Extraordinary Claims Should Require Extraordinary Evidence (June 26, 2018)

National GuardGuest Post by Liz Ullman:

Enrique Costas comes from four generations of dignified and recognized military service. His grandfather’s name is in the history books as one of the first soldiers to join the Puerto Rico National Guard to serve the United States. His father defended this country for 32 years, earning an Air Medal for heroism in Vietnam; his nephew will be commissioned as an officer in the next week and will be going on active duty.

Costas enlisted in the Puerto Rico National Guard in 1988. In 1999 he volunteered to be assigned as a Recruiter, earning top awards and commendations throughout his almost 14 years as the Senior Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of the Puerto Rico Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention (RR) Command office in San Juan. He was also selected and participated for seven years in the Puerto Rico National Guard Honor Guard, the team responsible for carrying our Nation’s and Army Colors in the highest of the Government’s activities and celebrations.

He was responsible for achieving monthly production for the three main tenets of the Guard recruiting office: Recruiting, Retention and Attrition Management • Staff resourcing for two Army battalions covering 13 cities • Supervising and mentoring up to 10 recruiting and retention non-commissioned officers.

Costas was a champion in mission accomplishment with the highest integrity and ethics. His walls are filled awards and photos with the Guard’s top-ranking officers, including General Clyde A. Vaughn, who personally commended Costas for his service and integrity. Costas retired in 2014 after Honorably serving our Nation for over 26 years.

The biggest mistake Costas made in his career was simply being on duty during the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program also known as G-RAP, a cash incentive opportunity for civilian soldiers to bring in new recruits. With no direction from Washington D.C.’s Strength Maintenance Division, General Vaughn’s recruiters were supposed to intuit the 60 changes in the G-RAP rules over a seven-year period, while also working to fill the dwindling ranks of Guard troops.

Just before dawn, on an early October morning in 2015, Costas’s home was stormed by six Federal agents and two State police officers, in full tactical gear. Costas thought his family was under attack, and it was – by the Government he had served. Costas was arrested and taken to a Federal Courthouse where he was charged with “crimes” dating back almost ten years, during the days of G-RAP.

Costas is one of hundreds of General Vaughn’s recruiters who have been held responsible for not knowing the G-RAP rules that were never sent to them. And not just held responsible — charged with criminal intent to commit fraud against the Government. General Vaughn, who created and administered G-RAP, and who was administratively sanctioned for poor management, is enjoying full retirement in Virginia and Arizona.

Costas is going to prison.

The government’s “evidence” against Costas and other recruiters does not even meet the standard of circumstantial. In his case, the government admitted during trial to having no actual evidence, but only a “reasonable inference” that a crime could have been committed.

As a recruiter, Costas could not and did not participate in G-RAP. There were no Army regulations that governed G-RAP because the program was run by a private Alabama-based contractor called Docupak. Docupak was essentially incentivized to run a sloppy program, earning a 17% markup on every new enlistment, on top of their contract fees and administrative expenses. This lack of training stands in sharp contrast to how the Army usually operates, with manuals and rules on almost every action and procedure.

The one rule that the prosecution seized on to brand soldiers and veterans as felons regarded the relationship between the Recruiting Officer and the Docupak civilian contractors known as Recruiting Assistants (RAs). When G-RAP began, those contractors were regarded as assistants to the Recruiting Officers. The Recruiting Officers might use the RAs to give that extra push to a potential applicant considering enlisting. The Recruiting Officers were encouraged to ask the RAs to attend recruiting events and help with the finding of potential candidates. The original program outline stated that the Recruiting Officer would provide specifics for each possible enlistment to the RA, including legal name, birth date and social security number. That information was used by Docupak to verify enlistments and process payments to their RA contractors. In later descriptions of G-RAP, the social security number would go from the new recruit to the RA contractor, bypassing the Recruiting Officer, which not a single RA contractor reports ever seeing or any evidence has ever been produced by Docupak that verifies it.

This procedural change has resulted in hundred of indictments and scores of convictions for identity theft and wire fraud. Soldiers and veterans are in prison. Costas, sadly, is on his way.

After the government filed more than 50 felonies against Costas, his defense team could not overcome the wrath of the United States and he was convicted by a jury who felt that with so many felonies filed, Costas certainly had to have done something wrong.

He did not. G-RAP was a tangle of mismanagement; the soldiers who were on duty during its tenure are paying the price of administrative failures by their command. In an internal investigation done by the Puerto Rico National Guard pertaining to G-RAP in 2012, the Investigating Officer admitted that “Recruiters had no formal training on how G-RAP operated.”

Costas and his family had their hearts broken when the prosecution opened with statements calling him a “cheater, stealer and a liar.” He said these words, “pierced the core of his soul.”

Presumption of Innocence or even the “benefit of the doubt” was never given. In the end the Government spent an estimated $100,000 prosecuting Costas and the jury found Costas guilty on three charges amounting to $3,000. Although never having a criminal record and an impeccable military career, the judge sentenced Costas to prison. In the end “reasonable inference” and circumstantial evidence weighed more than 26 years of honorable service willing to sacrifice life and limb.

Recently the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th District reversed and vacated a conviction of an accused soldier involving G-RAP and determined, that the “Government did not retain a revisionary interest in the funds and that it did not exercise supervision or control over the funds”. This decision cannot be applied to Costas unless the United States Court of Appeals for the 1st District, the Supreme Court, or Congress rules on it.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
― Carl Sagan

The claims were extraordinary. The evidence was missing. And yet, a United States military hero and veteran has been sacrificed.

We respectfully request that Congress or the White House appoint a commission to review the G-RAP investigation, to identify Soldiers that have been unjustly stigmatized by it, and to recommend suitable cases for clemency and pardon.

Related Links:
Stop G-RAP Injustice | Facebook
The Conspiracy Behind the G-RAP War on American Soldiers (March 30, 2016)
If You Look at the Dollars, Guard Recruiting Assistance Program Investigations Make No Sense (July 12, 2016)
Top Ten Problems with the National Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP) Investigations (December 15, 2016)
An Open Letter to Congress Regarding the Investigations of the National Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (June 5, 2017)

Oxygen Premiered ‘In Defense Of Timothy McVeigh’: Convicted Oklahoma City Bomber Executed by Feds in 2001 for Terrorism (June 25, 2018)

