51am ·

Captain Nicholas Stewart, USMC.

 

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces threw out this week the sexual assault conviction of Marine Captain Nicholas Stewart, citing issues with the prosecution as well as improper action by a military judge.

Stewart, who served as a fighter pilot in Iraq, was convicted of sexual assault under a 2006 law that enabled the military to make charges in cases in which the victim was “substantially incapacitated” from alcohol. Stewart was accused by a longtime friend who said although she was not forced by Stewart, she was too inebriated to have consented to sex. Stewart challenged the accuser, but was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. He was also registered as a sex offender.

As McClatchy reported Thursday, Stewart’s case was appealed, and the court found that the prosecution lacked evidence to support the accuser’s claims. The court also stated in its ruling that the military judge at Stewart’s initial trial had “created the framework for a potential double jeopardy violation” by having the jury re-deliberate the charges against Stewart. In the first deliberation, Stewart was found not guilty. However, when asked by the judge to consider what was essentially the same charge, the jury found the Marine to be guilty.

“As a result of the military judge’s instructions, [the jurors] were placed in the untenable position of finding Stewart both guilty and not guilty of the same offense,” wrote the appeals judges.

The 33-year-old Stewart, who had served more than a year of his sentence, expressed relief after the appeals court’s decision.

“I am grateful for this long-awaited proof of the integrity of our judicial system,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to serve our country and our Marine Corps.”

Stewart’s case illuminates issues that some have taken with the 2006 law. As McClatchy reported last year, the law has been described as “flawed” for its confusing language, as well as the fact that it shifts the burden of proof to the accused.

 

However, with recent Pentagon reports showing that sexual assault in the military has taken a dramatic rise, others worry that not enough is being done to prevent assault. After the report, which showed a 64 percent jump in assaults since 2006, was released, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced plans to create new initiatives aimed at curbing the growing problem.

Several cases invoking the 2006 law have made the news recently, including the charging of three Air Force cadets with sexual assault. Two of those cadets were charged with assaulting women who were “substantially incapacitated.” These cases were also reportedly complicated by a lack of forensic evidence.

 

Compare this case to the Webster Smith case and you will see how fickle this court can be. The Smith Case was appealed to the Supreme Court. Most Supreme Court watchers had expected the Supreme Court to hear the case or at the very least to give an explanation of why not. We were all sorely disappointed.

 

 

Coast Guard Academy Cadet Webster Smith

This Smith Case implicated a deep federal circuit conflict regarding the standard of review that applies when a trial judge’s restriction on the cross-examination of a prosecution witness is challenged on appeal as a violation of the Confrontation Clause. The Court of Appeals for the  Armed Forces (CAAF) held that the standard of review is abuse of discretion rather than de novo. Applying the former standard, the court rejected Webster Smith’s Confrontation Clause claim by a vote of 3-2.

The Courts Of Appeals Are Deeply Divided Over What Standard Of Review Applies To Confrontation Clause Claims Like Webster Smith’s. The CAAF employed abuse-of-discretion review in resolving Smith’s Sixth Amendment challenge to the military judge’s restriction on the defense’s cross-examination of Shelly Roddenbush. That approach conflicts with the holdings of five circuits, which consider comparable Confrontation Clause claims de novo, reserving abuse-of-discretion review for non-constitutional challenges. For example, the Seventh Circuit has stated that “[o]rdinarily, a district court’s evidentiary rulings are reviewed for abuse of discretion.

However, when the restriction [on cross-examination] implicates the criminal defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him, … the standard of review becomes de novo.”

The First, Fifth, Eighth, and Tenth Circuits have adopted the same approach.

Six other circuits, by contrast—the Second, Third, Fourth, Sixth, Eleventh, and District of Columbia Circuits— Take  the same approach that CAAF does, applying abuse-of-discretion review even when a restriction on the cross-examination of a prosecution witness is attacked on constitutional grounds. The Sixth Circuit, for example, stated in one case that “[defendant] argues that his right to confrontation was violated when the trial court ‘unfairly’ limited his cross-examination of [a] government witness .… We review the district court’s restriction on a defendant’s right to cross-examine witnesses for abuse of discretion.”

