Monday, April 23, 2007

The Conspiracy widens.

The conspiracy widens. You cannot put together an operation of this size and scope without outside help. Van Sice was not alone. Wisniewski was not his only co-conspirator. His legal advisor was a major player. A non-lawyer would not adroitly disregard the recommendations of the Article 32 Investigating Officer without getting legal advice from someone. That had to be CDR Sean Gill. Senior Coast Guard Officers all tend to approach their lawyers with the same attitude. They say “Don’t tell me what I cannot do. Tell me how to do WHAT I want to do!”

The cost alone would indicate that Commandant (G-L) and Commandant (G-P) were onboard. The degree of coordination needed to bring all of the parties to the Academy at the precise time would require knowledge and cooperation from a host of Headquarters level units.

This was more than a conspiracy. This was a strategic policy . That would mean this was a Coast Guard policy decision. That is frightening. When he court-martialed Webster Smith, Van Sice was not breaking ranks with main stream Coast Guard policy makers; he was in perfect lock-step. He had been given clearance to court-martial a cadet, a Black cadet. He must have felt that he was on solid ground. It seems a bit bizarre that the first three cadets singled out for court-martialing were all Black, and all football players. One at the Coast Guard Academy; one at the Air Force Academy; and, one at Annapolis.

Navy Cadet Lamar Owens.

Compared to what Van Sice and Wisniewski did, Webster Smith deserves the Coast Guard Good Conduct Metal. Webster Smith committed a few college pranks. Van Sice and Wisniewski eviscerated the Honor Code concepts. They coached witnesses to lie. They tampered with witnesses, exerted unlawful command influence, they abused their discretion and they misused the legal process.

Coast Guard cadet Webster Smith

This would partially explain WHY Van Sice, as the Convening Authority, exhibited complete and utter disdain during this entire fiasco.
The cost would not be prohibitive, since there appears to have been some thought given to making it self-funding. If you bill the convicted cadet about $100,000.00 that would pay for most of your expenses. You could call it reimbursement for his Academy education. Make the family pay.
In China when a convicted criminal is sentenced to be executed, he is tied to a chair in a stadium and killed with a bullet to the brain. The government charges the cost of the bullet to the family of the executed criminal. They make the family pay. Who is more enlightened?
The Secretary of the Navy is not as enlightened as one would have hoped. He has overruled the Annapolis Superintendent, Admiral Rodney Rempt, and he has ordered that Cadet Lamar Owens must repay $90,000.00 for his training. He has the nerve in the face of a cry in some quarters for reparations for the descendents of the African slaves, to ask the sons and grandsons of slaves and sharecroppers to repay more than the entire family makes in five years. In many cases Black college students today are the first in their families to even go to college. The Secretary of the Navy, Donald C. Winter, is needlessly grandstanding.

This is a flea-flicker play by the Navy Secretary, but there is a great counter play. You see, Lamar Owens won a lot of games for the Navy; and, he filled a lot of seats. Also, he had one of Washington, DC’s best Super Lawyers representing him at his court-martial. Lamar Owens would do well to get his “million dollar baby” attorney, Reid Weingarten, to sue Annapolis and the Naval Academy Alumni Association for a percentage of the proceeds from all of the football games that he played in, and for the concessions and parking and souvenirs and the free publicity that he generated as their star quarterback. He was exploited. He was used. Annapolis did not do him any favors. They pursued him. He earned more money for Annapolis and the Navy than he was allocated to pay for his marginal education.

On the day the star female witness was giving her testimony, a senior officer from the Academy was in Washington appearing before a Congressional sub-committee chaired by Christopher Shays on the subject of Sexual Assaults against women at the nation’s military academies. That is too much of a coincidence.

Webster Smith has filed an appeal, claiming that several errors were made during his court-martial last summer. One of the key points in the appeal filed April 13 is a claim that a key witness, Shelly Raudenbush, a female cadet, had previously falsely claimed sexual assault against a Coast Guard enlisted man to avoid discipline.

The primary charges on which he was convicted stemmed from a series of sexual encounters with, Shelly Raudenbush, a classmate, in her dorm room in October 2005.