Full Episode: Defense attorneys, Chris Tritico and Stephen Jones, detail their time representing Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in his capital murder trial and their efforts to spare him the death penalty. -In Defense Of, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Date: April 19, 1995
Victims: Oklahoma City bombing left 168 people dead and hundreds more injured
Offender: Timothy McVeigh, Army veteran
Location: Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Circumstances: Accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was the most hated man in Ok City, he was demonized by the public and in the media, Stephen Jones and Chris Tritico were assigned as his defense attorneys, 25 young children died in the explosion and this weighed heavily on the defense attorneys, there was a lot of pressure defending McVeigh in a capital murder case because he was facing the death penalty, McVeigh was in federal prison in Englewood, Colorado while awaiting trial, TM was coherent and aware of his surroundings and circumstances, he wasn’t the crazy person the attorneys were expecting, he was charged in federal court for a weapons of mass destruction charge and multiple first degree murder charges, TM would not even look at an insanity defense, he initially wanted to plead guilty but the law did not allow it, TM was the boy next door although his parents had a difficult marriage, TM hated bullies because he was bullied in school, after high school, he joined the military, won the Army commendation medal, the bronze star, he was on the General’s staff, he got orders for special operations school but he was out of shape, he quit after three days and this ended his military career, that began the spiral in TM’s life, he started going around the country selling guns at gun shows, he was concerned about the federal government taking over their lives, when the 51 day Waco siege occurred in February 1993, he really became concerned about federal government overreach, TM said he went there and saw the government throw fire incendiary devices into the house and burned it down, he thought the government committed outrageous crimes against the Branch Davidian compound, this act set in motion the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City because that office planned the majority of the siege on Waco, one hour after the bombing, Tim was stopped for not having a license plate, the police officer wrote him a ticket, he found a weapon, TM was placed in jail, meanwhile an investigator found a VIN on a part from the Ryder truck and they traced it back to the rental agency, they created a police sketch based on the description of the man who rented the Ryder truck, someone recognized the sketch at a hotel and it traced back to Timothy McVeigh, he was arrested for the Oklahoma City bombing, President Bill Clinton announced the feds would seek the death penalty, the government had to prove these crimes beyond a reasonable doubt in order to execute him, defense couldn’t use the ‘necessity defense’ because TM murdered children, the government claimed only TM was involved, eventually Army veteran Terry Nichols was arrested for conspiracy in the Ok City bombing, he was in the same platoon in the Army as TM, it added a new person in the conspiracy, the defense used the arrest of Terry Nichols to prove that Terry was involved in the bombing and TM was not but Terry constructed a series of events that gave him an alibi on the day of the bombing, TM’s consistent theme was he did not want anyone else blamed for the bombing, he admitted to how he constructed the bomb and he wanted to take sole responsibility for the act, but the attorneys did not believe that he acted alone, they suspected Terry Nichols and others were involved, TM decided he wanted to go out as the mastermind, then someone stole some documents from one of the attorneys and leaked them to the media, the media printed that TM wanted people to die to pay for the oppression of the government and get their attention, Dallas Morning News broke the story, they learned a defense team member was the one who leaked the documents, he didn’t do it for money, he thought TM’s attorneys would get him off the charges, TM lost trust in his attorneys three weeks before the trial, he refused to meet with the attorneys initially but he agreed to meet with Chris Tritico only, the attorneys were concerned that 6 weeks wasn’t enough time to prepare for a death penalty trial, during trial, one of the witnesses saw someone get out of the Ryder truck and it wasn’t TM, almost immediately after this, the bomb went off, the defense used forensics to show there was no forensic evidence tying TM to the bomb or bombing, their job was to create reasonable doubt, there was an extra leg found and the body had not been identified, this could be the man the witness observed, an existence of another man would lend to the conspiracy theory therefore that’s an argument that TM should not be given the death sentence because he may be needed for future testimony, government presented a good and effective case by calling on survivors of those who died in the bombing, after the trial started, the attorneys got to know TM well, he was a very smart individual, they felt had TM never met Terry Nichols and lost his military career, none of this would have happened, TM had way more depth to him than anyone ever really knew, it was hard to imagine he killed 168 people after the attorneys formed a friendship with him, regardless they were going to work hard to represent TM with vigor, closing arguments was a big deal for these defense attorneys and they felt a lot of pressure because TM’s life was on the line, the jury deliberated for 2 1/2 days, after the guilty verdict, one of TM’s attorneys was asked to help stop the execution because the federal government withheld 100 boxes of evidence, McVeigh was waiting in a federal prison in Indiana, Tim chose to stop the appeals because he did not want to live the life he was living in super max anymore even if they could have reduced his death sentence, TM was silent until the end
Disposition: Timothy McVeigh was found guilty on all 11 federal counts including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, use of a weapon of mass destruction by explosive, and all the first degree murder counts; McVeigh was sentenced to death by lethal injection; McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001

Notable Quotes: “To be a criminal defense lawyer, you have to adopt a philosophy that the justice of a society is measured by how it treats it’s worst people, not it’s best.” -Stephen Jones, Timothy McVeigh’s attorney

Source: ‘In Defense of: Timothy McVeigh’ Oxygen

Timothy McVeigh Army

Timothy McVeigh, US Army veteran (Photo: Reddit)

Oxygen:

Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people after bombing a federal building in Oklahoma City. -In Defense Of, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Defense lawyer Chris Tritico recalls his visit to a federal prison in Colorado that put him face to face with Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh. -In Defense Of, Oxygen (S1, E1)

A stolen interview with Timothy McVeigh shocks both the public and his own defense team. -In Defense Of, Oxygen (S1, E1)

McVeigh’s attorneys remember the gut-wrenching testimonies of those who lost loved ones in the Oklahoma City Bombing. -In Defense Of, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Chris Tritico’s family remembers the difficulties they faced throughout Timothy McVeigh’s trial. -In Defense Of, Oxygen (S1, E1)

“When someone is facing the loss of their life, you have to put everything you have into that.” -In Defense Of, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Chris forgot to examine his zipper while cross-examining witnesses. -In Defense Of, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Stephen Jones reveals a conversation with client Timothy McVeigh that he has never repeated until now. -In Defense Of, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Chris Tritico does not support crime; he supports the constitution. -In Defense Of, Oxygen (S1, E1)

During the Branch Davidian trial Dan Cogdell received a letter of support from Timothy McVeigh, a man who would later be known as the Oklahoma City Bomber. -In Defense Of, Oxygen

In the News:

In one of the most chilling interviews on the broadcast, Ed Bradley talked to McVeigh a year before his execution. -60 Minutes

Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh Sentenced to Death. -AP Archive


McVeigh’s father reaction to judge decision. -AP Archive

Interview with McVeigh’s lawyer after last meal. -AP Archive

Documentary:

Timothy McVeigh. We’ve been told so much about him, the Oklahoma City bombing, and what it meant for America. But what if it’s all a lie? -Corbett Report

Related Links:
Timothy James McVeigh #717
Timothy McVeigh | Death Penalty Information Center
Who Was Timothy McVeigh?
Oklahoma City Bombing
Oklahoma City Bombing – FBI
Oklahoma City bombing – HISTORY
Oklahoma City Bombing Fast Facts
The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum
Judge backs Reno’s death penalty call
McVeigh Case Lawyers Argue for Death, Life
Timothy McVeigh refuses to plead for his life
Timothy McVeigh’s death penalty lawyers to speak at Cornell Law School Nov. 14
Who’s Paying Timothy McVeigh’s Lawyers?
McVeigh convicted for Oklahoma City bombing
McVeigh Jury Mulls Execution, A Seldom-Used Federal Penalty
Jurors in Oklahoma City bombing trial sentence Timothy McVeigh to death
McVeigh Ends Appeal of His Death Sentence
McVeigh Condemned to Death
McVeigh sentenced to die for Oklahoma City bombing
6/11/01: Timothy McVeigh Executed
The execution of Timothy McVeigh
Execution of Timothy McVeigh | C-SPAN
Defiant McVeigh dies in silence
Is McVeigh’s execution justified
ACLU Statement on the Execution of Timothy McVeigh
Vast Majority of Americans Think McVeigh Should Be Executed
Victims’ families split by McVeigh execution
Exploiting A Tragedy: Death Penalty Supporters Use The Mcveigh Case
Execution will only make McVeigh’s point
McVeigh Execution Draws Activists From Both Sides of Death Penalty Debate
The Meaning of Timothy McVeigh | Vanity Fair
Inside Death Penalty Decisions: From Timothy McVeigh to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Timothy McVeigh and the Myth of Closure
An argument against the Death Penalty
Meeting McVeigh
America Hates Terrorists | The Marshall Project
The Prison Letters of Timothy McVeigh
Timothy McVeigh Lawyer: How Tsarnaev’s Defense Can Save His Life
Execution of a Terrorist: Debates Over Timothy McVeigh’s Death Echo 14 Years Later
15 Years Later, Hearing McVeigh’s Confession
20 years after the Oklahoma City bombing, Timothy McVeigh remains the only terrorist executed by US
Timothy McVeigh juror weighs-in on stress of deciding someone’s fate
The Timothy McVeigh case and its impact on media law
Timothy McVeigh gets the death penalty in 1997 for the Oklahoma City bombing
‘Oklahoma City’ Shows That Timothy McVeigh’s Terrorism Has Contemporary Reach
Out Of The Horror In Oklahoma City, Merrick Garland Forged The Way Forward
Oxygen’s New Crime Series IN DEFENSE OF Premieres Monday, June 25
“In Defense Of”: Oxygen Series Looks at Lawyers Who Defend the Indefensible
Oxygen’s In Defense Of Will Take You Inside Some of the Most Notorious Criminal Cases
Timothy McVeigh’s defense attorney recalls meeting Oklahoma City bomber in new doc: ‘He wasn’t completely nuts’
‘In Defense Of’ Highlights A Totally Different Side To The True Crime Genre
‘In Defense Of’ Sneak Peek: Timothy McVeigh’s Attorney Reveals Hesitation in Taking Oklahoma Bombing Case
A Short History of Timothy McVeigh | Oxygen

YouTube:
March 12, 2000: Timothy McVeigh speaks | 60 Minutes
Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh Sentenced to Death
McVeigh’s father reaction to judge decision
Interview with McVeigh’s lawyer after last meal
The Secret Life of Timothy McVeigh
A Short History Of Timothy McVeigh – Very Real | Oxygen
In Defense Of: Preview – Waiting for Craziness (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
In Defense Of: Preview – A Major Betrayal (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
In Defense Of: Preview – An Emotional Appeal (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
In Defense Of: Bonus Clip – Tough Times (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
In Defense Of: Bonus Clip – A Moment Of Shock (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
In Defense Of: Bonus Clip – Courtroom Embarrassment (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
In Defense Of: Bonus Clip – Not His First Rodeo (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
In Defense Of: Bonus Clip – A Lifetime Of Law (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
In Defense Of: Bonus Clip – Letter From A Future Terrorist (Season 1, Episode 2) | Oxygen
Timothy McVeigh | In Defense Of | Oxygen (S1, E1)
Timothy McVeigh | In Defense Of | Oxygen (preview)
Timothy McVeigh | In Defense Of | Oxygen (website)