In short, CAAF’s use of an abuse-of-discretion standard in the Webster Smith Case perpetuated a clear—and recognized—conflict in the circuits.

The Question Presented Was Recurring And Important, And The Smith Case Was A Good Vehicle For Deciding It.

The circuit conflict warranted resolution by the Supreme Court. It was indeed a sad day for Supreme Court watchers when that court of Last Resort side stepped an issue of monumental importance without a word of explanation.

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

The Force Factor In Sexual Assault Cases.

Force Was the Deciding Factor In The Rape Case.

The use of force appears to have been the deciding factor for the Convening Authority in the Air Force Academy sexual assault Article 32 Investigation. Anyone who used force in the sexual assault was referred for trial by court-martial; whereas, anyone who was patient and waited for the alcohol to take its toll was allowed to go scott free.
That is so ironic, because the only one who achieved vaginal penetration with his organ was allowed to go free. He dodged a bullet. However, on the other hand, the cadet who used his fists in the act of sexual assault never got further than heavy petting and massaging of the genitalia.

The Cadet Kyle Cressy incidents date to May 2011. The charges state that he penetrated a female cadet’s vagina with his hand or finger, as well as his penis, while she was “substantially incapacitated.” Cressy’s charges have been dropped by the Air Force Convening Authority on the recommendation of the Article 32 Investigating Officer. Cressy’s accuser said she passed out on his bed, then awoke to find a man touching and then having sex with her. She testified that she kissed him before blacking out and never said “no” — and while she recalled trying to push his hands away, the mitigating evidence, combined with a two-day delay before she reported having been assaulted, appear to have been factors in the Convening Authority’s, Brigadier General Richard Clark’s, decision to drop the charges against him.

Air Force officials say testimony about alcohol consumption was among the reasons they decided not to prosecute Cressy on sexual assault charges. In a statement released 5 March the Academy spokesperson said Article 32 Investigating Officer assigned to Cressy’s case found no reasonable grounds to prosecute. He cited testimony that the alleged victim wrote and sent a text message that she couldn’t recall, and expert testimony that it’s possible for someone to consent to sex and suffer an alcohol blackout preventing recall of the event.

Cadet Stephan Claxton, AFA Class 2013, was charged with illicit acts in March and November of last year. In the first, he’s said to have placed a cadet’s hand on his penis while engaging in underage drinking. In the second, he is accused of striking a fellow cadet on the face with his fist and unbuttoning and unzipping her pants without her consent, as well as forcibly kissing and choking her. Claxton was recommended for court martial buy the Article 32 Investigating Officer.

The court-martial was recommended by Maj. Gen. Richard Clark, Commandant of Cadets and the academy’s special court-martial convening authority. The decision is pending with Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, Superintendent and the Academy’s General Court-martial Convening Authority. Vice Superintendent Col. Tamara Rank said, “We expect the best from our cadets and do not tolerate unacceptable behaviors.”
The Cressy and Claxton hearings concluded with very different results.

The Article 32 hearing for Cadet First Class Robert M. Evenson, Class of 2011, is still under way. Evenson had three charges preferred against him in January for allegations of engaging in an unprofessional relationship, rape, aggravated sexual assault contact and indecent acts and conduct unbecoming to an officer.

