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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Runaway Jury, ran from reality.


For a pure ice-water jolt to the senses few juries in recent years have surprised me as much as the Webster Smith court-martial jury. The verdict is in on the jury. We know that, at least, seven of the nine members were brain-dead. One was certifiably insane.

(THIS POST HAS BEEN TEMPORARILY REMOVED FOR REVIEW by the author.)

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Blogger ichbinalj said...

Subject: Webster Smith Update

Classmates,

Attached is a note from the new Assistant Superintendent of the
Academy, Captain Dan May, '79. All the class correspondents were asked
to forward this note to their classmates. I forward it to you without
comment.

Many of you have also asked for specific contact info for RADM Van
Sice. In the interest of fairness, I have included it as well.

Rear Admiral James C. Van Sice
US Coast Guard Academy
31 Mohegan Ave
New London, Ct 06320- 8103

James.c.vansice@uscg.mil

Regards, XXXXX




Attached is his letter.................
--------------------------------
To all CGA Alumni and the Coast Guard Community:

This past January, CAPT Jim Thomas, who then served in my current
position as the Assistant Superintendent of the Academy, informed you
of
a sexual misconduct investigation involving a member of the CGA Corps
of
Cadets. For those that have continued to follow along the past 6
months, you are well aware that the investigation led to formal charges
against a First Class cadet and ultimately a court-martial, the first
for an Academy cadet in the history of CGA. I want to take this
opportunity to once again reach out to you with some updated
information
as we continue to move forward and make progress.

Our system of military justice is designed to ensure that all cases are
resolved in a just manner. We endeavor to ensure a thorough and
professional investigation of allegations brought to the command's
attention. The unique facts and circumstances of each case are
assessed
to determine its appropriate disposition. When a general court-martial
is contemplated, an impartial Investigating Officer is selected to
assess the evidence and offer recommendations. Accused service members
are detailed defense counsel and allowed individual military counsel
and/or civilian defense counsel of their choosing. Cases are heard by
impartial, qualified court members, before trained Military Judges, in
open and transparent proceedings. Fact finders are charged to decide
cases weighing the evidence against the high burden of proof imposed on
the government. Our commitment to justice, due process and the rule of
law requires faithful observance of the processes established by the
Rules for Courts-Martial.

Several weeks ago, the CGA court-martial concluded with the First Class
Cadet acquitted of five charges (rape, extortion, sodomy, assault and
unlawful entry) and convicted of five other charges (extortion, sodomy,
indecent assault, attempted failure to obey a lawful order and
unauthorized absence). The court-martial members adjudged 6 months
confinement, forfeiture of all pay/allowances and dismissal from the
service. Although the trial has concluded, the case continues in the
post-trial processing phase, which includes the convening authority's
(CGA Superintendent) action. After reviewing the results of trial,
clemency materials submitted by the defense, and the Staff Judge
Advocate's recommendation, the convening authority may disapprove a
finding of guilty, and/or approve, disapprove, mitigate or change a
punishment (as long as the severity of the punishment is not
increased).
The post-trial processing phase can take several months to conclude.
While this process unfolds, it is critically important that the
convening authority absent himself from engaging in any direct comments
concerning the case or the specific outcome.

A case of this nature evokes strong opinion and sentiments among all
involved as well as the casual observer. This case has been no
exception. Many of you have expressed your views in various venues
including emails and letters to CGA. However, until the case is
officially resolved, it would be inappropriate for CGA or the convening
authority to discuss the particulars of this case in any forum outside
the court-martial process.


Thus, I ask for your continued understanding and patience as this case
makes its way towards a final conclusion. Just as Jim did, I also want
to reiterate that the Coast Guard Academy is founded on the Coast
Guard's core values of Honor, Respect and Devotion to duty. We will
never waiver from our commitment to these precious values. We are also
committed to the fair treatment of all members of our service.

Just two weeks ago, 274 new cadets reported to CGA, marched onto
Washington Parade field and took the oath of service as the Class of
2010. They are some of the best young people our nation has to offer
and they are extremely committed to the Coast Guard. They are honored
and proud to be at this institution. They are the future of our
service. We owe it to them to remain strong and to never waiver from
our service commitments.

v/r,

D. R. May, CAPT, USCG
Assistant Superintendent
U.S. Coast Guard Academy

2:16 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Midshipman Acquitted of Rape
Associated Press | July 21, 2006
WASHINGTON - A military jury on Thursday acquitted a former Naval
Academy
quarterback of raping a female midshipman in her dormitory room.

But jurors convicted Lamar S. Owens Jr. on charges of conduct
unbecoming an
officer and disobeying a lawful order.

"They have determined, obviously, that the consensual act took place,"
said
Cmdr. John Maksym, the trial judge. He added that the jury of five
Naval
officers found that Owens "wrongfully entered the room without
permission
and wrongfully engaged in consensual sex."

