The Pendulum Has Swung: Defending Yourself Against False Allegations in Senator Claire McCaskill’s Military Justice System

If you or someone you know has been falsely accused of a crime,
please contact Save Our Heroes.

This animated video describes the obstacles faced by military members who are wrongly or falsely accused of sexual assault. From the recent changes to the UCMJ to the barriers built around the alleged victim, wrongly and falsely accused service members face an uphill battle defending themselves. Court-martial defense lawyer Will M. Helixon, with decades of experience as a sex crimes prosecutor, can team with the military detailed counsel to level the playing field and defend the rights of the wrongly and falsely accused. (www.helixongroup.com)

Learn more: Letter of Support for Save Our Heroes in Our Shared Quest for Military Justice Reform & Constitutional Rights

Air Force SSgt Mario Manago Concerned About Commander Bias with Non-Judicial Punishment; Referred to Court Martial & Booted with Federal Crime on Record (2017)


A U.S. Air Force veteran airman says he was recently let go from his job because was six minutes late to a meeting with his commander. Mario Manago, 33, has been with the Air Force for 12 years and stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst for seven of them. Last August, Manago asked to speak with his commander about mistreatment at the base. Manago said he was late to that meeting because things became busy at work. Months later, Manago was convicted at court-martial months later in March for failing to go to his “appointed place of duty.” A week prior, Manago was demoted from staff sergeant to airman. The U.S. Air Force said Manago was honorably discharged because of tenure rules. -Chasing News

“I wanted to retire from the Air Force.” -Mario Manago

Related Links:
NJ Airman Convicted of the Federal Crime of Being 6 Minutes Late for a Meeting
‘I am a felon for being 6 minutes late to a meeting,’ court-martialed airman says
Former Airman Considers Options After Discharge
Advocacy group accuses military justice system of racial bias
Report finds racial disparities in military justice system
The Military Justice System Has A Race Problem, According To DoD Data
Black soldiers face US military justice more often than whites, study finds
Black Troops More Likely to Face Military Punishment Than Whites, New Report Says
In Every Service Branch, Black Troops More Likely to Be Punished by Commanders, Courts: Report
CAAFlog: Racial bias in military justice
Corruption in the Ranks: McGuire IG Wrongly Dismisses NCO’s Reprisal Complaint

Massachusetts School of Law Interviews Veteran Jennifer Norris About Violent Crime in the Military & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Massachusetts School of Law explored violent crime in the military with Jennifer Norris, Military Justice for All, and the impact it has on civilians too. Jennifer talked about her experiences with four different perpetrators within the first two years of her enlisted career, the reporting & adjudication process, and the retaliation that ensued and eventually ended a fifteen year career. Also discussed was the jurisdictional hurdles that arise with a transient population like the military. For example, Jennifer was not able to press charges against one perpetrator because he moved out of state after learning he was getting reported. Another perpetrator was active duty Air Force at Keesler Air Force Base, therefore a state National Guard commander did not have jurisdiction of a federal employee. And finally, although Jennifer was able to move forward with two other cases involving high ranking National Guard members with over eighteen years of service, unlike the civilian world, after the cases were adjudicated, they retired with full military retirement benefits and no public records.

Jennifer also shared that although the Department of Defense downplays violent crime in the military and sexual assault appears to be closely monitored by some female members of Congress, everything is not under control. The crime appears to be escalating. The military doesn’t just have a sexual assault issue, they have a domestic violence and homicide issue as well. They also have a pattern of ruling soldier’s deaths both stateside and overseas as suicides, training accidents, and illness despite families strongly protesting and evidence revealing otherwise. Domestic violence is more likely to lead to homicide and unfortunately the two issues have not been given the attention they deserve because until you do the research yourself and see how many families and communities have been impacted by the crimes, suspicious death, and homicide of a soldier or civilian, you wouldn’t know because Congress and the main stream media do not give it the attention it deserves. Homicide and independent investigations of all suspicious deaths should be given the highest priority not only because people have lost their lives and families deserve answers but because someone needs to be held accountable. We must prevent others from becoming victims of these crimes too.