Washington D.C. Veteran’s Presentation on the Current Status of the Armed Forces at Fort Hood in Texas (December 12, 2017)

King copy

Jennifer Norris, USAF Retired (medical), Onyx, Senator Angus King (Maine), Stephanie Brewer, USMC Retired (medical), and Chinook | December 13, 2017

Military justice policy analyst Jennifer Norris was invited to speak in the Gold Room at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington D.C. on December 12, 2017. The veterans organization she accompanied provided her with fifteen minutes to present and she chose to speak about the current troubling status of the Fort Hood Army post near Killeen, Texas. She also shared the stories of four Fort Hood soldiers. Marine veteran Stephanie Brewer was in attendance and assisted Jennifer with the presentation of the material. Stephanie created a powerpoint presentation to help the audience see these soldier’s faces and remind them that they matter and their families love them. After the presentation, they visited Senator John McCain’s office (Chair, Senate Armed Services Committee), Representative Mac Thornberry’s Office (Chair, House Armed Services Committee), Senator Ted Cruz’s Office (supports the Military Justice Improvement Act), Senator Susan Collin’s Office (supports the MJIA), and finally Senator Angus King’s Office (who has consistently voted against the MJIA). While attending a constituent’s coffee event at Senator King’s office, these veterans inquired about the status of the retaliation law’s promised by Senator Claire McCaskill’s office. The response:

I wanted to follow up on our meeting yesterday by forwarding some information about efforts to prevent retaliation against servicemembers who report crimes.

The first important step is gathering data on retaliation so that leadership can best figure out how to address the issue. The DOD includes statistics on retaliation in its annual reports on sexual assault and reporting. They recently changed the way that they gather the data so that they can get a more accurate picture of which servicemembers experience the type of behavior that qualifies legally as retaliation under the UCMJ. As I mentioned yesterday, the data doesn’t go back very far- the DOD has only been collecting this information for a year. As the database grows, so will the DOD’s understanding of the real scope and nature of the problem. This should help target solutions.

A number of lawmakers are really committed to addressing this problem, as well. Senator McCaskill from Missouri introduced a bill last year that aimed to prevent military retaliation. Senator King cosponsored the bill. A summary is available here.

The bill didn’t move out of committee, so Senator McCaskill or another member might try to reintroduce it later. Another possibility is that next year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) could include similar language.

-Senator Angus King’s Office

These veterans were successful at setting up times to meet with defense fellows at Thornberry, Collins, and King’s offices. They also stopped into Senator McCain’s office to get the scheduling contact information for him because he consistently does not get back to one. They gave the same Fort Hood presentation to the defense fellows as the one they gave in the Gold Room except this time they had more time to discuss each individual. If it was up to these veterans, they would sit there all day and talk about every single soldier because all their lives matter. Overall, they report the active duty fellows they met with were receptive. They illustrated that the common theme with the four soldiers discussed is involvement in the military justice system in one way or another. The following presentation helps you get an understanding of the issues at bases nationwide by telling you the stories of four Fort Hood soldiers and their experiences in the last couple of years. All had mental health issues and three are dead. The other soldier is in federal prison for eighteen months for a threatening phone call he made to Fort Hood. This incident occurred after he was exonerated of a crime and released from a military prison yet stonewalled and dismissed when he asked about his backpay.

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Presentation on the Current Status of the Armed Forces at Fort Hood

Last time I was in DC in September 2016, I provided my Senator with military policy recommendations that would benefit families who doubt a cause of death ruling. I highlighted a need for compassionate care for families, independent investigations, and cold case squads in the Army and the Air Force, much like the NCIS Cold Case Squad. Sadly it appears the military has a history of ruling what looks like a homicide as a suicide. One of the most publicized examples is that of Pfc. LaVena Johnson. The Army ruled LaVena’s death a suicide but an independent autopsy revealed she was raped and murdered. To this day, the Army will not cooperate with the family of LaVena Johnson who has begged them to find their daughter’s killer. The alarming stateside death rate at Fort Hood alone only strengthens the resolve to continue asking for mental health and criminal justice reform in the military.

73 Fort Hood Soldiers Died Since January 2016: 4 Insider Attacks & 2 Suicides Overseas; 67 Stateside Deaths Including 34 Alleged Suicides & 1 Unsolved Homicide

“Simple enough answer, between incompetent leaders, the drugs, the gang bangers, poor units, ghetto neighborhoods, poor quality soldiers, and just being in Texas, this place is where souls go to die… Hood kills you on the inside. The outside follows shortly afterwards..” -Anonymous

Fact: In the last two years, more soldiers at Fort Hood died stateside than overseas. The six non combat deaths that occurred overseas were insider attacks (4) and death ruled suicide by the Army CID (2). The following numbers are the specifics at Fort Hood in Texas since January 2016.

73 deaths at Fort Hood since January 1, 2016. 

  • As of August 2017, 9,300 soldiers from Fort Hood were currently deployed across the globe, this is more than a 1/4 of the 35,000 troops stationed there
  • Average age of death is 28 years old
  • Average 1.5 suspected suicides per month since January 2016
  • 6 overseas deaths to include 4 insider attacks and 2 suicides
  • 67 stateside deaths to include 34 alleged suicides (13 soldiers had no known deployments; 21 soldiers had deployed to Korea, Iraq, or Afghanistan)
  • 1 unsolved homicide in Killeen, Texas (Justin Lewis)
  • 11 died in training accidents, 9 died in one training incident

6 OVERSEAS DEATHS

4 insider attacks, Afghanistan; 2 non combat deaths, Iraq & Korea

10/20/16: Douglas Riney, 26, US Army (ambushed and shot to death by lone gunman in Afghanistan Army uniform); 11/12/16: Tyler Iubelt, 20, US Army (suicide bomber during base wide post-Veteran’s day fun run, Afghanistan); 11/12/16: John Perry, 30, US Army (suicide bomber during base wide post-Veteran’s Day fun run, Afghanistan); 12/06/16: Allan Brown, 46, US Army (succumbed to injuries, suicide bomber during base wide post-Veteran’s Day fun run, Afghanistan); 02/21/17: Brian Odiorne, 21, US Army (ruled suicide by CID, Iraq); 08/02/17: Zachary Moore, 23, US Army (ruled suicide by CID, Korea)

67 STATESIDE DEATHS

3 homicides off base

01/05/16: Jonathan ‘Mike’ Gilotti, 33, US Army Veteran (gunshot wound, Alabama; Charleston Wells, 16, Ahmad Johnson, 18, Darrian Bryant, 16, and De’Ron Lucas, 19, charged with murder; Wells found not guilty); 04/17/17: Justin Lewis, 19, US Army (shot & killed near vacant lot in neighborhood near post in Killeen, Texas; unsolved homicide); 05/05/17: Travis Granger, 29, US Army Veteran (gunshot wound, 27 year old Keith Marinnie charged with murder)


A Fort Hood soldier spoke candidly about what they say the reality of living on the Texas military base is like. (2014) –CNN

13 found dead on post

01/03/16: Devin Schuette, 35, US Army (missing, found dead at on-post recreation area, Army CID ruled death suicide); 06/06/16: Bernardino Guevara Jr., 21, US Army (gunshot wound, Sportsmen’s Center); 07/12/16: Alexander Johnson, 21, US Army (found dead near BLORA paintball court); 08/19/16: Dion Servant, 24, US Army (found dead in barracks); 09/13/16: Andrew Hunt, 23, US Army (officer found dead at on post residence); 12/24/16: Paige Fontenot Briles, 21, US Army (found dead at base housing, death ruled suicide by Army CID); 01/11/17: Alex Taylor, 23, US Army (found unresponsive at place of duty on post); 01/12/17: Zackary Partin, 24, US Army (found dead in barracks room on post); 02/05/17: Steven Hines, 29, US Army (CID Agent found dead behind office building of apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, death ruled suicide); 02/27/17: Andre Nance, 34, US Army (found dead at Fort Rucker, Alabama hotel); 04/07/17: Daniel Wildeman, 40, US Army (found unresponsive in barracks room); 07/11/17: Justen Ogden, 22, US Army (found unresponsive at on post residence); 10/12/17: Angel BenitezQuinones, 32, US Army (found unresponsive on post)