Three additional charges were preferred against him last month and are under investigation. They include wrongful sexual contact and indecent acts, stalking and assault.
It appears that force and the use of force will be the new battle ground in the battle between women and the military when it comes to disposing of rape and sexual assault allegations.
In a major law suit filed by 8 present and former US Marine Corps female officers, the use of physical force is being challenged as an unnecessary element in the proof of the offense. The women argue that proof of force should not be necessary in the modern world. They argue that modern rapists are more methodical and patient; they wait for the drugs or alcohol to lower the females capacity to give or withhold consent. Once the ability to give informed consent is so impaired then the women can be raped and the rapist is left with plausible deniability if the case is prosecuted.
The women and their attorney seek to change the UCMJ and the military male-dominated culture on the issue of force in the conduct of rape and sexual assault. They want to rewrite Article 120 of the UCMJ to remove proof of the use of force as an element of the crime.
In the Webster Smith Case force was not an issue. All of the sexual encounters were found to be consensual. The Coast Guard prosecutor was reduced to trying to prove that psychological coercion was used to persuade a female to take nude pictures and perform a sexual act. Amazingly this woman’s reputation in the community since high school was that of a person with easy virtue who delivered the good faster than Federal Express. The very nature of her secret that was at the heart of the alleged coercion was about a sexual tryst with an enlisted man from another branch of the service. And to top it all off, the woman was testifying under a grant of immunity. Truly amazing, it is hard to make this stuff up.
A press conference was held at the National Press Conference Tuesday March 6, 2012 to announce a new lawsuit being filed in the US District Court in Washington, DC on behalf of eight current and former members of the Navy and Marine Corps. The lawsuit, filed by Susan L. Burke of Burke PLLC, charges that the “laws designed to reduce rape, sexual assault and harassment in the Navy and Marine Corps directly and seriously harmed Plaintiffs and others who have reported rape and sexual assault and have challenged sexual harassment. Rather than being respected and appreciated for reporting crimes and unprofessional conduct, Plaintiffs and others who report are branded ‘troublemakers,’ endure egregious and blatant retaliation, and are often forced out of military service.”

The lead plaintiffs, Adriana Klay and Elle Helmer, stationed at the central command headquarters of the Marines in Washington, DC, are both former Marine officers. Klay was a merit scholar and is an honors graduate of the US Naval Academy. She was sexually harassed and gang raped by a senior Marine Corps officer and his civilian friend in order to “humiliate her.” Elle Helmer, the Public Affairs Officer and Official Spokesperson for the Marines, was ordered to participate in a “pub crawl” by her immediate superior officer and then raped by him.

Speakers at the press conference included Susan Burke, Eleanor Smeal, Anu Bhagwati, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), Linda Hallman, Executive Director of American Association of University Women (AAUW), Nancy Parrish, President of Protect our Defenders, and Colonel Ann Wright, who is retired from the military.
“Although defendants testified before Congress and elsewhere that they have ‘zero tolerance’ for rape and sexual assault, their conduct and the facts demonstrate the opposite: They have a high tolerance for sexual predators in their ranks, and ‘zero tolerance’ for those who report rape, sexual assault and harassment,” according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington.

The suit outlines a pattern of abuse and portrays, in grim detail, the alleged experiences of the eight female service members — two former Marine Corps officers, one active duty enlisted Marine, one former enlisted member of the Marine Corps and four former enlisted members of the Navy.

“At first it was easy to laugh it off,” plaintiff Elle Helmer, one of the former officers, said about her superiors’ advances.
“When you finally said, you know, I’m really not interested, I’d rather we be friends — that’s when you became the target. They hated you for standing up for yourself,” she told HLN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell on Tuesday night.

The lawsuit alleges Helmer was raped by her superior at his office in March 2006 after a required pub crawl.

She told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington earlier in the day that she hoped by going public other victims would be encouraged to speak out.

“We all just wanted to serve our country and be good Marines and service members,” former Marine Lt. Elle Helmer said. “Ultimately we were failed.”

Helmer is one of eight current and former female service members who filed a lawsuit alleging rape, sexual assault and harassment while serving in the military.

Click here to read the entire lawsuit

“It’s very hard to come forward and admit what they would call weakness, but what I would call strength in the sense that people are coming forward and asking for help,” Helmer said.

She claims her assault occurred while stationed at the Marine Corps Barracks in Washington, DC, as a public affairs officer.

She says after being ordered to attend a Marine Corps-endorsed pub crawl and drink excessively, her boss, a major, ordered her back to his office and raped her.

“Ultimately I fell and hit my head on the corner of his desk and was knocked out,” she said. “During the time I was knocked out was when the rape occurred.”

Helmer says she was ultimately forced out of the Marine Corps, which she says is far too common with other victims.

“The Department of Defense is ultimately losing good personnel, and victims are becoming collateral damage,” Helmer said.

