Posts Tagged With: Webster Smith

I Will Fight No More Forever.

I Will Fight No More Forever.

America‘s fighting men have come in many guises, shapes and sizes. They have had to fight all of America’s enemies, both foreign and domestic. Cadet Webster Smith had to fight his own senior officers, friends, and mentors. In the end he was proud. He had fought the good fight. Even TIME magazine carried the quote of the first cadet in Coast Guard history to be tried by a General Court-martial.,26174,1209244,00.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Webster Smith was proud of his decision to fight the good fight all the way to the end of the road. See TIME magazine June 29, 2006.,26174,1209244,00.html

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Supreme Court Refused To Hear Webster Smith’s Appeal.

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

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

Smith’s conviction in 2006 on extortion, sodomy and indecent-assault charges – while he was acquitted on a rape count – had previously been upheld by the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals and, in March, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

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

The right to confront one’s accusers is guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But the Armed Forces appeals court, in a 3-2 vote, ruled that judges have the discretion to bar testimony so long as the issue involved is not deemed necessary to the case. (Footnote 1.)

“Further cross-examination of Cadet SR was not ‘constitutionally required,’ ” according to the appeals court decision. “It was neither material nor vital.”

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

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

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

Last month the Supreme Court rejected Smith’s petition seeking a hearing on the case, effectively making the military appeals court’s decision final.

The case had racial overtones because Smith, who is black, claimed his treatment was harsher than previously meted out to whites at the Coast Guard Academy accused of sexual impropriety. The Department of Homeland Security investigated the allegations in 2007 and denied the complaint.

“Many Supreme Court experts thought the high court might take Smith’s case, but the justices declined the case without comment,” according to the Law And Order blog found at

Efforts to speak with Smith and attorneys on both sides of the case were unsuccessful Monday. Smith, a former Coast Guard football star now living in Houston with his wife and daughter, spent nearly five months in a military prison after receiving a six-month sentence.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Lisa Novak said Monday that Smith’s case is currently in the process of residual clemency, which will allow him to submit additional information before a review of his sentence by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Novak said Smith also has the right to seek a new trial before the Coast Guard appeals court, if he submits newly discovered evidence, and could also have his record cleared with a presidential pardon. According to Texas law, he will have to register as a sex offender, the National Law Journal reported.

The Smith case resulted in changes at the Coast Guard Academy, which formed a task force after the trial to look into the atmosphere on campus. The report cited a strong association between alcohol abuse and sexual assault as well as a mistrust of the Coast Guard Academy’s leadership among minorities.

Captain  Judith Keene, the first female Commandant of Cadets at the Coast Guard Academy (CGA) pledged a tough stance against campus sexual violence in July 2006 following the court-martial in which cadets testified that such issues were not taken seriously.

A subsequent study by the Government Accountability Office, issued in 2008 after a series of revelations about sexual misconduct at U.S. military academies, said the Coast Guard should be required to report on efforts to stem the tide of sexual assault and harassment cases.

Keene, who was among the first women to graduate from the academy, took over as the military equivalent of the dean of students at CGA. She replaced Captain Douglas Wisniewski, who left for a position at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C..

The Coast Guard Academy will have the first woman superintendent of a military service academy at the helm of the U.S. C. G. A. when classes convene in the summer of 2011. The commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Bob Papp, has selected Rear Adm. Sandra L. Stosz, Coast Guard director of reserve and leadership, for the superintendent position. Rear Admiral Stosz graduated from CGA  in 1982 with a bachelor of science degree in Government.

The GAO noted the Coast Guard Academy was the only U.S. military school not required to report to Congress on sexual-misconduct cases.

The Day.

Published 12/28/2010 12:00 AM.

Footnote 1.

U.S. Constitution: Sixth Amendment
Sixth Amendment – Rights of Accused in Criminal Prosecutions

Amendment Text |
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Footnote 2.

Article 133. Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman:
Any commissioned officer, cadet, or midshipman who is convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman shall be punished as a court-martial may direct. (10 USC Sec. 933)

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