21 found dead off post

01/16/16: Troy Wayman, 45, US Army (military officer found dead of apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in Nolanville apartment, death ruled suicide); 03/14/16: Brian Reed, 40, US Army (gunshot wound, Copperas Cove residence); 03/20/16: Andrew Poznick, 45, US Army (military officer found dead at off-post residence near Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania, death ruled suicide); 03/20/16: Steven Lewis, 33, US Army (self-inflicted wound, off-post residence, Killeen); 05/01/16: John Stobbe, 31, US Army (death ruled suicide at off-post residence, Killeen); 05/23/16: Marcus Nelson, 45, US Army (death ruled suicide at Bell County jail); 06/10/16: Duane Shaw III, 34, US Army (death ruled suicide at off-post home, Temple); 08/04/16: Calvin Aguilar, 32, US Army (found unresponsive in Copperas Cove, Texas); 09/17/16: Nathan Berg, 20, US Army (died of gunshot wound off post in Killeen); 10/07/16: Bradley Acker, 25, US Army (death ruled suicide, Copperas Cove, Texas); 10/15/16: Douglas Bailey, 24, US Army (found dead at off post residence); 11/16/16: Kevin Paulino, 24, US Army (died of self-inflicted gunshot wound in Indiana); 11/18/16: Korey James, 21, US Army (found unresponsive at off post residence, Killeen); 11/26/16: Wanya Bruns, 20, US Army (self-inflicted gunshot wound off-post, Killeen); 01/02/17: Randal Anderson, 22, US Army (died from gunshot wound off-post, Killeen); 02/06/17: Christie Anderson, 44, US Army (found dead at off post residence, Killeen); 05/14/17: Jon Bullard, 40, US Army (found unresponsive at home in Belton, Texas); 06/15/17: Devon Tucker, 21, US Army (found unresponsive at home in Copperas Cove); 07/26/17: Deangelo Mathis, 22, US Army (found unresponsive in Sly County, Georgia); 10/14/17: John Hatfield, 27, US Army (died of a gunshot wound off-post in Killeen); 10/18/17: Luke Toomey, 21, US Army (found unresponsive at home in Copperas Cove)

11 died in training accidents

06/02/16: Christine Armstrong, 27, US Army (died in flood training incident); 06/02/16: Brandon Banner, 22, US Army (died in flood training incident); 06/02/16: Miguel Colonvazquez, 38, US Army (died in flood training incident); 06/02/16: Isaac Deleon, 19, US Army (died in flood training incident); 06/02/16: Zachary Fuller, 23, US Army (died in flood training incident); 06/02/16: Eddy Gates, 20, US Army (died in flood training incident); 06/02/16: Tysheena James, 21, US Army (died in flood training incident); 06/02/16: Yingming Sun, 25, US Army (died in flood training incident); 06/02/16: Mitchell Winey, 21, US Military Academy (died in flood training incident); 02/17/17: Michael Garcia, 29, US Army (died in vehicle training accident); 09/12/17: Sean Devoy, 28, US Army (died in fall during helicopter hoist training)

3 died from unspecified medical issues

11/10/16: Daniel Monibe, 32, US Army (died of illness); 01/01/17: Kai Yancey, 26, US Army (died after complications from short illness); 10/05/17: Derrick Walker, 40, US Army (died of a long-term illness)

7 died in motorcycle accidents

05/09/16: Ellsworth Raup, 33, US Army (rear ended a van in Killeen, Texas); 06/05/16: Antino Glass, 34, US Army (struck livestock on Fort Hood); 08/01/16: Logan Rainwater, 24, US Army (SUV turned in front of him in Killeen); 09/09/16: Stacy Hardy, 20, US Army (slammed into minivan, eluding Killeen PD); 03/26/17: Jonathan Garcia, 29, US Army (single-vehicle motorcycle crash, for reasons unclear, bike lost control on curve, veered off road, & struck cable barrier); 07/03/17: Anthony Lovell, 40, US Army (single-vehicle motorcycle crash, failed to negotiate a turn, left the roadway, went airborne into creek in Killeen); 07/14/17: James Smith, 24, US Army (single-vehicle motorcycle crash, lost control of bike on I-35 in Temple)

4 died in automobile accidents

03/06/16: Sean Van Der Wal, 25, US Army (fatal auto collision with truck on I-35; driver & Fort Hood soldier Timothy Corder charged with intoxication manslaughter); 06/11/16: Dougal Mitchell, 32, US Army (driving the wrong way on State Highway 195, vehicle collided with another driven by Mikeshia Ruiz, 23, who died at scene); 11/03/16: Dakota Stump, 19, US Army (missing for 3 weeks, fatal auto accident on post that occurred night he went missing, family wants missing ‘Warrior Alert’ law); 01/07/17: Barron Von Reichelt, 24, US Army (died from injuries suffered in an automobile crash on South Range Road at Fort Hood)

4 died unexpectedly

04/16/17: David Ananou, 30, US Army (death by apparent drowning at Temple Lake Park); 10/14/17: Sameer Chalise, 28, US Army (died due to injuries while swimming, Mansfield); 02/18/17: Sean Callahan, 31, US Army (passed away unexpectedly in Iowa); 04/11/17: Darius Cooper, 40, US Army (declared dead by board of inquiry after went missing when car swept away in low water crossing)

1 self inflicted & officer involved shooting

10/12/17: Alva Gwinn, 39, US Army (accused of sex crime; command directed ‘wellness check’ initiated 1 month before trial; shot at by police but died of self inflicted gunshot wound after high speed car chase)

Master Sergeant Alva Joe Gwinn

MSG Alva ‘Joe’ Gwinn, US Army

Fort Hood Army MSG Alva ‘Joe’ Gwinn Lead Police on High Speed Car Chase After Wellness Check Initiated; Died of Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound (October 12, 2017)

Fort Hood Army Master Sergeant Alva ‘Joe’ Gwinn, 39, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on October 12, 2017 near the Williamson-Bell County line in Texas. Although the exact set of circumstances that led to MSG Gwinn taking his own life are unknown, the media reported that MSG Gwinn took his own life during an exchange of gunfire after leading the Killeen Police Department (KPD) on a high speed chase. Prior to the incident, a concerned family member contacted the Fort Hood chain of command to report that Joe was experiencing a mental health breakdown and may be suicidal. The command contacted the military police who then asked the Killeen Police Department to do a ‘welfare check’ on MSG Gwinn. According to the KPD, MSG Gwinn was located in his car but took off when approached; they said MSG Gwinn then led police on a high speed car chase. According to reports, Alva fled on foot after pulling over, there was an exchange of gunfire with the KPD, and MSG Gwinn ended his life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. An officer involved shooting investigation was launched because gunfire was exchanged. Joe left behind two sons from a previous marriage and a wife and family who loved him very much. He is missed dearly.

On March 21, 2018, the media reported that a “Bell County Grand Jury reviewed the completed investigation done by the Texas Rangers and decided no indictment should be returned to the deputy in connection with the events leading to the death of a Fort Hood soldier.” MSG Gwinn’s home of record was listed as Richwood, West Virginia. MSG Gwinn served in the Army National Guard from 1996-1999 and then enlisted in the active-duty Army in September 1999 as a combat engineer. At the time of his death, MSG Gwinn was assigned to the 20th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade at Fort Hood since April 2012. MSG Gwinn served in the military for over twenty years and was eligible for retirement. When the media reported on the death of MSG Gwinn, they also mentioned a sexual assault accusation lodged against him in June 2016. They reported MSG Gwinn was scheduled to go to court in November 2017 as if they were implying there was a connection between the suicide and the court date scheduled the following month. One media source reported MSG Gwinn was a highly decorated combat veteran who was known for being a perfectionist and respected by his peers. MSG Gwinn deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan a total of five times while he served with the U.S. Army.

Areas of Concern:

  • On October 12, 2017, family informed the chain of command that MSG Gwinn was experiencing a mental health breakdown & may be suicidal; at the request of the chain of command, the military police asked the Killeen Police Department to do a ‘welfare check’ on MSG Gwinn; according to the KPD, they located MSG Gwinn in his car but he took off when approached and then led them on a high speed car chase that ended with an exchange of gunfire and MSG Gwinn taking his own life
  • How can we prevent a ‘welfare check’ from turning into an officer involved shooting, suicide by cop or suicide? Why was the high speed car chase necessary?
  • According to media reports, in June 2016, MSG Gwinn was arrested, indicted and charged by civilian authorities with “aggravated sexual assault” of a 12-year-old girl in 2012; the accusations surfaced in the midst of a child support and child custody case; MSG Gwinn maintained his innocence but a potential trial loomed and his military career and child visitation rights were on hold; Joe loved his family
  • The accusations negatively impacted MSG Gwinn’s military career and ability to spend time with his two sons; this in turn negatively impacted his mental health; the stress of the child custody case & accusations took their toll; up until this point, MSG Gwinn had a stellar military career and had never been accused of any crimes
  • According to local media, Alva was facing a trial in November 2017 and they made a loose connection between a pending trial date and MSG Gwinn’s suicide
  • What prompted the media to mire MSG Gwinn’s memory with an accusation when they reported on his death? Is that fair when the accused can’t defend themselves?
  • Whether guilty or innocent, this is a tragic end for a man accused of a crime
  • What does the Army do with the accused who are awaiting criminal trial?
  • Is Fort Hood responsible for the mental health of those accused of crimes?
  • What is the military’s policy on child visitation when a military member is accused of a crime against a child other than their own?