The lawsuit claims many of the men questioned were barely punished, if at all. It’s an issue Helmer says goes beyond the service women who report the assaults.

“My rapist was served collateral duties at the White House,” she said. “With that said, these people guard the president.”

Helmer says she hopes the lawsuit is a catalyst for change and the military realizes how big this problem really is.

“Take care of your people, and if you’re losing your people, it’s ultimately weakening a nation. It’s a homeland security issue,” she said.

“It’s the first time I’ve had a voice in six years, so pardon if it’s a little wobbly,” said Helmer.

She was joined by Ariana Klay, another former Marine Corps officer and plaintiff, who served in Iraq in 2008 and 2009.

In August 2010, Klay was “gang-raped” by a senior officer and his civilian friend at her Washington home, the suit contends. The officer allegedly threatened to kill Klay.

She reported the rapes and the officer was eventually convicted in a military court of adultery and indecent language, and given 45 days in military confinement, Klay said.

“Their stance was there were two that said it (sex) was consensual, despite the death threat. That’s two against one. So by that logic, the more people you’re gang-raped by the less your case is,” she told Velez-Mitchell.

The Marine Corps responded to Klay and Helmer’s allegations in a written statement Tuesday that said their respective cases had been properly investigated and handled.

“Federal law and judicial rulings require commanders in all services, including the Marine Corps, to balance needs of alleged victims with the constitutional rights of service members accused of crimes,” it read.
Smeal asserted, “The women’s movement is determined to end this wonton violence against women in the armed services. The definition of rape in the military must change to comply with the new FBI definition, which has recognized that force need not be present, but rather in modern rape alcohol and drugs are used to subdue the victim. The cover-up for a few predator abusers in the military is injuring women, men, and the armed services themselves.”

The Pentagon’s “Fiscal Year 2010 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military” indicated that approximately 3,000 women experienced sexual assault in fiscal year 2008, which is a 9 percent increase from the previous year. Experts say that the real rate of sexual assault in the military is five times report incidence. Because of the high level of retaliation, victims are afraid to report. For women in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rate of sexual assaults by US military personnel increased by 25 percent.

According to a 2003 study by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, at least one-third of all women veterans have experienced rape or sexual assault during their service primarily from US service personnel, and thirty percent of military women experience domestic violence. Moreover, rape occurs in the military nearly twice as often as in the civilian world.
According to the most recent Defense Department study, more than 19,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact are estimated to have occurred in 2010, though less than 3,000 of those events were reported.

In 2010, less than 21% of reported cases went to trial. Of the 529 alleged perpetrators who were prosecuted, 53% were convicted, according to the 2011 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, which is part of the Defense Department.

“As leaders of this department we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure the safety, dignity and well being of our people. One sexual assault is one too many,” Defense Department spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said in response to the lawsuit.

As a result of the pending litigation, she was unable to comment directly on the allegations.

“Because sexual assault cases are some of the toughest cases to investigate and prosecute, the department has increased funding for investigators and judge advocates to receive specialized training,” said Smith.

The lawsuit was filed less than two months after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta outlined new measures targeting sexual assaults against U.S military personnel.

In January, he promised increased funding to train military investigators and judge advocates about sexual assault cases, stressing the military has a “zero tolerance policy” for such crimes.

“Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day to try to keep America safe,” Panetta said then. “We have a moral duty to keep them safe from those who would attack their dignity and their honor.”
http://www.amazon.com/Judge-London-Steverson/e/B006WQKFJM

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

Bradley Manning Refused To Enter A Plea At His Court-martial Arraignment 24 Feb. 2012.

Bradley Manning Refused To Enter A Plea At His Court-martial 24 Feb 2012.

Private Bradley Manning declined to enter a plea on 24 Feb 2012 at his arraignment to the charges that he handed over hundreds of thousands of classified US files to WikiLeaks. Almost two years after his arrest at a military base in Iraq, Private Manning decided to defer pleading guilty or not guilty to allegations he was the source of the largest intelligence leak in US history and that he had aided America’s enemies. Because he refused to plead, the military judge was required according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to enter a plea of ‘not guilty’ for him.