Owens, standing at attention as the verdicts were read, showed no
emotion.
He remains free without bond. He was not allowed to graduate or receive
a
commission in May, and remains a midshipman.

Neither Owens' accuser nor her family were in court when the verdict
was
read.

The punishment phase will begin Friday morning. Prosecutors recommended
a
sentence of two years on the conduct unbecoming an officer charge. The
judge
tabled discussion of a sentence on the failure to obey a lawful order
charge
until Friday.

The judge also said he would consider to whether to set aside either of
the
charges.

Owens, 22, of Savannah, Ga., was charged an incident in the room of a
female
midshipman at the academy's Bancroft Hall on Jan. 29. Owens testified
that
the sexual encounter was consensual; his accuser testified that she
repeatedly rejected his advances.

Owens was a team captain and starting quarterback for Navy last season,
leading the team to an 8-4 record with victories over Army and Air
Force,
and a win over Colorado State in the Poinsettia Bowl.

11:21 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Who needs a retired JAG USN talking head on CNN to analyse a military court-martial?
If information is POWER and experience if ESSENTIAL, then;
who is better qualified to analyse,
who better has the know-how to give you the low-down, when a cadet is caught in flagrante di lecto, who can cut through the ipso facto, if you can't make tails or heads, out of the he-said/she-said; did the attorney miss the boat, did the witness get his goat, is the lady a tramp, did they meet at summer camp, was it a case of too much to drink, what did the jury think, did the gentleman miss her cue, was this tango not for two, oh what's a poor guy to do;
ICH BIN ALJ, will have the last say.

3:07 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Admiral Brewski!! Admiral van Slice!!
WOW!! With all the beer he is brewing and all the pictures he is taking to put on the labels on the bottles, is it any wonder, thay Admiral Brewski van Slice, does not have time to answer any mail from a Concerned Alumnus?
July 20, 2006 -- WASHINGTON - Call him "Admiral Brewski."

A Coast Guard admiral who runs the service's academy in New London,
Conn.,
has been unmasked as the suds lover who ordered subordinates to brew
nautically themed beers at taxpayer expense.

The Post has learned that publicly funded booze-fests were held in the
plush
official residence of Rear Adm. James Van Sice, superintendent of the
Coast
Guard Academy.

"When I hear about the Coast Guard and ice-breakers, I usually assume
there
are boats involved and not beer-brewing kits," said Sen. Norm Coleman
(R-Minn.), who was floored by some of the uncovered abuse.

"Obviously, this is an irresponsible and unacceptable use of taxpayer
dollars and resources."

Van Sice even had his own likeness slapped on one of the labels -
called
"The Admiral Amber Ale."

Under Van Sice's orders, a would-be brewmeister on his private cooking
staff
spent $1,000 to make 532 bottles.

He also crafted a Christmas brew named after a Great Lakes icebreaker
and
"Captain Jack Tan" for Halloween, as The Post reported Wednesday.

The free-spending officer blew $230 on a beer-brewing kit, including
"The
Brewmaster's Bible," and spent another $800 on ingredients from a Coast
Guard foundation that also pays for education grants.

The beermaking at the Coast Guard Academy was revealed in a report to a
congressional committee yesterday, although Van Sice's name was not
made
public during the hearing.

Amazingly, the Coast Guard is standing by its brew - even though
investigators called it abusive.

"It was done as part of an official social function," said Coast Guard
spokeswoman Angela McArdle.

The academy defiantly continues to brew the beer - even after it was
uncovered as part of a probe of Department of Homeland Security charge
cards, sources confirmed.

In fact, the Coast Guard provided auditors with a detailed five-year
plan
trying to prove how the brewing equipment could actually save costs.

But it failed to factor in the labor costs of the official who brewed
beer
on government time, investigators said.

Counting labor costs, the Coast Guard paid $13 per six-pack to have
their
own specialty label, auditors found - labeling the cost-savings claim
"dubious."

McArdle couldn't confirm whether the beer tasted good.

Inspectors from the General Accountability Office uncovered the
big-bucks
micro-brew in an audit of some of the 10,000 charge cards issued to DHS
employees.

The department says the abusive charges are a tiny fraction of the
expenditures, and DHS financial officer David Norquist said he would
verify
questioned charges.

geoff.earle@nypost.com

3:19 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Who needs a retired JAG USN talking head on CNN to analyse a military court-martial?
If information is POWER and experience if ESSENTIAL, then;
who is better qualified to analyse,
who better has the know-how to guide you to the low-down, when a cadet is caught in flagrante di lecto, who can cut through the ipso facto, did she offer her honor, or did he honor her offer, or was it a case of off her and on her, if you can't make tails or heads, out of the he-said/she-said; did the attorney miss the boat, did the witness get his goat, is the lady a tramp, did they meet at summer camp, was it a case of too much to drink, what did the jury think, did the gentleman miss her cue, was this tango not for two, oh what's a poor guy to do;
ICH BIN ALJ, will have the last say.