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Pfc. Thomas Chestnut, US Army

Wrongful Conviction: Fort Hood Army Soldier Thomas Chestnut’s Guilty Verdict was Overturned by the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals (December 14, 2016)

Fort Hood Army soldier Thomas Chestnut, 28, was freed from a Kansas military prison on December 23, 2016 after an appellate court overturned a guilty verdict on December 14, 2016. The Army Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction finding evidence in the case as “factually insufficient.” The case stems from an accusation by a third party of a sexual assault of a man in August 2012 at Fort Sam Houston near San Antonio, Texas. Chestnut was charged and found guilty by a military jury on one count of sexual assault and found not guilty of one specification of assault consummated by a battery. Chestnut testified that the encounter with the other soldier was consensual and the third party was trying to deflect attention from himself. Chestnut was sentenced on July 2, 2014 to three years in prison at Fort Leavenworth, a reduction in rank to private, and forfeiture of all pay. After Thomas Chestnut was exonerated, he was entitled to back pay and an honorable discharge from the military when he completed his time in service. Thomas was honorably discharged from the Army in January 2017 but had not yet been able to get his back pay. Thomas shared his thoughts on his wrongful conviction and his two and a half year imprisonment in mostly solitary confinement for a crime he didn’t commit.

“How could I respect the authority of such a corrupt system and such a corrupt institution? Not after what they did to me, to us, as I am not alone in this you see. Hundreds of my fellow veterans have also been falsely accused and forced into prison. Obviously, the military leadership lacks the maturity and ethics to handle sexual assault cases in a balanced adult way. They should not have authority in these matters.” via Save Our Heroes

Thomas Chestnut spent 2 1/2 years in prison where he was placed in solitary confinement and allegedly abused by prison guards. Thomas admits the prejudiced military justice system, corruption, and prison experience traumatized him. He most likely suffers from a form of institutional abuse. In December 2016, the appeals court overturned his conviction, he was cleared of all charges, released from prison, and promised back pay. Thomas stated: “I have nothing. No place of my own, no car, and little money. The Army has no plan for someone with a case overturned, so I’ve been more or less thrown out on the street.” Thomas Chestnut most likely has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after the betrayal by the military justice system and the abuse he endured in prison marked as a man who rapes other men. In February 2017, Chestnut attempted to get his back pay from the Army as he had nothing, no job, no place to live, no means to take care of himself. The Army didn’t help him or give him the answers he deserved when it came to his backpay.

At this point, Thomas most likely had a post traumatic stress meltdown simply from having to deal with the same institution that wrongfully convicted him of a crime. After he didn’t get the answers he deserved regarding his back pay, he got angry and threatened to harm individuals at Fort Hood. As a result, Chestnut was arrested by FBI agents and charged with making threats to kill individuals at Fort Hood. Thomas has been in federal custody ever since he made the threats and now the life that he may have had a second chance at was taken away from him again. Obviously, Thomas shouldn’t have threatened to kill individuals at Ft Hood but the backpay issue and the fact he has PTSD should have been a mitigating factor in this case. For example, the state of destitution he was in and his legitimate need for money to sustain and take care of himself most likely triggered his post traumatic stress symptoms. He was desperate and the Army’s indifference and stonewalling most likely caused an already emotionally fragile man to disassociate and lash out. If he was within the state’s jurisdiction, chances are he would have access to a veteran’s court that would fight to give him another chance. Instead, Thomas Chestnut is in federal prison for 18 months for one threatening phone call.

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Spc. Zachary Moore, US Army

Fort Hood Army Spc. Zachary Moore Found Unresponsive in Barracks on Deployment to Camp Hovey, South Korea; CID Ruled Suicide (August 2, 2017)

Spc. Zachary Moore, 23, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, was found unresponsive August 1, 2017 in his barracks room at Camp Hovey in South Korea. Spc. Moore was transported to St. Mary’s Hospital and pronounced deceased on August 2, 2017. Spc. Moore entered active-duty military service in March 2014 as a signal support systems specialist. He was assigned to the 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood in Texas since July 2016. The circumstances surrounding the incident were investigated by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and the cause of death was ruled a suicide.

Was Zachary Moore’s Death Preventable?

In May 2017, Fort Hood announced they were deploying 3,500 troops to South Korea over the summer. Twenty-three (23) year old Zachary Moore was one of the soldiers deployed to South Korea. With full knowledge of Zachary’s recent mental health issues, the Chain of Command gave him a mental health waiver against his will, and most likely against medical advice, so they could deploy him to South Korea.

In October 2016, Zachary had a mental health breakdown and went Absent without Leave (AWOL). After a successful intervention, Zachary was found and returned to the custody of his Chain of Command at Fort Hood. Zachary’s command then sent him to an emergency room where he was hospitalized and prescribed medication. After Zachary was discharged from the hospital, he continued to seek treatment for mental health issues. Six months later, Zachary was given a mental health waiver by his command to deploy to South Korea.

About a month after Zachary arrived at Camp Hovey in South Korea, his depression medication was changed. As a matter of fact, his depression medication was changed the day before he was found unresponsive in his barracks room. Zachary attempted to kill himself on August 1st, less than 24 hours after the medication change. It was Zachary who called his Command for help as there is no 911 on the base in South Korea. He was found unresponsive and finally transported to the hospital about 1 ½ to 2 hours later. He was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, listed as critical then stable, yet passed away on August 2, 2017.

Why did Zachary Moore go AWOL?

The Chain of Command contacted Jeanette to report Zachary hadn’t been seen since October 18, 2016. They also informed her they were not actively looking for him but would file AWOL status on October 20th. When asked if they filed a missing persons report, Jeanette claims they told her they did but she says she was lead to believe Zachary trashed his room, took his things, and left willingly. She immediately flew to Texas from Florida to find him.

Jeanette contacted the Killeen Police Department as soon as she got to Fort Hood and the local law enforcement found Zachary the same day she arrived. Over the phone, the Command told Jeanette they filed a missing persons report but she learned from the Killeen Police Department that they never did. The Killeen PD noticed recent activity on Facebook so they pinged Zach’s cell phone & found that he was in a remote area of a local state park.

Zachary attempted to flee initially but after negotiations, he surrendered and was returned to the police station where his mom was waiting. Jeanette could tell Zachary was mentally broken and he admitted to her that he wanted to hurt himself.  The Killeen PD found Zachary and he had a knife in his possession. Zachary was returned to the custody of his Chain of Command at Fort Hood. Shortly after Zachary informed his mom that his superiors told him to tell her to leave town and stop interfering.

Jeanette reports that Zachary never had any mental health issues prior to this and suspected that Zachary was “singled out by his command and harassed.”

Areas of Concern in Zachary Moore’s Case:

  • Zachary revealed he was harassed by his Chain of Command. For example, his leave papers to visit family before deploying were denied; he was denied permission to see the Fort Hood Inspector General officer; he was harassed during training exercises; he was given exhausting extra duties; and was accused of taking a radio which was later found on a military officer’s desk. Why was he denied the opportunity to speak to the IG officer?
  • Zachary was accused of trashing his room and taking his belongings when he went AWOL. Jeanette believes the circumstances surrounding the vandalism of his room and the theft of his property could be evidence of harassment.
  • During mental health treatment, Zachary was facing the consequences of going AWOL; Zachary was accused of trashing his own room; and Zachary was accused of stealing a secure radio? What are the additional mental health impacts of the way the Chain of Command uses the military justice system?
  • The circumstances of the mental health waiver and the justifications for sending Zachary to South Korea while he was undergoing treatment for mental health issues and medication management should be investigated.
  • The effects of the medication change in South Korea should be investigated. Is Command aware that some medications can cause serious negative reactions? (Some depression medication causes suicidal ideation.) Who monitors serious medication changes in deployed locations? Is it safe to deploy soldiers in the early phases of medication management for mental health issues?
  • Finally, the delay in the Command’s response to Zachary’s call for help in South Korea should be investigated. Why did it take so long to respond to Zachary and why did it take so long to get Zachary to the hospital? Did anyone attempt to administer help while waiting for the ambulance?
  • If the Command was the cause of the mental health break, where was Zachary supposed to turn? How do we hold the Chain of Command accountable? How do we prevent the Chain of Command from retaliating and using the military justice system or non judicial punishment as a weapon? What was the role of the Commander? What was the role of the Fort Hood Inspector General? How can we prevent a young soldier from feeling like the only way out of their situation is AWOL or suicide? How could we have prevented Zachary’s death?
  • Soldiers have come forward, given their stories to the family and have offered to testify about what Zachary was put through which may explain why he died. Were these soldiers questioned?