David Coombs, Private Manning’s civilian defense lawyer, said that Manning’s due process rights were being infringed by the slow progress. The case is already over 600 days old. The Defense wants the case to go to trial no later than June. The Arraignment lasted about one hour.

“If the government gets its way, he will have been in pre-trial confinement for over 800 days before trial,” he said.

The young soldier was arrested in Camp Liberty, near Baghdad, in May 2010 and spent nine months in solitary confinement in a military prison at Quantico, Virginia before being transferred to a lower security facility in Fort Levenworth, Kansas.

Manning, who faces life imprisonment if convicted, also deferred a decision on whether he wished to be tried by a military jury or a judge alone. According to the Uniform Code Of Military Justice (UCMJ) he can opt for a jury composed either of only officers or a mixture of officers and enlisted members.

The Convening Authority for this General Court-martial decided earlier this year not to push for the death penalty, even though the charges are serious enough to warrant it.

The Arraignment was held at Fort Meade, Maryland. In the sparse court room’s public gallery sat Michael Ratner, a pro-bono lawyer for Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. Mr Assange is under virtual house arrest at a stately home in Norfolk, England. He awaits possible extradition to Sweden on sex assault charges. He is paying close attention to the proceedings in the U.S. against Private Manning.

Manning could strike a deal with the U.S. government at any time.He could accept a lesser sentence in return for agreeing to help prosecutors pursue a case against Mr Assange. It has long been assumed that the US Government real motive in prosecuting Manning is to flip him and get him to testify against Julian Assange.

Manning is a 24 year-old intelligence analyst for the U.S. military who was stationed in Iraq when he came across thousands of improperly classified documents. He described the moral dilemma he faced: “if you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do?” Actions attributed to him indicate he chose to courageously and selflessly expose abuses. The documents, which have served as primary sources for thousands of articles in the mainstream press, reveal a disturbing trend of corporate influence on the U.S.’s foreign policies, as well as the frequency with which officials around the world actively mislead citizens regarding crimes against human rights and the environment. According to journalists, Bradley’s alleged actions helped motivate the democratic revolution in Tunisia. Also, by highlighting the failure of the military to appropriately address war crimes, they contributed to the Obama Administration finally agreeing to withdraw all U.S. troops from the occupation in Iraq. Maanning faces the possibility of life in prison. If the military continues to refuse to acknowledge PFC Manning as a whistle-blower, he may become the first person in U.S. history to be convicted of “Aiding the enemy through indirect means” for telling the public the truth.

The next hearing is scheduled to take place at Fort Meade,Maryland on March 15.

The Star Witness in the Webster Smith court-martial was not believed by the jury panel members. The accused was found not guilty of all charges related to her testimony.

The surprise witness in the Webster Smith Court-martial was the girl friend of Webster Smith. She was a witness for the prosecution. This was quite a surprise because she had been the love of his life. She was his one and only true love. She almost bore him a child, and he nursed her through a recovery period following a difficult abortion.

Bradley Manning is an avowed homosexual, so it is unlikely that he will have an old girlfriend testifying against him. However, a former male partner may venture forward to give testimony. But, will that testimony be for the prosecution or the defense?

Webster Smith took the witness stand and testified in his own behalf. It was a fatal mistake. He was wrapped in a presumption of innocence. He did not have to prove hat he was innocent. The burden of proof was on the Prosecution to prove that he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There was no physical evidence presented against him. The only evidence against him was the testimony of one key female cadet. It was his word against her word. That was a pure “he-said, she-said” case. The jury was going to rule in favor of whoever demonstrated the strongest character and whoever had the greatest credibility. If Webster Smith had never taken the witness stand, he would never have put his character in issue. Based on the presumption of innocence, and the fact that the female was testifying under a grant of immunity from prosecution, Webster Smith would have been found not guilty, more than likely. Even if the jury members had been so obtuse as to find him guilty under those circumstances, the Defense would have been compelled to move for Judgement Non Obstante Verdicto (N.O.V.), shorthand acronym of Latin for non obstante veredicto (nahn ahb-stan-tuh very-dick-toe) meaning “notwithstanding the verdict,” referring to a decision of a judge to set aside (reverse) a jury’s decision in favor of one party in a lawsuit or a guilty verdict when the judge is convinced the judgment is not reasonably supported by the facts and/or the law. The result is called a “judgment N.O.V.” Granting a motion for such a ruling means the court realizes it should have directed the jury to reach an opposite verdict in the first place.

