Updated on October 18, 2016
Is the Army Eating Its Own?
UPDATE: When I initially wrote this post late at night, I transposed the link code to the URL prior to the quotes listed below under the SFC Stewart story. Even though it was obvious with the use of blockquotes and italics that the words were not my own, the links did not come through because of the error and appeared as plain text. As such, credit was not given to the writer of those quotes as intended. After a quite nasty email threatening legal action from the author, Bob McCarty, who made it clear that he was writing about this issue to make money, I’ve fixed the links that were supposed to have appeared prior to each quote (I used a \ instead of a /). Since I don’t like being threatened with lawyers by people trying to make a name and a living for themselves off the backs of our troops in trouble, I won’t make that mistake again with Bob. As matter of fact, this will probably be the last time I link to anything of his or promote his paid writings. For the record, I don’t make a penny off this site or anything I write here. I’m highlighting these cases because these Soldiers are being railroaded. Not because I’m making money. And yes, there is a better way to inform people they made a mistake without threats and assitude. Here is the email Bob McCarty: The Ultimate Blogging Machine sent me:
I read your article, “Is the Army Eating Its Own?” While I appreciate you sharing my desire to help get the word out about wrongfully-imprisoned soldiers, I do not appreciate you essentially stealing my copyrighted material (“Conviction of Special Forces Soldier Subject of Soon-To-Be-Published Book by Bob McCarty“).
Why? Because I write for a living and have spent months researching, interviewing, etc., on the way to publishing my book about Kelly Stewart.
If, in the future, you plan to take material from my articles, make sure you give credit where credit is due and let them know who wrote it and where it was published. Otherwise, you’ll be hearing from my lawyer. Nobody wants that, right?
I’m hoping the extra links that I’ve added to this post will make up for my grave errors in programming. I’m not the machine he is and, as such, still prone to making mistakes.
Last year, my wife and I wrote extensively about how the military had sold me down the river while I was dealing with a local principal and school district. Based solely on baseless claims from the principal and her friend, the PTA president, I was called on the carpet by Colonels and Command Sergeants Major. Allegations were made to the Army against me that incorporated everything from supposed threats to stalking and conduct unbecoming a senior NCO. I was sent to CID and I gave them free reign to look at all the emails I had sent to both the principal and PTA president. CID found these “threats” obviously false and I had video and audio to prove it in addition to the emails. However, instead of telling these school officials to back off and stop calling the Army with their insanity, these leaders instead attempted to shut me up. They called my wife and I into numerous meetings where I was dressed down, told I was an “embarrassment to the NCO Corps,” and ordered to remove videos and blog posts that proved my innocence from my personal website.
Thankfully, I was vindicated after spending thousands of dollars on a lawsuit against the school when the board decided not to continue the superintendent’s contract. Unfortunately, the racist principal of Williams Middle School still has her job and has only stepped up her rule over her middle school subjects will silly clothing and obedience rules since I left. The Superintendent took the fall for her incompetence. And, thankfully, I have come to realize that such poor Army leadership is isolated. My current leadership gave me a fresh start and allowed me to prove myself in spite of the knowledge of what was potentially coming their way. There were plenty of jobs they could have stuck me in to keep me “out of the way” or isolated from troops and positions of responsibility. They gave me the benefit of the doubt and I don’t think they’ve regretted it yet (though I’m sure they cringe at posts like this one and the Fallen Heroes Memorial).
Why do I bring this up? Because it’s becoming very clear to me that our troops are not safe from frivolous complaints made against them by civilians. All too often, even the enemy gets more credibility than our troops. The military’s knee jerk reactions, it seems to me, is to immediately take the side of civilians in most complaints. It’s a culture that has been around for a long time, probably strengthened by years of allowing loan companies to use military commanders and leaders to enforce debt repayments. This is, obviously, none of the Army’s business unless that individual is trying to obtain a security clearance, but every day businesses use military leaders to enforce contracts made between soldiers and private business.
Worse than that, our troops are coming under fire from within for simply doing their jobs in combat. Case in point is the case of Army 1LT Michael Behenna.
In 2008, I was made aware of his case and donated to his legal defense fund. While deployed to Iraq, Behenna’s platoon came under attack by Al Qaeda operatives and two of his Soldiers were killed. A few weeks later, the leader of the group that planned the attack on Behenna’s platoon, “Mansur,” was captured in his house. Without explanation, Army intelligence ordered Behenna to transport Mansur back to his house. Prior to releasing the prisoner, LT Behenna attempts a final interrogation of Mansur and is attacked. During the struggle, Mansur is killed in self defense. Panicked, Behenna doesn’t report the incident. Not knowing that Mansur is dead, Army leaders issue a kill/capture order on Mansur a few days later. Behenna is then charged with premeditated murder and a farcical trial that suppressed important evidence and witnesses and convicted of premeditated murder and assault by a military panel of seven officers, none of whom had combat experience. He was sentenced to 25 years, which was reduced 10 years by the CG of the 101st Airborne Division and the Army Clemency Board. His attorneys are appealing the conviction and sentence, of course.