Jennifer discussed the lasting impacts the crimes and retaliation had on her. Jennifer was empowered after doing all that she could do to protect others from getting harmed by the same people, but her squadron did not see it the same way. After the cases were adjudicated, Jennifer faced hostility from a couple of the perpetrator’s friends and her Chain of Command once she returned back to work. She eventually had to transfer to another squadron. It was the professional and personal retaliation that made her start feeling more intense feelings of anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. And unfortunately her next squadron wasn’t any more welcoming then the last. She was told shortly after arriving that ‘no female makes it in the satellite communications work center’ and that she was experiencing hostility from her new Chain of Command because the old squadron called and informed them she was a ‘troublemaker.’ The retaliation had a direct impact on her mental health and cemented an already traumatizing experience with further abuse, indifference, and judgement. By the time she got to her third squadron (almost ten years after the first attack), she learned that the Department of Veterans Affairs treated Post Traumatic Stress resulting from military sexual trauma.

After Jennifer informed her third squadron that she was getting help for the PTS at the Department of Veterans Affairs, she was immediately red flagged and asked to leave the squadron until she could produce a note from her doctor giving her permission to be at work. She did this and jumped through the other hoops asked of her in an attempt to save her career but lost confidentiality in the process. Jennifer walked away from her career in the end because she refused to release her VA records for a security clearance investigation. The entire experience not only opened her up to judgement again (simply because she asked for some counseling due to what someone else did) but she had to prove that she was ‘fit for duty’ while the perpetrators were enjoying full military retirement benefits. Jennifer chose a second chance at a civilian career when she refused to release her confidential VA records for her security clearance investigation because she wanted to ensure a future free of a tainted security clearance. It makes zero sense that someone who is a victim of crime be negatively impacted by the crimes of others in yet another way. The hypocrisy of the system is truly revealed when you look at how the perpetrators were let off the hook but the victim of crime loses their military career because they had the strength to first report and then eventually ask for help.

The Silent Truth: The Rape, Murder & Military Cover-Up of Army Pfc LaVena Johnson in Iraq

Ninety-four US military women in the military have died in Iraq or during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). ‘The Silent Truth’ tells the story of one of these women, PFC LaVena Lynn Johnson, who was found dead on Balad Air Force Base in Iraq. The army claimed she shot herself with her own M16 rifle, but forensic evidence, obtained by the Johnson family through the Freedom of Information Act, brings the army’s findings into question. The Army refuses to re-open LaVena Johnson’s case, leaving the family in limbo. ‘The Silent Truth’ follows the Johnson’s pursuit of justice and truth for their daughter. -The Silent Truth

What happened to LaVena Lynn Johnson and so many others speaks to a Pentagon culture which more closely resembles a rogue government–than a legitimate branch serving under civilian control. It is highly telling that this family, along with the Tillman family each had to have a documentary film made JUST TO ALERT THE PUBLIC TO THE TRUTH OF PENTAGON COVER-UPS. I urge everyone to view this important documentary–before the local military recruiter mandated under No Child Left Behind–‘friends’ their child at school. God forbid, they could wind up coming home in a body bag–like LaVena. –Truthout

Learn more:
The Silent Truth on YouTube
The Silent Truth on Amazon Video
Army Pfc LaVena Johnson Died of Non Combat Related Injuries in Iraq, Death Ruled Suicide But Autopsy Report Revealed Rape & Murder (2005)
Non Combat Deaths of Female Soldiers in the US Military (Iraq)
Violent Crime, Suicide & Non Combat Death at Fort Campbell, Kentucky (US Army)
The Silent Truth Documentary aka The LaVena Johnson Murder Cover-Up
What Really Happened to Pat Tillman?
Pat Tillman: The US Army Murder Scandal

Letter of Support for Save Our Heroes in Our Shared Quest for Military Justice Reform & Constitutional Rights

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October 1, 2016

U.S. House of Representatives
United States Senate
Washington, DC

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a letter of support for Save Our Heroes. We recognized immediately that Save Our Heroes and victims of crimes both want similar changes in the military justice system. Save Our Heroes is asking for three specific legislative/policy changes to restore fundamental fairness in the military justice system:

1. Remove all Commanders authority from decision-making in the legal system.
2. The number of panel members should be increased to 12 for General Courts Martial.
3. Any conviction at Courts Martial shall require a unanimous verdict.

These requests by Save Our Heroes are similar to the overall changes that victims of crimes in the military have lobbied for, specifically that Commanders be removed from the reporting and decision-making process because of fear of bias, lack of investigative training, and the power to discharge and/or punish with the stroke of a pen. Save Our Heroes is requesting the same changes because ultimately both the victims and accused are looking for a military justice system that mirrors the civilian justice system while respecting the need of the Commanding Officer to ensure discipline is maintained within their command. We want a justice system where crimes are reported to legal authorities and not a Commander who is an authority figure with the power to impact your entire life. We want a justice system where crimes will be investigated thoroughly by unbiased military criminal investigative organizations looking for the truth. We want a justice system that provides the same constitutional rights as those provided in the civilian justice system. Save Our Heroes is specifically asking for changes that are commonplace in the civilian justice system, like a jury of twelve of our peers and a unanimous verdict. Our military deserves no less.