The appeal claims Smith's lawyers weren't allowed to question or cross examine Shelly Raudenbush about her allegedly false sexual assault accusation.
Limiting cross-examination, the appeal says, denied Smith his constitutional right of confronting his accusers, "of showing, through cross-examination, that Shelly Raudenbush had lied before under similar circumstances and that she had a motive (indeed the same motive) to lie again."

Also, the defense lawyers were not allowed to question Shelly Raudenbush about consistent pattern of romantic infidelities beginning in high school and continuing to the present. The defense could have called any of her old boyfriends that she proved unfaithful to. The defense could have called Doug Genna or Marvin Kierstead, among others.

Van Sice and Wisniewski played the news media like a violin. They held press conferences. They gave out pictures of Cadet Webster Smith. When they had gotten a conviction on a minor charge, they paraded Webster Smith in front of the cameras like a prize trophy.

After his kangaroo court-martial, Cadet Webster Smith was immediately taken to the U.S. Navy brig at the Submarine Base in Groton, Connecticut on 28 June 2006. He should have been granted an 8 day deferment of the sentence. This is normally a routine thing. However, this was not a routine case, by any means. Even the vilest military convicted offender is given some time alone with his family to say good-bye. Webster Smith was not. Webster waited in a secure room under double security guards while his written Request for Deferment was presented to Admiral James Van Sice. The Admiral sat in his ivory tower with Commander Sean Gill, his military advisor, and drank coffee. Then he summarily denied the routine request without any justification whatsoever. This has never been done before. Admiral Van Sice received bad advice from his legal advisor.
As soon as Van Sice's signature was on the denial order, two flat-footed agents from the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) ordered Cadet Smith's parents to vacate the premises. Mild mannered Webster Smith was handcuffed and paraded up and down the corridor like Jesus being paraded between Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate for all the rabble to gawk and marvel. Poor Webster Smith was made a spectacle. Thoroughly humbled and suitably constrained, he was offered for inspection to Kristen Nicholson and Shelly Raudenbush, the two principal witnesses against him. This was after they had gotten a chance to hug the Prosecutor. I am told that Kristen was the first one to give him a big hug. Then, still in handcuffs, Webster Smith was paraded in front of the news media for a photo opportunity. It was a Kodak Moment. This was a sort of victory dance for the Prosecution and the Convening Authority. This was cruel and inhuman punishment. This was truly a new low even for the likes of James Van Sice. This single act more so than preferring groundless charges shows clearly the character of Admiral James Van Sice. He is not only a rabid racist, and a confirmed bigot, but he is also just plain mean spirited.

While on vacation I was surfing the internet news and came upon a story about the court-martial of a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy. It was news. It was in the newspapers, but when I called CG Headquarters, I was told that they did not know anything about it. I called 3 times. I spoke to a LCDR in the Legal Office (G-L) and a LT in the Office of Personnel (G-P). Both gave me the same story. They did not know anything about a Court-martial at the Academy. If they were at Headquarters, then they could not be so far out of the loop that they did not know about the trial at the Academy. So, obviously the information black-out was on. If you did not know, then you did not “have a need to know”. So all inquiries would be met with the same answer.
Everyone at Headquarters from the Commandant on down to the lowliest Admiral’s driver had to know. This must have been the Coast Guard’s dirty little secret. Any one who did not agree, or who was not a major player, simply kept his mouth shut.
The Superintendent’s Legal Advisor, Cmdr Sean Gill must have been a party to the conspiracy. He had to be at the center of it. He was the Convening Authority’s principal legal advisor. And he had to coordinate with Headquarters, Military Justice Division and the Office of Personnel. There had to be general acquiescence of every Department Head at CG Headquarters. The Coast Guard was going to be the first military service academy to court-martial a cadet for sexual assault against a female cadet. This was a policy decision, just like the decision to be the first to admit female cadets was a policy decision. I was a part of that. It took months of planning and meetings and coordination.


Those who were not present on Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at the

United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (USCAAF)

450 E Street, Northwest

Washington, D.C. 20442-0001

for the oral arguments in the case of United States v. Webster M. Smith, Case No. 08-0719/CG, missed a real burn burner.