Categories: Military Justice | Tags: | 1 Comment

Impersonating Military Officers. What Did You Do In The War Daddy?

The court-martial of former cadet Webster Smith, the first cadet ever tried by court-martial at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy was a tragedy, but it was no accident. It was was more than just a tempest in a teapot. Congressman Christopher Shays, a Republican, held Congressional hearings on how officials were responding to reports of sexual assaults in the service academies. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat, inserted a request into a Department of Homeland Security spending bill for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to monitor the Coast Guard Academy’s progress in responding to sexual harassment claims.

The trial of Webster Smith appears to have been the main attraction in a three ring circus. The Coast Guard Academy and Connecticut Congressional Representative Christopher Shays were planning to stag a show-trial for the nation to show how military academies should handle incidents of sexual assaults at the academies. Representative Shays was chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations. He had organized the Washington, DC portion of the circus. He scheduled a panel entitled “Sexual Assualt and Violence Against Women in the Military and at the Academies”. On the day that the star witness for the rape charge, Kristen Nicholson, was testifying at the Coast Guard Academy, a Coast Guard Admiral from the Academy was in Washington,DC at the invitation of Representative Shays to appear before his Committee.

Rear Admiral Paul J. Higgins, Director of Health and Safety, at the Coast Guard Academy was on the witness list along with the Commandants from the other military academies. The publicity from these hearings would have been enough to get Shays reelected. However, the trial did not turn out as expected. The Convening Authority for the Court-martial, the Superintendent at the Coast Guard Academy was Admiral James Van Sice. He was tried at an Admiral’s Mast for inappropriate behavior and forced to retire.Then the furor surrounding this issue of sexual assault at military academies seemed to die down. This issues disappeared from the Washington,D.C. political radar scope. And Christopher Shays, a 10-term incumbent lost his re-election bid in November 2008.

When the full history of the Webster Smith case is written, it may turn out that Congressman Shays was the real author of the first court-martial at the Coast Guard Academy.

The hearings appeared to have been grandstanding on the part of Christopher Shays. For most of his life he appeared to have distanced himself from the military. He certainly wanted no part of duty in the armed forces. When push came to shove he claimed conscientious objector status. He has never worn the uniform of any military service. Shockingly, he is not alone.

A few of the men who once shouted “hell no; We won’t go”, are now claiming that they did. Not only are they claiming that they did go, but also that they distinguished themselves with valor, above and beyond the call of duty. Some were draft protesters, others were draft evaders, and others draft dodgers. They should not all be lumped together.

Draft protesters were often the men who burned their Draft cards in public ceremonies. Draft Dodgers took steps to violate Selective Service laws. Draft evaders were not like draft dodgers.

Some avoided conscription by taking advantage of loopholes in the Selective Service laws, a perfectly legal if not sometimes arbitrary option. In 1966 actor George Hamilton was exempted from the Draft after petitioning his own Draft Board for a deferment base on hardships at home, advising them that his mother needed him to care for her. Of course it didn’t hurt his cause that at the time he was also dating the daughter of President Lyndon Johnson. And perhaps it was just such inequities in the Selective Service program that most angered the young. They were upset not so much being called to serve as they did to the fact that often the rich, the powerful, and the brightest college students escaped being called up.

Some young men sought exemption from the Draft due to special situations: sole surviving son, deferment to complete an education, and even for personal reasons such as religious prohibitions against military service. The latter are called Conscientious Objectors (C.O.) and many of them did serve in non-combat roles, at least two C.O.s earning Medals of Honor, while others belonged to faiths that prohibited even these non-combat roles.

In 2010 according to the New Haven Register, a poll was taken after news broke that Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal falsely claimed on several occasions to have served in Vietnam during the war shows his Republican challengers for a U.S. Senate seat closing the gap.