Victims of crimes in the military are asking for a military justice system that provides due process for the accuser and the accused. Crime victims want the ability to go to trial based on an independent prosecutor’s decision to charge because there was sufficient evidence to move forward with a case. Crime victims want those people who level false accusations, and engage in other abuses of the process, to be held accountable. While we recognize that false reports represent a small percentage of total reports (between 2-8 percent based on Bureau of Justice Statistics data), those who do falsely accuse are hurting the real victims of these crimes and should be held accountable through the same impartial military justice system. Both the accusers and the accused are asking for due process, which is best accomplished by a system that mirrors the civilian justice system. Currently, Commanders have control of the process when the accused, accuser, defense attorneys, and prosecutors should have control over the process.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Norris, Military Justice for All
Stephanie Schroeder, US Human Rights Network & UN Board Member
Brian Lewis, Men Recovering from Military Sexual Trauma

TSgt Steven Bellino, US Air Force (2016)

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TSgt Steven Bellino, US Air Force

TSgt Steven Bellino, 41, US Air Force, passed away on April 8, 2016 at Joint Base San-Antonio in Texas.

Related Links:
Obituary: Steven D. Bellino
Technical Sgt. Steven D. Bellino, Save Our Heroes
Two Airmen Fatally Shot at San Antonio Base Identified
Air Force Officials Identified Two Men Killed In Workplace Violence
Lackland AFB shooting victims identified as TSgt and squadron commander
Victims in Lackland shooting ID’d as former FBI agent, squadron commander
Gunman in Texas Air Force Base Killing Had Gone AWOL
Lackland AFB Shooter Was Facing Disciplinary Action For Going AWOL
Training Squadron Commander, Student ID’d as Airmen Dead in Air Force Base Shooting
Lackland Air Force Base Gunman in Murder-Suicide was Ex-FBI Agent
Official: Ex-FBI Agent Was Gunman in Texas Base Shooting
Suspect in Apparent Murder-Suicide at Texas Air Force Base Was a Former FBI Agent
Lackland base shooter ID’ed as former FBI agent, Iraq war veteran
Air Force: Student from Northeast Ohio killed commander at Lackland AFB
Texas Air Force base gunman was from Parma Heights, reports say
Commander ‘went out swinging’ in Lackland murder-suicide
Air Force commander ‘went out swinging’ during deadly shooting with former FBI agent at Texas base
Special Operations airman killed his squadron commander in apparent-murder suicide
Gunman in Texas Air Force base killing had gone AWOL, then taken mental health exam
A Long Career in Military’s Elite Spirals Into a Killing and a Suicide
Lackland gunman had been a standout soldier
Air Force: PTSD, other factors led airman to kill commander
Air Force reports: PTSD, other factors led airman to kill commander
Special Forces Vet Killed Himself, Commander Because Of Failing Career
Special Forces vet took two guns, a knife and a grudge into fatal meeting
In wake of Lackland shooting, Air Force aims to remove dropouts quicker
Family of Spec Ops Airman, who killed commander, alleges a USAF cover-up
A disputed suicide note and other documents trace Steve Bellino’s descent
Violent Crime, Suicide & Non Combat Death at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas

The gunman behind the fatal shooting at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland has been identified as Steven D. Bellino, a former FBI agent who later enlisted in the US Air Force. Bellino was an FBI agent for less than two years before resigning in 2013. Authorities have not confirmed why Lt. Col. William A. Schroeder was targeted in the murder/suicide attack.

Retired Marine Stephanie Schroeder Fights for Servicemember’s Rights at the United Nation’s Geneva Conventions