The judges of the USCAAF are civilian judges and sit as a single panel on all cases. Typically, all five judges participate in each case. The judges came out firing questions fast and furious to the two Appellate Attorneys. The first one up was Counsel for Webster Smith: Ronald C. Machen, Esquire. He was prepared and completely unflappable. He responded to every question put to him. When he was interrupted in mid sentence, he did not forge on and try to finish his thought; he immediately responded to the Judge's question. He gave reasoned responsive answers to every question. Some judges fired hard ball questions, and one judge even offer up a soft-ball question which was answered in the same serious manner.

Then came Counsel for U S Coast Guard: LT Emily P. Reuter, USCG. She had a cold or was recovering from the Swine Flu and began by pleading for leniency because of her weakened voice. It was downhill from there for her. She did not appear to give responsive answers to most of the questions put to her. She may have not even clearly understood some of the question before she attempted to respond to them. Frequently she appeared to retreat to her notes or her brief and read the holdings from cases that she had cited in her brief. Perhaps this was her first time arguing before the court or maybe this was a case that no one else wanted to argue, but there surely was not her finest hour.

This was an appeal from a General Court-Martial (GCM) conviction for going from place of duty, attempting to disobey an order, sodomy, extortion, and indecent assault. The ISSUE on Appeal was whether the military judge at the court-martial at the Coast Guard Academy violated Webster Smith’s constitutional right to confront his accusers by limiting his cross-examination of Shelley Roddenbush [SR], the government’s only witness, on three of the five charges.

Counsel for each side was allowed 20 minutes to present oral argument in the case.

The judges of the USCAAF are Judge Andrew S. Effron is the Chief Judge. The other four judges are Judge James E. Baker, Judge Charles E. “Chip” Erdmann, Judge Scott W. Stucky, and Judge Margaret A. Ryan, the most recent appointee.

The first issue that they tackled was the jurisdictional issue. The Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals had denied a request for reconsideration on 14 May 2008. It was not clear whether this was in the Appellate Record. There was a question of how many days had elapsed from the notification of the denial to Webster Smith's attorney and the date that Attorney Machen filed his appeal to the USCAAF. The Coast Guard had sent the Notice of Denial via DHL, a German company, rather than simply using the U. S. Mail as required by the Rules of Court. Apparently there are two time periods that may be relevant under Article 67(B) of the USCAAF's Rules. One is a 61 day rule and the other is a 95 day rule.

They kept coming back to this jurisdictional issue again and again. I do not think they hammered it out definitively during the hearing. Webster Smith's attorney said that it is not in the Record that he was notified on 14 May. LT Emily P. Reuter for the USCG said that it was in the Record. I am sure the USCAAF judges will settled the issue before they issue a decision.

This is troubling because I would hate for the judges to dodge the ISSUE on Appeal because of a technicality like jurisdiction. I could hear a couple of the judges contemplating doing just that. The tone and the tenor of the questions leads me to just that conclusion. It would be a shame after all this time and effort to be cheated out of a hard and definitive decision on the ultimate ISSUE.

That being said, it is my reasoned opinion that the judges of the USCAAF are poised to reverse the conviction of Webster Smith. I feel there is better than a 60-40% chance that they will reverse the conviction by a majority vote. also, there is a 51-49% chance of a unanimous decision.

I think Judge Ryan is a swing vote. She gave Attorney Machen the hardest time. If at all possible she might do like Judge Lane I. McClelland of the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals and uphold the status quo. However, I do not think she would go out on a limb and write a dissenting opinion. If the other four judges split 2-2, I think she might side with the judges who determine that a reversal is warranted because the Trial Judge abused his discretion and committed reversible error.

Judge Baker appears most eager to reverse this conviction because Webster Smith was denied his right to a fair trial. He sees this as a fair trial issue. He believes that the trial court members had a right to know what the secret was that SR wanted Webster Smith to keep, that it was of a sexual nature, that she had recently lied about it being nonconsensual when it was really consensual oral sex with an enlisted man in Norfolf, Virginia. Also, SR wanted Webster Smith to go out and lie for her so badly that she was willing to pay him with sexual favors.

