Monday, October 28, 2013

Sexual Assault At Coast Guard Academy, The Webster Smith Case Chap 9


This Too Will Pass

Former Coast Guard members and others with ties to the Coast Guard Academy were praising the academy's handling of its first court-martial, saying the firm action will help the school's reputation rebound. Many in the region with ties to the academy said the fact the school did not hide the allegations and followed through with a court martial would help its reputation rebound. "The academy has excellent processes in place to deal with this," said John Maxham, Vice President of Development for the Academy Alumni Association. "The most important thing is it was handled in the proper fashion."
Judith Buttery, 50, of Oakdale and a former member of the Coast Guard Band, said the rape allegation was something other colleges and universities have dealt with for years. "It happens so often in every other place," Buttery said. "It's just one of those things the Coast Guard will have to deal with. The Coast Guard Academy will weather this storm."
Chris Morello of Norwich, the Capt. Paul Foyt Chapter co-president of the Coast Guard Academy Parents Association, called the incident disappointing, but was glad the academy handled it well. "It's disappointing for the best of the cadets that work as hard and are dedicated and disciplined to have a few put a black mark on the school," Morello said. "It's not good to judge anything based on one decision or challenge."
I was not one of those praising the Coast Guard Academy for its handling of its first court-martial. It was appalling to me that it should have been a General Court-martial. I agreed with the Article 32 Investigating Officer that the charges could have been resolved at an Article 15 Captain’s Mast. Non-judicial punishment would have been more than sufficient.
I felt that a great miscarriage of justice had occurred. The life and career of a very promising cadet had been sacrificed. There were no processes in place to deal with allegations of sexual assault. They were making them up as they went along. This was an experiment. I do not think it will ever happen again.
Fortunately for the family of Webster Smith there were some white knights in the wings watching what I considered a miscarriage of justice and an abuse of process. I am referring primarily to the law firm that took his case on appeal. The case was taken as a pro bono case by the Wilmer Cutler Hale and Dorr law firm.
In December of 2007 as we were waiting for the decision on appeal from the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals, it occurred to me that the best Christmas present the Coast Guard could give to the Lawyers from the Wilmer Cutler Hale and Dorr law firm representing cadet Webster Smith would be to rule against them.
It appeared that the best payment the Law Firm could get for representing Webster Smith would be another chance to make history. Taking this case pro bono, it was obvious that they would not receive any direct financial compensation for their services; but, they already had more money than they can spend.
Far more than money, a chance to make history by arguing the case before the Supreme Court would have been just compensation.
I believed that they had followed this case from day one. They had a premonition of its precedent setting nature. When would another case of this unique nature come along? Not in a thousand years.
Like God up in Heaven, hoping that Pharaoh would not give in and let the Hebrews go free, just so He could give the world repeated displays of his awesome power, Wilmer Cutler Hale and Dorr may have been secretly in its heart of hearts hoping the Coast Guard was as perverse as some had said that they were. That would give  Wilmer Cutler Hale and Dorr a chance to make it to the Supreme Court to argue a really very simple and easy case of the wrongful prosecution of the first Black Cadet at the Coast Guard Academy.
Now, that would be a trophy worth more than a million dollar retainer. That would add a modern and impressive new paragraph to their website. They would continue to stroll down the corridors of history as the nation's preeminent civil rights law firm.
Knowing the Coast Guard as I did, I felt reasonably certain that they are about to get the number one item on their Christmas Wish List; that is, a chance to argue before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of a poor Black boy from Texas who had been abused by the military justice system.
Little did I know at the time that the case would be appealed to the Supreme Court, only to have the nation’s court of last resort deny the appeal with not one word of explanation.
Could it be that the Court-martial of Webster Smith was just intended to attract media attention? Was Admiral James Van Sice trying to send a message to U. S. Representative Christopher Shays and the Pentagon and the other 3 military academies that this is how the Coast Guard Academy handles sexual assaults?
Former Congressman Shays, from Connecticut, a 10-term incumbent who lost a re-election bid in November 2008, was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. He never wore a military uniform. He is a good friend of Richard Blumenthal, a former Democratic senator from Connecticut, who had drawn scrutiny for saying he served in Vietnam when he actually received deferments between 1965 and 1970 and then joined the Marine Reserve.
At the very moment that the court-martial of Webster Smith was underway, U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican and chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, was holding a hearing concerning how officials were handling sexual assault cases in the military and its academies. The Hearings were held in Washington, D.C.. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Paul J. Higgins from the Coast Guard Academy was on the witness list.
Military officials said they have worked hard to improve critical areas such as victim support and confidentiality while providing training for all cadets to prevent sexual harassment and assault.

Congress created a task force in 2004 that recommended many such changes. “The Air Force Academy has come a long way in addressing sexual assault and violence since the events of 2003 and before,” Brig. Gen. Susan Y. Desjardins, Air Force Academy commandant of cadets, said in prepared testimony.

But Shays suggested that more needed to be done:  “We must provide an environment in the military at large that does not condone hostile attitudes and inappropriate actions toward women,” Shays said. (Note 17)

It is strangely ironic that in April 2006 Representative Shays hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill where a former female Coast Guard Academy cadet, Caitlin Stopper, told of how her life became an "absolute hell" after she accused a fellow cadet of sexually assaulting her. Ms Stopper said that Academy officials tried to blame her for the alleged attack. (Note 16) Her attacker was white. He was allowed to quietly resign his cadet appointment. One has to wonder, if the rapist had been a Black cadet, would he have been allowed to quietly resign; or, would he have received a General Court-martial? That was truly a rape case. The Webster Smith case was not.
And then, along came Webster Smith. He was Black. The age of blaming the alleged victim, apparently was over. Since the academy had excellent processes in place to deal with things like this, it was time to crank up the machinery. The most important thing was that it had to be handled in the proper fashion, but it was time to paint a face on crime at the Coast Guard Academy, that crime being sexual assault. This appeared to be an ideal case for racial profiling. Racial profiling is what happens when you take a set of circumstances associated with a certain crime and used them to identify the type of person likely to commit it.
Rapes have occurred at the Coast Guard Academy or onboard the Academy training ship, USCGC Eagle since as far back as 1977. From 1993 until the spring semester of 2005, the Coast Guard Academy had 10 reported incidents of sexual misconduct, according to information provided by the CGA. If we were to profile all of the sexual assailants from 1977 until the Caitlin Stopper sexual attack, we would get a composite of who should be the poster child for sexual assault at the Coast Guard Academy.
This is what we would get. He would be a white male between the ages of 17 and 21. He would be intelligent and athletic, but he would tend to be an introvert except when he has consumed a small amount of alcohol. Being something of a social misfit, he would prey on lonely or homely girls who solicited his assistance. Typically he would be asked for assistance with homework or with some aspect of an athletic skill that he had excelled at. These situations would tend to lure the unsuspecting female into his orbit of greatest achievement. His superior abilities in these areas would tend to bolster his confidence and give him the courage to mount an assault. Afterwards he would be able to convince himself that she asked for it, or he could fantasize that she came on to him. It was all her fault. He would feel little or no guilt.
According to a 2008 General Accounting Office Report, from 2003 to 2006 there were NO sexual-harassment complaints at the Coast Guard Academy, but there were 12 incidents of sexual assault reported to the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS), with one incident in 2003, one in 2004, “NONE” in 2005 and 10 in 2006.

The 10 incidents reported in 2006 would appear to have occurred after the Webster Smith court-martial. Webster Smith was removed from Chase Hall in 2005. Who was doing all of the sexual assaulting in 2006? Why were none of these people brought to justice? They could have been tried along with Webster Smith.



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