Monday, August 24, 2015

The Case Of CDR Benjamin Strickland, Black & White Edition

A new Black & White Edition of The Case Of CDR Benjamin Strickland will be released shortly by Amazon in both paperback and Kindle format. Look for it.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Case Of Cadet Webster Smith; A Review

Posts Tagged With: John Henry Browne

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 (LCDR London Steverson, USCG (Ret)), 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: The Case of Cadet Webster Smith.  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.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Case Of CDR Benjamin Strickland, Response to A Book Review

The Author responds:

To: LT Fredd Milbry, USCG (Ret.) 
  You are truly a member in good standing of the "Long Blue Line" of retired Coast Guard Officers. It is obvious how much you love the Coast Guard.
And you are a moral person who still holds sacred the "core values" we were taught as officers; duty, honor, honesty, truth, loyalty, respect, obedience to your oath of office and support for higher authority; follow the chain of command.
All of this is apparent in your review of The Case of CDR Benjamin Strickland.
 http://www.amazon.com/The-Case-CDR-Benjamin-Strickland/dp/1514682737
You are a leader; you started the Facebook Page Black Coast Guard Chronicles. You see things first and are frequently on the cutting edge of hot social and professional issues. This is all the more reason I am touched by your insights into The Strickland Case and the book outlining it.
You are middle America; you are the Coast Guard's moral majority; you are the voice of our conscience.
 When you speak people listen. And I hear you. It was for such an awareness as yours that the book was written. It was to highlight such gross arbitrary and capricious divergence from good order and proper procedure that the book was written.
When the most senior officers in the CG can completely disregard morality and sacrifice a decorated officer and his innocent family for no rational reason, it makes me shudder for the security of my fellow officers in the lower ranks and I fear for the future of our Coast Guard.
Is this behavior typical of the entire senior officer corps? I hope not.
Can this type of thing happen again? I pray not.
How did it happen this once? I fear there is no single answer.
What is clear is that a great wrong has been done! One of the best and the brightest of the fair haired boys has been sacrificed on an altar of arrogance, deceit, malice.
And why? All for doing his job; and doing it by the book; all for reporting a case of sexual assault in an Area (the Pacific Area) where no one wanted to rock the boat at a time when the next Commandant was being chosen.
And any whiff of a scandal, and any wide scale investigation might jeopardize the desired decision making. And so this case had to go away; and, anyone pushing it had to be silenced, even if it meant sacrificing his entire family.
This is a story that had to be told. Your review of the facts in the book makes that abundantly clear. Thank you my fellow retired Coast Guard Officer.

This is BIG! This is historical. This is a Case of First Impression. Maybe this is not the first time something like this has happened in the Coast Guard; but, this is the first time it has been thoroughly documented. This Case and this Book are the result of hundreds of man-hours of research, eye witness interviews, and analysis. The actual players in this tragedy were painstakingly interviewed and interviewed again. The facts were checked and re-checked. The facts are absolutely accurate and indisputable. The Time Line is accurate right down to the day, the minute and hour.
Two people can understand and analyze the same facts and come to different conclusions. We are all different in some ways. We are what we were then and when and where our characters and personalities were shaped; BUT, we cannot dispute the FACTS.
You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts. The Facts are absolute. They are black or white; they cannot be a dirty shade of grey. Not one shade , nor fifty shades of grey.
This is a piece of living history. What price can you put on History? We are living in History, at a pivotal moment in history. Owning this book, is like taking a "selfie" in the Flow Of Living History. Imagine being able to capture yourself at The March on Washington, The Collapse of the Berlin Wall, at The WTC on 9/11, or some other historic event that took on epic proportions as time went by.
How would you be able to describe it to your children and get the facts right? How else would you be able to set the stage and get the passions and the emotions just right to explain and to understand what was happening in the country and the world at this crucial time in our history?
This Book captures it. It hits the nail right on the head. It nails it dead center. There has never been a Ben Strickland in the Coast Guard Officer Corps, and there will never be again. What happened here will probably never again be repeated, partially because it was recorded and exposed. Just like the first time a Coast Guard Academy cadet was court-martialed (Cadet Webster Smith). It too will never happen again. The book about that case exposed the fallacy, and the stupidity, and the utter futility of it.
The Case of CDR Benjamin Strickland will go down in history as being one of a kind, unique. The story will be told again and again. Rumors will abound. People will embellish. But, if you have the book, you have the facts, the Truth, the piece of living History. It is eternal. It will live in infamy. How can you put a price on that?

The Case Of CDR Benjamin Strickland, a Book Review

 http://www.amazon.com/The-Case-CDR-Benjamin-Strickland/dp/1514682737
LT Fredd Milbry, USCG (Ret.) Wrote:
I reviewed the recently published book "The Case of CDR Benjamin Strickland (Unrestricted Coast Guard Chronicles (UCGC) Book 1)" written by our own retired Honorable Judge London Steverson.
First and foremost buy this book! Why you say, because if you've done anything righteous in life, there should be no problem explaining to whoever inquires, what was your rationale behind your actions and most importantly you should be recognized for doing what's Right. The very essence of that statement is the basis of this book in my opinion.
As a retired CG Officer and former Enlisted man with over 20 years service experience in personnel matters, assignments, counseling, investigating various complaints/offenses of the UCMJ, etc. at different levels and assignments, I feel very confident to critique these matters. It was drilled into our heads that the leadership from the top sets the tone and in this case it seems the leadership was either grossly lacking; some subordinate(s) chose to dictate the scenario without being challenged or the Leadership was duped into believing and subsequently supporting another story. Race was not an issue.
All officers concerned were Caucasian and of the same race and sex. So Racial bias was not a factor in this situation. Which still leaves a bad taste in my mouth because simply put, right is right and wrong is wrong. And there were some wrongs done without ramifications to the doers, although the one right thing was met as though it was the wrong. A once rising career was dispensed as though the time spent cultivating it was not valued in the least.
A riveting story that will have you questioning how, when, who and ultimately why certain things took place with Commander Strickland's career. The Author (the retired Honorable Judge London Steverson) will guide you through the maze of incidents so that you will be able to formulate some opinions and conclusions based on the facts at hand. Several things concern me with the entire narrative, one of which, is that as a retired Coast Guard officer I have to question since this type of treatment could be so easily done to any member in today's Coast Guard with a career resume' that is nothing short of spectacular. If in fact it could happen to CDR Strickland, it could happen to a member with far less superlative credentials/accolades, or time in service or rank, but who is still very important and dedicated to the organization.
You will have a good idea and a look into the organizational framework with regards to following and executing orders by senior leadership and the possible ramifications of doing the right thing but nonetheless, something altogether different happening with the outcome of those actions taken. You will have enough information to decide whether an injustice did take place considering the old axiom, there are two sides to every story. Well the jury is still out with the possibility of never shedding true light on the opposite story. That could counter the story written in this book. But one thing is definite, a brilliant career was stopped dead in its tracks and a military family was rewarded with a questionable exit from a organization they had sacrificed and dedicated their lives for. This is not representative of the organization I served. It is up to you, the reader to draw your own conclusions of the events based on the information in this very well written story.