Judge Baker feels this was crucial evidence that the members were entitled to know. The exact nature of the secret was crucial to Webster Smith's defense. The Trial Judge relied upon Rule 412 of the Military Rules of Evidence and allowed into evidence only the fact that Webster Smith was privy to a secret that SR wanted him to keep; and that secret concerned something that could ruin her cadet and officer career in the Coast Guard.

Even though Judge Baker is a civilian, he might have served in the military. He pointed out that there are lots of secrets that can harm one's career. It could be a secret concerning having failed a physical training exercise; or, it could be a secret involving a wardrobe or a uniform violation. The members had no way of knowing the precise nature of the secret since the trial judge protected SR from more rigorous cross-examination. They did not know that when SR was faced with rumors she lied to limit her own culpability. Giving a limiting instruction to the members was not sufficient to cure the error. It was more than harmless error. It was big, earth shaking, reversible error. It violated the Sixth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution.

As Attorney Machen so eloquently stated, SR had used the secret as a sword and a shield. It shielded her from testifying at the Article 32 investigation, and it was the sword that she used at trial to stab Webster Smith through the heart. It killed him and his career in the Coast Guard. It is what the judges referred to as the Theory of Innoculation. The secret had innoculated SR from two investigations. It saved her from testifying at the Article 32 Investigation.

LT Emily P. Reuter wanted to argue that this was not a Fair Trial issue, but it was a pattern or practice issue. As such the Trial Judge was correct to limit cross-examination of SR to stop any evidence from coming in concerning her prior sexual history or her propensity to tell lies. She argued that the Defense's Theory of the case at trial was wrong for the evidence that they were trying to elicit, and that the Trial Judge correctly used Rule 412. If he erred, it was no more than harmless error. It was not Reversible Error. She was not persuasive.

Truth crushed to earth shall rise again. The essence of truth in this case is finally coming to the surface. From where I sit, the USCAAF stands ready to right a gigantic wrong. It wants to reconsecrate the Temple of Justice in the Coast Guard. It wants to heal the wound that was inflicted on the Sixth Amendment by the trial court and the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals.



Blogger ichbinalj said...

Lamar Owens' lawyer, Reid Weingarten, is tops in corporate defense. He built his reputation defending corporate titans of embattled companies such as Enron Corp., WorldCom Inc. and Tyco International.
Weingarten's firm has a connection to the Naval Academy. John E. Nolan, a partner at the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson, has served as general counsel to the United States Naval Academy Foundation. Nolan could not be reached for comment yesterday.
When defending Bernard J. Ebbers, the former chief executive of WorldCom, Weingarten never disputed that fraud occurred. Instead he blamed the fraud on others - distancing his client from the act. Ebbers was convicted of securities fraud, conspiracy and filing false documents, and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

In the Owens case, there was no dispute that he had had sexual intercourse with the alleged victim, but the question hinged on whether the act was consensual. Weingarten went so far as to say the alleged rape victim probably wasn't lying. Instead, he said, she was guilty of "wishful thinking," and that sometimes people "wish something were true, wish it so much that in their own system it becomes true."
Weingarten has represented defendants in just about every major fraud case in the past four years, including Enron's chief accountant, CEOs at WorldCom and HealthSouth and a former general counsel of Tyco International.

A 2002 Business Week article estimated Weingarten's fees run $600 an hour, raising the question of how Owens, whom Weingarten described in court as "son of a utility employee and a pre-natal nurse," can pay the bills.

The work could have been pro bono, or at a reduced rate.
A regional trustee for the Naval Academy Alumni Association, William O. Rentz, said he did not know whether an informal group of alumni would be aiding Owens' defense, but that such actions would be in character.

"The alumni would respond to a cause like this," said Rentz, a retired Navy captain who was part of the academy's Class of 1955. "I am not surprised that there are people who want to help. ... There are some wealthy grads out there."

Rentz added: "I think it would be right to do so."
The Duke lacrosse players embroiled in a sexual-assault scandal got financial backing from a group consisting of their parents, school alumni, former players and university boosters, which hired prominent Washington lawyer Robert Bennett.
After graduating from Cornell University and Dickinson Law School in 1975, Weingarten went to work for a Pennsylvania state's attorney's office. But he made his reputation in his next job, as a young lawyer in the U.S. Department of Justice's new Public Integrity Unit, according to Holder, who worked with him there.
At the Justice Department, Weingarten prosecuted cases such as Abscam, a public corruption sting in the 1970s that led to the resignation of a U.S. senator and six congressmen.