Source: Jeanette Nazario (Zachary Moore’s mom)

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Pvt. Paige Fontenot Briles, US Army

Army Pvt. Paige Fontenot Briles Found Unresponsive in Vehicle at Fort Hood Housing in Texas; Initially CID Investigated as Homicide But Later Ruled Suicide (December 24, 2016)

Army Private Paige Fontenot Briles, 21, was found unresponsive in her vehicle at Fort Hood housing in Texas on Christmas eve, December 24, 2016. Private Fontenot Briles is from Kaplin, Louisiana and joined the Army in February 2015. Pvt. Fontenot Briles was assigned to Fort Hood as a wheeled vehicle mechanic. She deployed to Kuwait shortly after completing Advanced Individual Training (AIT). She returned stateside early in December 2015 after she was injured in the line of duty. In November 2016, she was assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center. Pvt. Fontenot Briles was going to be discharged from the Army in February 2017 and had plans to attend dental hygienist school. Family report that Pvt. Fontenot Briles cause of death was determined a homicide by the Army but the Bell County coroner’s office made a suicide determination. The Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) ruled the cause of death as suicide.

Background:

Paige joined the U.S. Army in February 2015 & was permanently assigned to Fort Hood as a wheeled vehicle mechanic after Advanced Individual Training (AIT). Paige shared with her family that she was raped by her recruiter before she went to Fort Jackson for basic training but she did not report the incident. Shortly after arriving to Fort Hood, Paige was deployed to Kuwait in October 2015. Although she returned home early in December 2015 after being found unresponsive under a vehicle. She was injured in the line of duty and the only thing she shared with her family was that she “saw things no one should ever have to see.”

Paige met and married another soldier she hadn’t known that long in January 2016 upon her return home from Kuwait. According to Army CID, they learned that the marriage was contractual and the two did in fact share a home up until recently. When Paige met her husband, she had already experienced multiple traumas from the rape and her experience in Kuwait; she was vulnerable. After a few months of marriage, Paige got pregnant but her “husband” did not want a child and convinced her to get an abortion in August 2016. It was at this point, Paige had a mental health breakdown and was hospitalized for 28 days. She was eventually transferred to the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) in November 2016.

image1The WTU allowed Paige to escape the unhealthy arrangement she was trapped in with her contractual husband and she was starting to feel better after being free of him for a couple months. Family reports that Paige decided to get out of the military, move back in with her sister and parents, and pursue an education as a dental hygienist. Paige was expected to discharge in February 2017. Paige put in leave to go home for Christmas in December 2016 but it was denied. Paige took a picture of herself on SnapChat and sent it to her contacts on Christmas Eve. She wrote “here’s to another Christmas alone.” And the Army wants us to believe that 30 minutes later, Paige would be dead by her own hand.

On the night in question, Paige drove to a friend’s house on post. She was house sitting for them while they were out of town. About an hour later, Paige was found unresponsive in the driver’s seat in her vehicle in the parking lot outside her friend’s home. She had been stabbed. Initially the Army investigated the death as a homicide but in December 2017, the family was informed that the cause of death was ruled a suicide. Less than two years in the Army and Paige was gone. She told her parents she was raped, she saw things in Kuwait no one should ever see, and that she was in an unhealthy relationship with a man she was trying to escape. Paige had been through hell in her short time in the Army but she had hope. She knew she was returning to Louisiana to a loving family and a sister who was her best friend. She didn’t feel so trapped that suicide was the only way out.

Paige had a second chance at life in just a couple months when she was going to be discharged. Paige’s parents want their daughter’s case investigated as a homicide. They provided the Army CID with a person of interest. They had interaction and negative experiences with the person of interest. They shared their first hand interactions (witness testimony) and their concerns with CID but felt their experiences and observations were dismissed. They know their daughter was not suicidal because she was due to get out of the Army in February 2017 and she had plans. When questioned if the Army CID ever investigated the person of interest, Paige’s family responded with “the Army CID never investigated any persons of interest.” As a matter of fact, the Army discharged the soldier these parents suspected was the person of interest.

What happens when the Army discharges a soldier who may be a person of interest? They in effect give up jurisdiction of the soldier once they become a civilian unless they are retired. The soldier who was considered a ‘person of interest’ by the family was discharged for disciplinary reasons. Enter across state line jurisdictional issues and the Federal Bureau of Investigation who appears to want to steer clear of cases on military bases. The parents report that initially Paige’s stabbing death was investigated as a homicide yet in the end, despite the autopsy, forensics, suspicious circumstances in her life, and the parents testimony, Paige’s death was ruled a suicide by the Army CID. Once a death is ruled a suicide, the investigation is over and the US Army never has to investigate again.

How does the family get justice for Paige?

Source: Teri Fontenot (Paige Briles’ mom)

Related Links:
Army Veteran Tomas Young Dies at 34; Shot & Paralyzed on Black Sunday in 2004 on Peace Keeping Mission with Fort Hood in Sadr City, Iraq (2014)
73 Fort Hood Soldiers Died Since January 2016: 4 Insider Attacks & 2 Suicides Overseas; 67 Stateside Deaths Including 34 Alleged Suicides & 1 Unsolved Homicide
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas (US Army)
Army Pfc LaVena Johnson of Fort Campbell Died of Non Combat Related Injuries in Iraq, Death Ruled Suicide But Independent Autopsy Revealed Rape & Murder (2005)
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of US Service Members
Family seeks answers after NC soldier Justin Lewis slain in Texas
Killeen Calling in Feds to Combat Crime
Gangs in the US Army Documentary
Seeking Justice with Change Your POV
The Fort Hood Fallen on Facebook

American Experience PBS Premiered ‘Oklahoma City’: Timothy McVeigh & Terry Nichols Conspired to Bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building (February 7, 2017)

Oklahoma City American Experience PBS

‘Oklahoma City’ American Experience PBS

“On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh, a former soldier deeply influenced by the literature and ideas of the radical right, parked a Ryder truck with a five-ton fertilizer bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City. Moments later, 168 people were killed and 675 were injured in the blast. Oklahoma City traces the events — including the deadly encounters between American citizens and law enforcement at Ruby Ridge and Waco — that led McVeigh to commit the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history. With a virulent strain of anti-government anger still with us, the film is both a cautionary tale and an extremely timely warning.” -Oklahoma City, American Experience PBS

Watch ‘Oklahoma City’ here.

American Experience PBS:

Premiering at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Coming to American Experience PBS on February 7, 2017 at 9/8c. -American Experience, PBS

After the Oklahoma City Bombing, Clinton’s ability to reach Americans on a personal level did much to help the nation’s grief. “It’s kind of a throwaway line now, I feel your pain, but he literally could,” says Robert McNeely. “I mean he could take people and just hug them and connect to them in a way and really listen to them.” -American Experience, PBS

Oklahoma City explores how a series of deadly encounters between American citizens and federal law enforcement—including the standoffs at Ruby Ridge and Waco—led to the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995, the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history. -American Experience, PBS

At the time of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was home to several government agencies — and a daycare. -American Experience, PBS

During the stand-off between federal agents and the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas in 1993, people gathered on a hill roughly three miles away to see what was happening at the compound. One of those drawn to Waco was a 24-year-old Army veteran named Timothy McVeigh. -American Experience, PBS

Filmmaker Barak Goodman and editor Don Kleszy discuss their newest documentary, “Oklahoma City” and how it led to the creation of another one-hour film about Ruby Ridge. -American Experience, PBS

The 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing was the largest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history. A new documentary on the PBS series American Experience takes a fresh look at the events and motivations that led to the attack by Timothy McVeigh, and finds resonance for today. -PBS NewsHour

At the 20th anniversary, we look back at the Oklahoma City bombing. Public television station OETA shares reflections from survivors and victims’ families, and Judy Woodruff talks to former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, former Director of Homeland Security of Oklahoma Kerry Pettingill and Barry Grissom, U.S. attorney for the district of Kansas, for lessons learned from the attack. -PBS NewsHour