Earlier this month, his family and attorneys again went to the Army Clemency Board for relief, pointing out that his sentence was 50% higher than others convicted of the same crime already. They addressed Michael’s unblemished record in prison for the past two years, his many accomplishments while incarcerated, and his unblemished civilian record. They stressed that he was not a threat to anyone and offered many letters of reference including those from the Governor of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Attorney General, Law Enforcement Agency Heads, and all of the supporters who took the time to write letters of support for Michael. In addition, the entire Oklahoma Congressional Delegation offered their support for Michael’s clemency. They also had three letters of immediate employment for Michael upon his release. After their arguments to the Clemency Board, the Board had no additional uncompleted factors for Michael, and the Chairman of the Clemency Board stated that Michael had “turned the corner.” But, on December 22, despite all this overwhelming support and the fact that evidence was not allowed to be provided that would have exonerated Michael, he was notified that all of these efforts fell on deaf ears and he was denied even ONE day of clemency by the Clemency Board and the Secretary of the Army John McHugh.
Now, another Soldier, Special Forces Sergeant First Class Kelly A. Stewart is dealing with the same expect-the-worst attitude against our troops from within.
On Nov. 7, 2008, a German woman accused him, among other things, of raping and kidnapping her two and a half months earlier during a one-night stand that ended in his hotel room in Sindelfingen, Germany.
Nine months later, Stewart found himself convicted on multiple charges — including kidnapping, forcible sodomy and aggravated sexual assault of a woman — based almost entirely on the testimony of his accuser. Along with being sentenced to eight years confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the Special Forces soldier, combat veteran and Bronze Star recipient was reduced in rank to E-1, stripped of all pay and allowances and recommended for dishonorable discharge upon release.
Important and vital information that could have saved Stewart was barred from the trial. In a subsequent Article 39(a) session, which allows a judge to call the court into session without the presence of the members in order to determine motions for defense or objection among other things, that some of this suppressed information surfaced:
~ A long-time friend, co-worker and roommate of Stewart’s accuser said the woman lied when she told the court she had not engaged in any dating relationships and had not had any sexual contacts with men since the night of the alleged crime. According to the friend, the sergeant’s accuser had sex with at least two different men after the alleged rape took place.
~ A court-appointed victim-witness liaison assigned to help the accuser alleged that the accuser attempted to deceive the jury with emotional outbursts during the court-martial proceedings and that those outbursts ceased after she mentioned to the accuser the possibility that court-martial panel members might think she was insane and not believe her because of her antics.
~ An elderly Canadian woman living in Germany reported as “kind of weird” that the accuser, who she barely knew, told her “out of the blue” about her pursuit of a school teacher and, a day later, “that it worked out” and that they had “had sex.”
More information also came to light that cast extreme doubt upon the civilian German’s story:
In a letter to Brig. Gen. Steven L. Salazar, commander of Headquarters 7th Army Joint Military Training Command to which Stewart was assigned in Grafenwoher, Germany, the wife of an Army soldier stationed in Germany asked the general to grant Stewart a new trial.
In addition to citing the absence of any women on the court-martial panel, she outlined her contention that claims made by the accuser about the ways in which she was allegedly raped by the soldier were ludicrous. She even went so far as to explain that she and her husband tried unsuccessfully to replicate those ways before concluding that the alleged rape could not have happened as described by the accuser.
In a “Request for Clemency” package dated Dec. 2, 2009, Stewart’s defense attorneys included a statement from the accuser’s aforementioned friend. In it, the friend said she received a text message from the accuser on the same day as the alleged incident took place.
In the text message, according to the friend, the accuser described a lecherous night where she “found my master.” The friend took this to mean that there was sex of the sadomasochist type and noted that there was no talk of something happening that the accuser did not like. The friend stated further that the accuser claimed her encounter with Stewart was “great SEX.”
Yet, in spite of all this additional information that, at least to the untrained eye seems worthy of relooking, BG Salazar refused to reopen the trial or reconsider the verdict. Instead, he seems to have taken the easy way out by taking the following actions:
~ He reduced the length of Stewart’s sentence from eight years (with one year already served) to three years, making him eligible for parole immediately;
~ He changed Stewart’s discharge condition from “dishonorable” to “bad conduct”; and
~ He dismissed the charge involving inveigling (i.e., using flattery to accomplish an objective).
So, in spite of the fact that the evidence shows he may not have done anything he was accused of doing, he was still reduced to a private and forfeited all pay and allowances. He will not be able to qualify for many programs available to veterans. He is still considered a sex offender and felon. His every move will be tracked and he cannot legally carry a firearm because of these seemingly baseless accusations.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. NONE of this would have happened had Kelly not cheated on his wife to begin with. When the alleged event happened, he was married with kids. The easiest way to avoid a false rape charge is to avoid sleeping around with women you aren’t married to. But, such conduct is deserving of a divorce and half his pay in alimony and child support taken away, not false rape allegations and jail time. Thankfully, Kelly has admitted this and worked through those issues personally. His wife has forgiven and moved on and their marriage is as strong as it can be while he is incarcerated.
If you would like to help either of these Soldiers (and I highly encourage you too, if able), please see the following links:
I could really write a dozen more stories from recent news and events. Having read just these three, is the Army eating its own?
John Grisham once wrote, “It’s easy to convict an innocent man. But it’s almost impossible to get him out once you have.”