8:24 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

AP, Connecticut, 24 April 2007, reports:
NEW LONDON, Conn. -- Former Coast Guard Academy cadet, Webster Smith, convicted of sex charges in a military trial has filed an appeal, claiming that several errors were made during his court-martial last summer.

Among the key points in the appeal filed April 13 is a claim that a key witness, Shelly Raudenbush, a female cadet, had previously falsely claimed sexual assault against a Coast Guard enlisted man to avoid discipline.

Webster M. Smith, of Houston, was the first student court-martialed in the academy's 130-year history. The case involved four female cadets, but the jury acquitted Smith of sexual misconduct charges, including rape, involving three of them. Smith served all but one month of a six-month prison sentence and was released early for good behavior.

The primary charges on which he was convicted stemmed from a series of sexual encounters with, Shelly Raudenbush, a classmate, in her dorm room in October 2005.

She said she was too afraid to protest because she feared Smith would reveal a secret, described in Smith's trial as a crime that could have jeopardized her Coast Guard career. The secret was that she had engaged in consensual sex with a Navy enlisted man in Virginia the previous summer.

Smith, who testified in his own defense, acknowledged that they took naked pictures of each other, gave each other massages and had oral sex that night. But he said it was all consensual.

The appeal claims Smith's lawyers weren't allowed to question or cross examine Shelly Raudenbush about her allegedly false sexual assault accusation, according to documents.
Limiting cross-examination, the appeal says, denied Smith his constitutional right of confronting his accusers, "of showing, through cross-examination, that Shelly Raudenbush had lied before under similar circumstances and that she had a motive (indeed the same motive) to lie again."

The appeal also seeks to reverse two other guilty findings from the court-martial: abandoning watch and failure to obey an order.

Smith, who is Black, has claimed that racial discrimination in his prosecution, saying that Academy Superintendent, Admiral James Van Sice; and Commandant of Cadets, Captain Douglas Wisniewski, treated him differently than white cadets accused of sexual offenses.

The Coast Guard has until May 13, 2007 to file a response to the appeal. Cmdr. Jeff Carter, a spokesman at Coast Guard Headquarters, said Monday the Coast Guard would not comment on the Smith case because it is pending litigation.


8:55 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

China executed a former director of its food and drug agency July 10th for approving fake medicine in exchange for cash, illustrating how serious Beijing is about tackling product safety, while officials announced steps to safeguard food at next summer's Olympic Games.
During Zheng Xiaoyu's tenure as head of the State Food and Drug Administration from 1997 to 2006, the agency approved six untested drugs that turned out to be fake, and some drug-makers used falsified documents to apply for approvals, according to state media reports. One antibiotic caused the deaths of at least 10 people.
Zheng's death sentence was unusually severe even for China, which is believed to carry out more court-ordered executions than all other nations combined, and indicates the communist leadership's determination to confront the country's dire product safety record.
Zheng, 63, was convicted of taking cash and gifts worth $832,000 when he was in charge of the food and drug agency.
He was sentenced to death on May 29 and his appeal was rejected on June 12 by the Higher People's Court of Beijing. China's Supreme Court approved the sentence, saying Zheng "committed vile crimes and caused extreme harm to society."
"Although he confessed to some of the crimes of bribe-taking and returned some of the illegal income, it was not enough for leniency," the court said.
Zheng's execution July 10th was confirmed by state television and the official Xinhua News Agency.

11:35 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.

10:24 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.

10:50 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

This entry was posted by on June 11, 2009 at 6:26 pm and is filed under Uncategorized.
QUOTE: "We were notified today that Webster Smith, the first cadet to ever be courts-martialed at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy has had his site blocked by the U.S. Coast Guard. Smiths website “Friends of Webster” is not accessible inside the Coast Guard domain. We reviewed the site and couldn’t find anything in our cursory review that would warrant being blocked."

5:10 PM  

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