From Gang Member to Air Force Command Chief to Court Martial

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Q: Can a strong military career record mitigate a court-martial outcome?

He has called himself “an absolute contradiction”. Even his grandmother reportedly described him as a “Jekyll and Hyde”.

The inspirational story of how he rose from a street thug in an L.A. gang to a command chief in the United States Air Force is likely the grittiest Cinderella story ever told and it was chronicled in the January 2014 issue of Airman Magazine.

But with the former command chief now facing a court-martial over an alleged sexual relationship, it is uncertain whether his story will have a happy ending after all. Forget fairy godmothers; he needs an experienced civilian military court-martial defense attorney.

Long before he became command chief, he was born to rival gang members, was initiated into LA’s gang scene at 11, was shot on five occasions and spent time incarcerated for rehabilitation—all before high school graduation. He turned his life around in the Air Force and became a powerfully-unique and influential mentor the likes of which many have never seen. His limitless positivity and meteoric rise through the ranks had countless service members describing him in terms like “bottled lightning and infectious energy”.

He has openly shared stories from his past in the hope they will inspire others, including how during his incarceration as a teen he had to fear and fight off sexual assault. In the Airman Magazine article “Playing the Pawn”, he shared:

“I know what it’s like to have someone who I’m supposed to trust, someone in a position of authority who’s supposed to be there to protect me, to walk me down a hallway and take me to a room where I’m thinking I’m going to have a visitor, and when I walk in, I see a group of young men on the other side of the room. I remember fighting for my life in a whole different light.”

Despite this remarkably candid, personal confession from a man respected by many, the former command chief finds himself in an allegedly sexual, unprofessional relationship scenario charged with:

  • one specification of willfully disobeying an order
  • seven specifications of dereliction of duty
  • two specifications of making false official statements,
  • two specifications of indecent recording and
  • five specifications of obstruction of justice.

The charge sheet reportedly referenced the officer’s alleged denial of the existence of the unprofessional relationship; his alleged attempts to conceal evidence of the sexual relationship; and his alleged attempts to encourage the woman to likewise conceal evidence and deny the unprofessional relationship. He reportedly deleted from his cell phone text messages and a video allegedly taken without consent of the woman’s “private area”.

One of the many strategies a skilled court-martial defense attorney will employ in an aggressive defense of a service member is to tell their side of the story and to use their prior positive military history and record. A stellar record and/or commendation can help bolster the accused’s credibility especially in cases of “he said/ she said”. And even when the evidence appears to be a “slam dunk” against the service member, demonstrating a shining past may mitigate any punishment received.

Hiring a skilled civilian military court-martial defense attorney who understands the unique nature of the court-martial system and will defend you aggressively is a necessity. Relying on an often overworked and inexperienced court-appointed attorney from the trial defense service to mount a defense against a team of the military’s best prosecuting attorneys could cost you your military career, your benefits, your freedom and sometimes your life.

If you are facing a court-martial or need help appealing a court-martial decision, the civilian military defense attorneys at Elkus, Sisson & Rosenstein P.C in Colorado Springs and Denver have the skills and resources to aggressively defend you.  We offer worldwide representation for service members of all ranks in all branches and we have extensive experience in high profile cases.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

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