4:50 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

By Nelson HernandezWashington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 21, 2006; Page A01
A former U.S. Naval Academy quarterback was acquitted last night of raping a female midshipman but was found guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer for having sex with the woman in her dorm room and disobeying an order to stay clear of her.

The verdict by a jury of five naval officers means that Midshipman Lamar S. Owens Jr., 22, could face up to two years in a military prison as well as dismissal from the Navy. He avoids the life sentence that could have come with a rape conviction.

Owens's acquittal on the rape charge comes less than a month after a similar verdict for a Coast Guard Academy cadet accused of rape.

Owens's attorneys immediately objected to the jury's decision, saying that there was no credible evidence to support conviction on any of the charges and that they would ask the judge, Cmdr. John A. Maksym, to overturn the verdict today.

Owens's attorney, Reid H. Weingarten, said in a news conference that he was relieved the rape charge did not stand and was "very confident the conduct unbecoming will go." If the judge affirms the verdict, the jury will begin considering the sentence immediately.

In court testimony, the woman said Owens had entered her room while she was barely conscious after a night of heavy drinking and began forcing her to have sex, stopping only after she resisted. Owens contended that he had been invited to the room during an instant message conversation and began having consensual sex with her; he found that she had suddenly become unresponsive, after which he stopped and left.

Owens's defense team argued that the prosecution's case was "riddled with reasonable doubt," given that the woman acknowledged having several gaps in her memory of the incident and that several witnesses had testified that they had seen her drinking heavily. Prosecutors responded that she had no reason to lie in her testimony and that Owens had apologized repeatedly during a telephone conversation with the woman that was secretly taped by investigators.

The nine-day trial made public other problems the academy usually keeps private. The testimony of several witnesses, some of them granted immunity, touched on sex, binge drinking, cheating and lying -- taboos at a school that tries to instill in its students the ideals of honor, courage and commitment.

Owens's case is one of the few at Annapolis that has reached court-martial. Most sexual assault allegations are quietly resolved by the school's internal disciplinary system. Of 56 midshipmen accused of the crime since 1998, only two have been convicted.

The jury of four men and a woman delivered the decision after nearly 10 hours of deliberation in a small chamber next to the wood-paneled courtroom in the Washington Navy Yard. Under military procedure, a two-thirds majority is required to convict on each charge. The jury's votes were not revealed, and the judge ordered the jurors not to discuss the case.

Owens stood at attention as the jury's president, a lieutenant commander, read the verdict.
Owens's family members, seated behind him, grimaced and then stared stonily ahead. Weingarten's 20-year-old son, who has watched much of the trial, put his head in his hands.

Several of Owens's teammates stayed in the courthouse to wait for the verdict, then walked out when they heard what had happened.

Prosecutors referred comment on the case to the Naval Academy's public affairs office. An academy spokeswoman said the school would withhold official comment until after sentencing.

But the result could be overturned today by Maksym, who has been a central character in the drama and made a number of crucial rulings, including the decision to play the taped phone conversation for the jury.

Maksym often rocked in his burgundy leather chair but would lean forward to instruct the jury, a witness or one of the attorneys. His statements were peppered with legal terms, polysyllabic Latinate words such as medulla oblongata, coagulate and interregnum, and literary allusions such as one he made yesterday to prosecutors: "Christ said to Peter, 'He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.' "

Maksym did not hesitate to reprimand anyone who made mistakes in court, including Weingarten, who once forgot to rise from his seat to make an objection.

More significant, he criticized the prosecution's case on several occasions, questioning the qualifications of one of its expert witnesses and saying the defense had taken the alleged victim's testimony apart "like a Swiss watch."

The most devastating blow came during the prosecution's closing statement Wednesday, when the judge told the jury that prosecutors had misrepresented a witness's statement that the woman had said, "I have been raped." After checking the court transcript, Maksym determined that the prosecutors had made a "grave error."

The panel found Owens guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer and of violating a military restraining order to stay away from the woman.

The defense immediately asked the military judge to throw out the conduct charge, and the judge, Navy Cmdr. John Maksym, said he will hear arguments about that Friday.

Owens, 22, who acknowledged that he had sex with the female midshipman Jan. 29 but maintained that it was consensual, stood at attention as the verdict was read and displayed no immediate reaction.

His accuser and her family were not in the courtroom in the Washington Navy Yard to hear the verdict, which came on the ninth day of the court-martial.

"Our strongest reaction right now is relief," high-power lawyer Reid Weingarten, the lead defense attorney for Owens, said afterward. "The rape charge was a horrible charge, and the jury came back with the right verdict."