Stephanie Schroeder addressing the United Nations

Stephanie Schroeder addressing the United Nations

Stephanie Schroeder is a retired United States Marine Corps veteran who was wrongfully discharged from service after reporting a felony crime to USMC authorities. As a result of reporting these crimes, she experienced retaliation from her peers and leadership and was subsequently given a honorable discharge but her DD 214 indicated that she was released from duty due to a personality disorder. Stephanie sought justice to right a wrong committed by her leadership. She was never given any testing to determine if she in fact had a personality disorder nor did she see any medical personnel who would have had an opportunity to diagnose her with a personality disorder. Through research and determination, Stephanie learned that other veterans who had reported sexual assault in the military had also experienced retaliation in one form or another after reporting the crime(s) to leadership. She vowed to not only fight for herself and the correction of her records but also to help prevent other service members from experiencing the same. She’s been leading the way on military retaliation & personality disorder discharge reform for the last 5 years. She participated in two federal lawsuits (Cioca v Rumsfeld & Klay v Panetta) that were dismissed because rape is incident to service. She advocates for both the Stop Act (Sexual Assault Training, Oversight, and Prevention Act) sponsored by Representative Jackie Speier and the Military Justice Improvement Act sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She represented victims of military sexual assault at the United Nations at the Geneva Conventions in Switzerland. She continues to represent Cornell University, Service Women’s Action Network, & Equality Now as an advocate before the United Nations and monitors/advises on sexual assault & retaliation policy implementation in the military. She is a board member for the United States Human Rights Network (USHRN) and the International Mechanisms Coordinating Committee Board (ICMM).

Cioca v Rumsfeld First Amended Complaint Jury Demand
Military’s newly aggressive rape prosecution has pitfalls
Military Rape Speech 15 by Congresswoman Jackie Speier
Stephanie Schroeder’s military sex assault claim leads to psych discharge
Rape victims say military labels them ‘crazy’
The Military Labeling Rape Survivors as “Crazy” to Get Rid of Them?
‘Personality Disorder’ Discharge, Frequent Solution in Rising Number of Military Sexual Assault Cases
U.S. military banishes rape victims with damning psychiatric diagnoses
Now That Women Are Cleared For Combat, How About A Rape-Free Workplace?
Cioca v Rumsfeld US Court of Appeals Decision
Fear of Reprisal: The Quiet Accomplice in the Military’s Sexual-Assault Epidemic
Former Marine to Speak at Geneva Convention Against Sexual Abuse
Ex-Marine to speak at Geneva Convention against sexual abuse
Local Marine to speak against sexual abuse at Geneva Convention
UN Committee to Review Cornell Law Report on Sexual Violence in the U.S. Military
Building a U.S. Movement to End Torture
Powerful Stories from Directly Impacted Individuals at CAT Review
BARELY LEGAL: Sexual Violence in the U.S. Military
Exclusive: Victims of military sexual assault appeal to human rights panel
Military Sexual Assault: Reporting and Rape Culture
Advice for Veterans with Military Sexual Trauma Claims
New rules on narcotic painkillers cause grief for veterans and VA

Tracking Military Sex Offenders Prevents Crime

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If someone reports a crime to a police department, even if the person is not prosecuted, there is still a record of the complaint. This is not happening in the military because the Commander does not have access to law enforcement databases. So if the person was accused before in the military, the Commander has no way of knowing. And they are not entering data into the system if they are informed of a complaint. We are losing valuable data if the person is not prosecuted for the crime. The military currently prosecutes less then 10% of complaints.

If information was processed like in the civilian world, we quite possibly could prevent a rape or sexual assault. It could help establish a pattern even if one of the cases didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute. If the military had multiple complaints against one person then they would have a better chance at prosecution.

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The Stop Act versus MJIA

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Amy Schumer, a comedian, has depicted the unexpected turn your career takes when you become the victim of sexual assault in the military. We are not only harmed by the perpetrator but we are again harmed by the system. And currently we have two proposals in Congress that begin to address the issue. One is the Stop Act sponsored by Representative Jackie Speier. The other is the Military Justice Improvement Act sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Please watch the Amy Schumer video here before reading further.

If you keep up with Congressional efforts to address sexual assault in the military, you will find that the media discusses Senator Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act the most. But what most people do not know is that the MJIA was a compromise to our original efforts. I supported any efforts made by the Senate at the time considering we did not get the support we needed for the Stop Act from either the House of Representatives or military and women organizations. At the time, it was better then nothing and at least Senator Gillibrand addressed an option for our military members who do not report due to fear of retaliation from their Chain of Command. But it is only one element of the big picture.

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Loopholes in the Military Justice System

Article 92 UCMJ

Prevention

  • Focus on victim “Don’t get raped”
  • Lack of focus on MO of predators
  • No deterrents or stiff punishments for violent crimes
  • No database to track predators & prevent crimes
  • Lack of punishment/accountability for those who retaliate
  • Empowerment/Leadership/Bystander Intervention

Recruiting

  • Moral waivers, waivers in general
  • No mental health pre-assessment
  • History of recruits with felony charges
  • Predators that flock to positions of trust
  • Autonomy in position, ability to isolate

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