Only about a quarter of voters, however, said he should withdraw from the race to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd.

The Rasmussen telephone poll, showed Blumenthal, the leading Democratic contender, losing most of his lead over Republicans Linda McMahon and Rob Simmons.

A longer version of the video shot in Norwalk on March 2, 2008, was posted on Republican candidate Linda McMahon’s website. It showed Blumenthal correctly describing his military service before saying that he served “in Vietnam.”

“I really want to add my words of thanks,” Blumenthal tells the audience on the video, “as someone who served in the military during the Vietnam era in the Marine Corps.”

Blumenthal served stateside as a Marine reservist after receiving five deferments, reaching the rank of sergeant. On Tuesday, Blumenthal said he “misspoke” at times and regretted the errors.

Democrats in Connecticut and Washington stood by Blumenthal.

“On a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service and I regret that. And I take full responsibility,” said Blumenthal. “But I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.”

The crisis erupted when The New York Times reported that Blumenthal had repeatedly distorted his military service. The story included quotations and a video of Blumenthal saying at a 2008 event that he had “served in Vietnam.” The newspaper also said Blumenthal intimated more than once that he was a victim of the abuse heaped on Vietnam veterans upon their return home.

At a veterans event in Shelton, Conn., for example, he said, “When we returned from Vietnam, I remember the taunts, the verbal and even physical abuse we encountered,” according to a 2008 Connecticut Post story.

Blumenthal, 64, joined the Marine Reserve in 1970 and served six years, none of it overseas. He put in much of his time in Washington, where he took part in such projects as fixing a campground and working on a Toys for Tots drive, according to the Times.

He received at least five military deferments that enabled him to stay out of the war between 1965 and 1970, during which time he went to Harvard, studied in England and landed a job in the Nixon White House. Once he secured a spot in the Marine Reserve, he had almost no chance of being sent to Vietnam, the newspaper reported.

Former Representative Christopher Shays and Beth Davis, former Air Force Academy Cadet.

He is a close friend of Congressman Christopher Shays, whose early political career was marked by acts of defiance. He registered for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War and acknowledges he would not have served if drafted. He said that he is a good friend of Richard Blumenthal’s and that he had watched with worry as Mr. Blumenthal gradually embellished his military record over the years. Over the last few years, however, more sweeping claims crept into Mr. Blumenthal’s descriptions, he said: for example, that Mr. Blumenthal had served in Vietnam, and had felt the sting of an ungrateful nation as he returned.

“He just kept adding to the story, the more he told it,” Mr. Shays said.

Michael Ray Jacobs, 52, is accused in federal court of wearing a naval officer’s uniform on at least four occasions in March 2010. He has been charged with impersonating a Navy officer, complete with medals he never earned. Court records in the case say that he was seen in the uniform at the Oceana Naval Air Station stables, the Oceana exchange, a Navy dental clinic in Norfolk and a recruiting office. He is also charged with stealing a uniform from the Oceana exchange.

Navy officials said Jacobs never served in the Navy.

The U.S. attorney’s office is prosecuting the case.

Impersonating a member of the armed forces has been a hot-button topic among veterans groups and in Congress, where a law was passed in 2006 making it a crime to falsely claim to have been awarded medals and decorations for military service.

Jeremy Michael Boorda (November 26, 1939 – May 16, 1996) was an admiral of the United States Navy and the 25th Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). Boorda is the only CNO to have risen to the position from the enlisted ranks. He was the first CNO who was not a graduate of the United States Naval Academy.

Boorda died May 16, 1996 a suicide, having apparently shot himself in the chest in his office while reporters from Newsweek magazine were waiting to interview him concerning his medals and awards. He reportedly left two suicide notes. He was reported to have been disturbed over a news media investigation, led by David Hackworth of Newsweek, into Valor device enhancements he wore on his Navy Commendation Medal and Navy Achievement Medal (small bronze “V” devices, signifying valor in combat), which the media report claimed he was not entitled to wear. He was said to be worried this issue would cause more trouble for the Navy’s reputation.