On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh, a former soldier deeply influenced by the literature and ideas of the radical right, parked a Ryder truck with a five-ton fertilizer bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City. Moments later, 168 people were killed and 675 were injured in the blast. OKLAHOMA CITY traces the events — including the deadly encounters between American citizens and law enforcement at Ruby Ridge and Waco — that led McVeigh to commit the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history. With a virulent strain of anti-government anger still with us, the film is both a cautionary tale and an extremely timely warning. -YouTube Movies

Related Links:
Oklahoma City Bombing
Oklahoma City Bombing – FBI
Oklahoma City bombing – HISTORY
Oklahoma City Bombing Fast Facts
The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum
Oklahoma City National Memorial (U.S. National Park Service)
Oklahoma City Bombing: 168 People Died in an Act of Domestic Terrorism at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building (April 19, 1995)
Oxygen Premiered ‘In Defense Of Timothy McVeigh’: Convicted Oklahoma City Bomber Executed by Feds in 2001 for Terrorism (June 25, 2018)
Film Review: ‘Oklahoma City’ | Variety
From the ashes: Documentarian revisits horrific bombing in ‘Oklahoma City’
Oklahoma City PBS Documentary Explores America’s Tradition of Anti-Government Terrorism
Review: ‘Oklahoma City’ Recalls a Chilling Attack With Lessons for Today
New film links McVeigh to far right before bombing in OKC
Movie review: ‘Oklahoma City’ bombing documentary serves as timely cautionary tale
Oklahoma City: A Cautionary Tale of Hate in America | American Experience | PBS

YouTube:
Oklahoma City Teaser | American Experience | PBS
Oklahoma City | Promo | American Experience | PBS
Oklahoma City Official Trailer 1 (2017) – Documentary
American Experience | The Oklahoma City Bombing | PBS
Chapter 1 | Oklahoma City | PBS
The Murrah Building | Oklahoma City | American Experience | PBS
Timothy McVeigh at Waco | Oklahoma City | American Experience | PBS
Interview: Barak Goodman & Don Kleszy | Oklahoma City & Ruby Ridge
Tracing the roots of the America’s biggest domestic terror attack | PBS NewsHour
‘There was no playbook’ for handling the Oklahoma City bombing | PBS NewsHour
American Experience: Oklahoma City | PBS | YouTube Movies
Clinton | American Experience | PBS

Top Ten Problems with the National Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP) Investigations

the-constitution-was-written-very-precisely-to-restrain-the-power-and-force-of-government-and-to-protect-the-liberties-of-each-and-every-one-of-us-ron-paul-2

Guest post submitted by:

Doug O’Connell
O’Connell & Associates, PLLC Doug@DougOConnell.com

Attorney Doug O’Connell has represented former Recruiting Assistants for the past two years in both criminal and civil matters. A former state and federal prosecutor, Doug is also a Special Forces Colonel in the Texas Army National Guard. In addition to his own practice, Doug is Of Counsel to Fluet, Huber + Hoang law firm.

The G-RAP accusations and investigations have now lingered for over five years. At least 90,430 (1) National Guard Soldiers (88% of all G-RAP participants) have been subjected to investigations as part of a massive dragnet to recover bonuses (2). 125 Soldiers have been prosecuted in Federal or State Courts; at least 2633 Soldiers remain under investigation (3). While a handful of unscrupulous participants took advantage of the ever-changing rules of this contractor-run program, those cases were adjudicated years ago. What the Army CID is now doing is nothing more than pursuing anyone whose G-RAP tenure spanned the years with the most rules’ changes in an effort to prove up the Army’s exaggerated fraud estimate.

It’s hard to pick the Top 10 issues with G-RAP. The items below represent issues apparent in almost every case. This list omits, but hardly overlooks, such things as inappropriate command pressure to participate in G-RAP, forcing accused Soldiers to undergo DNA collection (4), active surveillance of National Guard Soldiers by Army CID (5), coercion to make reimbursements to the Army (6) in lieu of punishment and other notable violations of Soldier’s rights.

1 Letter to Representative Mike Coffman from Daniel M. Quinn, Chief of Staff, USACIC.
2 The U.S. Army and U.S. Department of Justice consistently refers to G-RAP payments as bonuses in sworn testimony, official documents and court filings. The payments were paid by a contractor directly to the Soldier and IRS form 1099 was issued to every participant. Payments were not processed by DFAS and did not appear on a LES. Finally, Congress did not authorize a bonus related to this program. Nevertheless, Government officials consistently refer to G-RAP payments as bonuses, perhaps wishing it were true so that legal recoupment would be possible.
3 Per letter to Rep Coffman.
4 Collected by a cheek swab without a warrant in violation of the 4th Amendment.
5 Related to an allegation of fraud which if true occurred years prior.
6 Possibly an illegal augmentation of appropriations in violation of the Miscellaneous Receipts statute, 31 USC §3302.

1. GUILT BY ALGORITHM.

Auditors, instead of seasoned law enforcement professionals, launched the G-RAP investigations. Rather than using any type of proper legal standard like probable cause, the Army Audit Agency assembled lists of Soldiers branded “high risk” by the auditors. The definition for “High Risk” was listed as “an inability to follow the rules.” Because the rules changed 60 times in seven years, almost everyone who successfully participated in G-RAP became a target. Soldiers connected to the “high risk” Soldiers were in turn investigated. This self-perpetuating, system of guilt by association crushes any notion of justice and the rule of law. Years later, many of these Soldiers still are under the cloud of a CID investigation and are being forced to defend (at great financial and emotional cost) their names and careers.

2. COMPULSORY INTERROGATIONS.

Federal CID agents lack any authority to compel National Guard Soldiers (or veterans) to submit to interrogations. Unfortunately, neither CID nor most Guard Soldiers and veterans understand that they cannot be forced to appear or answer questions from Army-dispatched agents. CID agents repeatedly violate this bright line legal standard. Worse yet, some Guard Commanders aren’t sufficiently knowledgeable about the law to protect their Soldiers. Once confronted with apparent military authority, many individuals, honestly believing they did nothing wrong, provide answers, later cherry picked and twisted to supposedly show guilt. The unfortunate individual is left having to prove he or she didn’t say something or that the statement was taken out of context.

3. INVESTIGATORS WITH A PERSONAL FINANCIAL INCENTIVE.

The CID Investigators pursuing G-RAP allegations include Army Reserve CID Agents voluntarily on active duty orders. At a minimum, the perception exists that the Reserve Agents have a financial incentive to perpetuate the investigations. The longer the investigations continue, the longer these agents remain employed. Further compounding this problem is the very logical assumption that few agents would volunteer for active duty if it meant a pay cut from their civilian employment.

4. VIOLATIONS OF THE POSSE COMITATUS ACT.

National Guard Soldiers not mobilized into federal service, are like any other civilian citizen under the law. The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits federal military personnel from investigating and enforcing the law. Yet, that is exactly what is happening. The PCA is a federal criminal offense punishable by a term in prison. In the G-RAP investigations, federal military agents are investigating allegations of criminal violations by Guard Soldiers, who are the same as civilians under the law (7). This is a clear violation of the PCA. Unfortunately, this flawed law requires the same prosecutors who are prosecuting Soldiers to levy charges against the same agents investigating the cases they prosecute.

7 See Perprich vs. Department of Defense, 496 U.S. 334 (1990).

5. TRAMPLING THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS.

In our system of justice, a statue of limitations exists to limit the Government’s ability to bring charges so remote that the defendant can’t reasonably mount an effective defense. In G-RAP cases, the Government is circumventing the statue of limitations with a World War II era tolling statute. Most applicable criminal offenses have a 5 year statute of limitations. Since G-RAP ended in 2012 the statute of limitations has long expired in most cases. However, in G-RAP investigations and prosecutions the Government is relying on the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act (8) to continue to bring criminal cases. First enacted in 1948, the WSLA is designed to protect the Country from fraud during times of war. This law likely made sense during World War II, the Korea and Vietnam conflicts. However, the nature of warfare has changed. The current war against terrorism and global extremist groups will continue indefinitely. Relying on the outdated WSLA during today’s conflicts effectively terminates the deeply rooted equitable concept of a statue of limitations.

8 18 USC §3287

6. SPENDING $40 MILLION -TO COLLECT $3 MILLION.

Our Government has spent at least an estimated $40 million dollars (9) to investigate Soldiers. The ensuing recoupment actions and prosecutions have recovered, at most $3 million dollars (10). Army CID agents have repeatedly conducted full field investigations to determine if a Soldier’s single $2,000.00 bonus was righteous (11). In an era of constrained defense spending with persistent and emerging global terrorist threats, this massive boondoggle sets a new record for fraud, waste and abuse. The CID agents’ limited time and resources would be much better spent working to prevent the next Fort Hood terrorist attack.