He predicted that the judge would throw out the conduct charge Friday.

Defense attorneys had mounted a furious assault on the character of the accuser, alleging that she was a binge drinker who had sent a computer instant message to Owens inviting him to her room, and then blacked out during consensual sex. Owens' attorneys also alleged that she deleted the instant messages from her computer.

Last Friday with the jury out of the room, Maksym said Weingarten "eviscerated the alleged victim during cross-examination" in a manner that was "difficult to endure." The accuser denied inviting Owens to her room.

The two military prosecutors declined to comment, and Naval Academy officials said they are withholding comment until Owens is sentenced.

The finding means the jury believed the sex was consensual, as Owens contended, but was in violation of academy rules.

If convicted of rape, Owens could have faced a sentence of up to life in prison, though such a long sentence is rare. The maximum penalty for each of the other two convictions is two years in a Navy brig. The jury will sentence Owens after hearing from prosecution and defense witnesses, which could start as early as Friday.

But Owens, who was not allowed to graduate with his class in May because of the charges, could be expelled from the academy in an administrative hearing, denied his diploma and forced to repay the $160,000 cost of his taxpayer-funded education.

Through her victim advocate, the accuser and her family declined to make a statement. The Sun is not identifying the woman, a 20-year-old Naval Academy senior, because she has alleged sexual assault.

The court-martial has been closely watched by advocates for women who have been critical of the academy's approach to allegations of sexual assault, as well as by some who contend that male midshipmen and others are being scapegoated by a Navy bent on reforming its reputation for hostility to its female students.

Anita Sanchez, a spokeswoman for the Miles Foundation, an organization that tracks violence against women in the military, said Owens' acquittal highlights the military's flawed system of prosecuting rape. "Unfortunately the current Uniform Code of Military Justice doesn't support the prosecution of these date rapes, because the terminology in the current code says, 'by force and without consent,' and these type of assaults do not always include force."

She said Owens' acquittal, as well as the acquittal of a U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadet on a rape charge in June, may prevent rape victims from coming forward.

"As with all assault victims, you have issues of shame and self- blame. In the military, you have the fear of career impact, the ongoing issue of safety," she said.

The trial reopened old wounds for the academy.

12:54 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

attorney writes: Monday, July, 31, 2006 3:31 PM
Smith jury off base and off course.
This jury said, in essence, we are not concerned about the truth. We can't handle the truth. Just give us enough facts to buttress our predispositions. We can't be bothered with such legal niceties as who has the burden of proof, or whether he has met that burden, or whether all the elements of the offense has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Cadet Smith has not proven to us that he did not do it. If he was not guilty of something, then they would not have convened this general court-martial. We are ready to convict based on the prosecution's theory of the case. Pure conjecture, rank supposition, and casual coincidence are enough for us.

legalappeals@yahoo.com

11:32 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

The U.S. Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals has scheduled oral arguments in the Case of The Appeal of the Court-martial Conviction of Cadet Webster Smith for January 16, 2008 in Arlington, Virginia.
A legal brief filed by his lawyers claims the convictions should be thrown out because the defense team was not allowed to fully cross-examine one of his accusers during Smith's court martial. They say that meant the jury didn't hear testimony that the accuser, a female cadet, Shelly Roddenbush, had once had consensual sex with a Coast Guard enlisted man and then called it sexual assault.
Lt. Cmdr. Patrick M. Flynn, the government's lawyer for the appeal, said 27 November that the jury "heard enough" and the trial judge was within his rights to impose reasonable limits on the cross-examination.
"They didn't need to hear the additional details the defense is arguing they should have been allowed to hear."
The defense also is asking the court to set aside Smith's convictions on two lesser charges of failing to obey an order and abandoning watch.

10:18 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

International Herald Tribune - France
(The Associated Press) WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2007
Lawyers for a former cadet who was the first student court-martialed in the 130-year history of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy's are seeking to reverse his convictions for sexual misconduct.
Oral Arguments before the Coast Guard Court of Military Appeals is set for 16 January 2008 in Arlington, Va.

11:01 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

17 May 2008, Webster Smith said:
I graduated with honors with a degree in general business and decision information science from the University of St. Thomas. I completed a two semester Russian linguistics program at Neighboring Rice University and completed all requirements for the pre law designation. Emotional moment for my family, especially my father and me. On February 15th, 2006 the night before the Coast Guard Academy called me back to face allegations and a negative press barage, we had a long talk. He took off his academy ring and I took mine off. He never had that ring off in my presence. He told me that he wouldn't put it back on until I walked across the stage. That motivated me more than any of the detractors could, so I finished my necessary 41 hours in 10 months. Seeing him cry, yesterday, broke me down. For a moment, we won. Now, its time for my first real job (in law) and law school next fall. People are going to see that no one is greater than God and His will.

Webster

3:19 AM  

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