A new Superior Court Judge in Norwark, CA. claimed to be a Viet Nam vet. He was not. A history professor at West Point claimed to be a Viet Nam combat vet. He was not. A Connecticut State Congressman claimed to be a Viet Nam vet. He was not. Why are all these draft dodgers and conscientious objectors claiming to be military veterans??

A panel of special masters from the California Commission on Judicial Performance(CJP) found May 15, 2001 that Judge Patrick Couwenberg misrepresented his educational and military backgrounds to various sources, including the governor who appointed him.

CJP lawyer Jack Coyle argued that Couwenberg should be removed from the bench because his lies about his military service and his educational and professional experience were a factor in his appointment to the bench.

Couwenberg’s lawyers said the judge deserved an opportunity to remain in office. They argued that his statements were not malicious, but were the product of a psychological impairment, and pointed to praise the jurist has received for his work from both prosecutors and defense attorneys who have appeared before him.

Couwenberg is continuing to hear criminal cases in Norwalk, California.

The judge has admitted that he falsely claimed to hold a master’s degree in psychology and made false claims of military experience, including an award of a Purple Heart, in Vietnam.

The special masters found that he also lied to the commission itself, in sworn testimony, by claiming to have participated in covert operations with the CIA in Southeast Asia in 1967 and 1968. Couwenberg testified that those claims are true, although he no longer maintains he was with the CIA and says he doesn’t know what agency he was looking for.

A CIA official testified that Couwenberg wasn’t working for that agency and that it’s highly unlikely that any other agency would have recruited Couwenberg for operations in Laos because no such missions were authorized.

Couwenberg claimed that some of his misstatements were intended to be humorous. Other statements, he claimed, were typed onto official forms by his wife, based on statements he had made to her 20 years earlier, a claim the masters found lacking in credibility.

A psychiatrist testified that the judge suffers from “pseudologica fantastica,” a symptom of low self-esteem rooted in the judge’s early childhood in what is now Indonesia followed by difficult relocations, first to Holland and then to the United States.

The doctor said that the condition causes Couwenberg to mix fact and fantasy, but that it is treatable with therapy and doesn’t render him unfit for judicial service.

The masters, however, largely agreed with a psychiatrist called by commission lawyers at the masters’ hearing. Psychological testing data, Dr. James Rosenberg said, doesn’t show that the judge’s “repetitive lying” as an adult is due to childhood trauma, nor that he suffers from any recognized mental illness.

The CJP’s removal order, issued Aug. 15 and effective Sept. 14, 2001 followed revelations that Couwenberg had, among several other things, lied about being a Vietnam veteran, receiving a Purple Heart, serving in covert operations for the CIA and earning a master’s degree from California State University, Los Angeles.

Couwenberg’s lawyers and doctors said the 1976 graduate of the University of La Verne College of Law in Ontario suffers from a pathological lying condition called pseudologia fantastica, which they tied to his childhood in an Indonesian concentration camp at the end of World War II.

Joseph John Ellis (born 18 July 1943 in Washington, D.C.) was a Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College and also at the U.S.Military Academy at West Point until 1972.

Ellis became the subject of embarrassing controversy when the Boston Globe published an article on June 18, 2001, revealing that Ellis lied about fighting in the Vietnam War (he served in uniform in America but did not go to Vietnam as he had claimed to his students and to the media).He claimed to have been a platoon leader and paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division. He said he served in Saigon under Gen. William Westmoreland. Ellis did not serve in Vietnam at all, according to military records obtained by the Globe Newspaper and interviews with his friends from the 1960s. He spent his three years in the Army teaching history at the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. Ellis also appears to have exaggerated the extent of the involvement he claims to have had in both the antiwar and civil rights movements.

Ellis also falsely claimed to have scored a winning touchdown in a decisive game while playing for his high school football team. In fact, Ellis never played for his high school team.

On June 21, 2001 Professor Ellis issued a statement saying: “Even in the best lives, mistakes are made. I deeply regret having let stand and later confirming the assumption that I went to Vietnam. For this and any other distortions about my personal life, I want to apologize to my family, friends, colleagues and students.”

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

Blog at WordPress.com.