9 This is a conservative estimate which includes the personnel cost associated with bringing the USAR agents onto duty status.
10 This figure is also an estimate based on all federal cases reported in the Pacer.gov system and media reports from around the country.
11 At least one National Guard officer is currently under indictment for a single G-RAP recruitment.

7. INACCURATE TESTIMONY TO CONGRESS & POLITICAL PRESSURE

The entire G-RAP controversy is based on inaccurate and irresponsible testimony to Congress. During Senate hearings chaired by Senator Claire McCaskill (12), Army General Officers testified that the total G-RAP fraud could be as high as $99 million (13). This estimate was wildly inaccurate (14). To date, the Government has only collected $3 million in fraudulent payments. Senator McCaskill immediately branded these Soldiers as criminals despite their Constitutional right to be presumed innocent (15). Many have speculated that the hearings and estimates of widespread fraud were designed to embarrass the National Guard during budget battles. Others suggest that it was an attempt to appease this powerful member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and self styled “accountability advocate.” Still others contend that the hearings were an attempt to shift focus from sexual assaults in the military. Whatever the reason, the McCaskill hearing set off a chain of events abrogating the presumption of innocence justice toward service members and veterans.

12 United States Senate Hearing: Fraud and Abuse in Army Recruiting Contracts, February 4, 2014.
13 Id.
14 It appears that this testimony has never been revised, amended or updated to correct the record.
15 Id.

8. AT LEAST 60 CHANGES TO THE “RULES.”

In the eyes of CID, violations of the program “rules,” indicates intentional fraud worthy of criminal investigation. However, the G-RAP “rules” changed at least 60 times during the life of the program (16). Understanding the “rules” of G-RAP at any given point in time requires a detailed analysis based on a significant review of multiple documents (17). In the vast majority of cases, if the Soldier violated the “rules,” it is more likely due to confusion rather than a deliberate desire to cheat the system. With unrelenting intensity, CID doesn’t investigate an alleged crime; they gather slanted “evidence” to prove that a crime was committed. CID, in fact, has been responsible for elevating an inability to follow the rules of a program run by a private contractor to the level of a crime. One example: at various times full time members of the National Guard were authorized to participate in G-RAP, at other times they were ineligible. If a Soldier entered G-RAP when full time members were allowed, but submitted data for payment months later when full time members were not allowed, that Soldier is investigated for fraud.

16 See Agent’s Investigation Report, CID Special Agent Julie Thurlow, November 22, 2013.
17 National Guard Bureau changed the rules via a contract change order sent to Docupak.

9. “SPHERE OF INFLUENCE” AND OTHER VAGUE GUIDANCE.

Soldiers participating in G-RAP received instruction to recruit from their “sphere of influence.” This term was never defined. It’s unclear if the intent of this language was to limit recruitment to pre-existing relationships. Regardless of NGB’s intent, the Soldiers received a very different message. For example, once hired by Docupak, Soldiers were provided marketing items such as t-shirts with the message “ask me about the National Guard.” None of the marketing items provided would have been necessary to recruit people already known to the Soldier. Now, these same Soldiers are investigated and some prosecuted for recruiting outside their sphere of influence. Likewise, Soldiers were told that they “shouldn’t” wear their uniform when conducting recruiting activities. If this were truly a prohibited action worthy of investigation, the “rule” would have been written as “you are prohibited from wearing your uniform.”

10. “I DON’T REMEMBER = GUILTY.”

When CID agents track down and contact recruits many years after their enlistment into the National Guard, most don’t remember the details of their interaction with the recruiting assistant. To the CID agents, this means the RA committed misconduct. The alternative explanation is unfathomable to the agents: the recruit, 7 years later, just doesn’t remember. This is especially problematic since Government prosecutors use this lack of memory to charge the Soldier with Aggravated Identity Theft (18), a charge that carries a mandatory minimum term of prison sentence of two years.

18 18 USC § 1028A.

“EXTRA CREDIT:” CID KNEW ABOUT ALLEGED FRAUD FOR FIVE YEARS BEFORE TAKING ACTION.

On May 22, 2007, five years before G-RAP was shut down, Agents from Army CID, Air Force OSI, and Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) met with Docupak to discuss potential fraud in the program (19). A representative of the United States Department of Justice (20) was also in attendance. The agents specifically instructed Docupak not to notify the State Adjutant Generals, National Guard Bureau, or the contracting officer regarding alleged fraud. This effectively cut off any ability to clarify confusing rules and or enhance fraud prevention measures. Importantly, it also prevented Governors and Adjutants General to execute their Constitutional duty of regulating their National Guard force and apply appropriate discipline (21). Likewise, notification the responsible contracting officer at NGB would have triggered remedial action. Instead, the CID sat on this information for five years, causing a relatively minor amount of confusion to escalate into what we have now – another major bonus scandal ensnaring thousands of junior Soldiers facing accusations.

19 2014 Inspector General Report, page 40, paragraph g, and footnote 142.
20 Presumably a licensed attorney.
21 The Governor’s and TAG’s Constitutional authority to regulate and discipline Guard members included the full time recruiting force in each state, some of whom were suspected of misconduct. These Soldiers operate under the exclusive military jurisdiction of the relevant State Military Code of Justice.

CONCLUSION

Few Soldiers have the financial resources to mount a proper defense to federal criminal charges. Faced with the possibility of prison time, many take a plea bargain to avoid the risk of prison, financial ruin or deepening emotional trauma to themselves and their families. Even if the accused Soldiers are not prosecuted, the collateral consequences seem never ending. The investigation will continue to haunt them for years to come. Security clearances will be revoked or suspended, and the Government will initiate proceedings to “debar” the Soldier from future employment as a government contractor. Eventually, the case file will be forwarded to the State National Guard headquarters for military justice or administrative action. The range of administrative sanctions includes separation boards, official reprimands and being required to rebut CID’s flawed conclusions to a promotion review board. The administrative flag on their personnel file will continue until all military administrative actions are complete (22). Finally, many of these same Soldiers, never prosecuted in a court of law will have a federal criminal history created as a result of being investigated, “titled” and “founded” by CID.

22 A “flag” prevents any favorable action including re-enlisting, awards, and promotions. The flag does not prevent orders to deploy overseas (again). Flags as a result of G-RAP investigations have been in place for four or more years at this point.

Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Picks Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine As VP Running Mate; Kaine Blocked Military Justice Improvement Act in Historic Vote (July 22, 2016)

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Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)

Hillary Clinton picked Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia as her Vice Presidential running mate. What is interesting about this pick is at one point in a Time magazine article in 2014, Clinton showed public support of the Military Justice Improvement Act, yet she chooses Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) as her vice presidential running mate who has been blocking the bill since 2013. Of course Senator Angus King (I-ME) endorses this choice since he too has been blocking the due process bill sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Susan Collins, Senator Rand Paul, Senator Ted Cruz, and many other bi-partisan Senators advocating for constitutional rights for military personnel and veterans.

“The move was surprising in that it means that if she becomes President, the normally hawkish Clinton would go against the advice of military brass and remove the cases from the chain of command. It also must have had a little bit of a silver lining dig at McCaskill, who endorsed Barack Obama over Clinton in 2008.” ~Time (2014)

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Homicide Hunter Premiered ‘Victim Zero’ on ID: Fort Carson Soldier Christopher Walton Fatally Shot Outside Colorado Springs Night Club (October 20, 2015)

All Hell Breaks Loose In Club Brawl Leaving A Young Solider Dead -Victim Zero, Homicide Hunter (Preview)

A massive brawl erupts at a local bar ends with the shooting death of a young army soldier. To unravel the murder, Lt. Joe Kenda must infiltrate a revered military institution, and expose a dangerous vendetta. -Victim Zero, Homicide Hunter (S5,E9)

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $3.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict. Download the ID Go app or purchase ID True Crime Files & binge away.

Related Links:
Victim Zero | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (preview)
Victim Zero | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (S5,E9)
Victim Zero | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (website)
Victim Zero | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Victim Zero | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (Hulu)
Lt Joe Kenda of Homicide Hunter Outlines Murder of Army Soldier Christopher Walton
Fort Carson Soldier Christopher Walton Fatally Shot Outside Night Club; Leroy Davis Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison by Military Court (November 21, 1991)
Violent Crime, Suicide & Non Combat Death at Fort Carson, Colorado (US Army)