Judge London Steverson,USALJ (Ret) is a 1968 graduate of the United States Coast Guard Academy and a 1977 graduate of the National Law Center, George Washington University. He was a Coast Guard Law Specialist until he retired in 1988. He was appointed U. S. Administrative Law Judge in 1990. He retired again in 2009. He made a personal donation of his private collection of new and used books to the American Corner of the U. S. Embassy in Hungary. On 23 April 2009 at Opening of The Steverson Collection Book Club in Veszprem, Hungary, he was awarded a Cultural Diplomacy Award by the U. S Ambassador to Hungary.
The Case of CDR Benjamin Strickland (Unrestricted Coast Guard Chronicles)
This case is historical. It 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 Book is the result of hundreds of hours of research, eye witness interviews, and analysis. The actual parties 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 the hour.
General David Petraeus, a 4-star general with over 37 years in the military, was the most senior officer to be prosecuted during the politically correct era between 2008 and 2016. He was a West Point graduate and former Director of the CIA. The 62 year old General Petraeus pled guilty to one misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information and was sentenced to a fined of $100,000 and probation for three years. How could such a celebrated general be treated so badly? Well, he was not alone. He was just one of many distinguished senior officers to be purged from all branches of the military services during that period. What was a noticeable purge of commanders, by 2009 had topped 197. Why were these officers being fired? From dereliction of duty to not saluting properly, there was much speculation. Other reasons given were “leaving blast doors on nukes open” , and “loss of confidence in command ability” to “mishandling of funds” to “inappropriate relationships” to “gambling with counterfeit chips” to “inappropriate behavior” to “low morale in troops commanded” to politically incorrect speech. Commander Benjamin Strickland, U S Coast Guard was caught in this web of insanity. There was Cmdr. Derick Armstrong, Commander, guided missile destroyer USS The Sullivans;Cmdr. Joseph E. Darlak, Commander, USS Vandegrift;Cmdr. Jon Haydel, Commander, USS San Diego; Cmdr. Diego Hernandez, Commander, ballistic-missile submarine USS Wyoming; Cmdr. Michael Ward, Commander, USS Pittsburgh; and, Cmdr. Jeffrey Wissel, Commander, of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 1. Not all of the victims wore the military uniform. There was Jeffrey Sterling a former CIA Officer and whistle blower. To this day the list continues to grow.
This Book captures a piece of living History. It hits the nail right on the head. There has never before been a CDR Benjamin 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 (The Case of Cadet Webster Smith). It too will never happen again. The book about that case exposed the fallacy, and the utter futility of it all.
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, here is the book. Here are the facts, the Truth, the piece of living History. It is eternal. It will live in infamy.
This book was written for posterity, not for profit.
During my career I served as an enlisted man reaching the rank of Master Chief and commissioned officer reaching the rank of Lieutenant. The Judge is correct in his statement that the UCMJ is stacked against the accused. In the military you are guilty until proven innocent and subject to double jeopardy; being punished by civilian and military authorities for the same infraction. And as I state in my first book, making it through the service is like walking through a mine field of military politics, political correctness, and luck. I for the most part had the luck of serving under great people. Officers and enlisted who were driven to mold me into the next generation of the service. People who were concerned with helping me grow in my career and learn from my mistakes.They were not interested in scrutinizing every event to see how well it would play out in their OER/EPR or effect their next assignment. There are good people in Coast Guard leadership. But it seems that today’s military culture has morphed into an “everyone out for themselves” and “one mistake and your ruined” service. I see the line as being when your willing to sacrifice your career for what is right. Sadly to many are not willing to cross that line like Ben.
A different time, but the same corruption...
Such was the case of CDR Ben Strickland, a military man who was punished for helping a victim of sexual assault. CDR Strickland was a highly decorated officer in the U.S. Coast Guard with a promising career ahead of him, however, that all came to an abrupt halt when a young Sailor/victim of sexual assault approached him for help. Despite working in an environment that encouraged commanders to cover-up allegations of sexual assault, CDR Strickland made the morally courageous decision to support the victim; he personally ensured the young woman got the help she so desperately needed.
As such, CDR Strickland soon found himself in the cross hairs of his leadership and the victim of military witch-hunt.
A Book Review by Candice L:
A sad but all too common occurrence in today's Coast Guard. A Coast Guard commander blows the whistle on a sexual assault and later on the corruption and misconduct perpetrated at the highest levels to include abuse of authority, witness tampering, falsification of official investigation reports and ultimately retaliation. The case outlined here pulls back the curtain of how exactly senior Coast Guard leadership ruins anyone who has the courage to stand for what is right. While this commander's career was destroyed, those who took action against him were ALL rewarded for their retaliatory actions: VADM Zukunft promoted to Commandant, area chief of staff, Capt. Matt Bell, nominated for RADM, area operations chief, Capt. Tom Crabbes, promoted to area chief of staff, Coast Guard JAGs and CGIS investigators walk away scott free never held accountable for their transgressions and violations of the law and Constitution. A must read for anyone who wants to see the ugly truth about an organization that claims to be a law enforcement agency.
A Book Review by LT Fredd Milbry, USCG (Ret):
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 who ever 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 with over 20 years service of 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 was met as though it was the wrong. A once rising career was dispensed as though the time spent cultivating it was not valued at 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 Guardsman I have to question since this type of treatment could be so easily done to a member in today's Coast Guard with a career resume that is nothing short of spectacular. If in fact it could happen to a member with far less superlative credentials/accolades, time in service and rank but 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 differently happening with the outcome of those actions taken. You will have enough info 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 would counter the story written in this book.
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.
A Book review by Jeff:
A sad commentary on how the U.S. Coast Guard cares more about retaliation than justice.
Conduct Unbecoming An Officer and 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.