Hasan Court-Martial

The court-martial of MAJ Nidal Hasan begins next week.  Here is a preview of some of the government’s likely tactics at the trial from the San Antonio Express-News. Appears they are going to paint MAJ Hasan as a terrorist.

PVT Chen Suicide Related Plea

From the Fayetteville Observer, here, is coverage of the a plea in one of several courts related to the suicide death and hazing of PVT Danny Chen.  SPC Ryan J. Offutt awaits a Big Chicken Dinner and six months confinement “for his role in the hazing and maltreatment that drove Pvt. Danny Chen to suicide last fall.  Offutt [pled] guilty Monday as part of a plea agreement” to assist the government in other related cases.

USS Pittsburgh CO Relieved

Another Navy CO has been relieved.  This brings the total to 13 according to Time.  The Day of New London, CT (via  Stripes, here) reports that the relief for cause of CDR Michael Ward only two weeks after he took command came after an investigation revealed an extramarital affair with a 23-year old woman  The reports states that, “The woman said she met Ward, 43, on a dating Website in October 2011. She said he told her he worked in “special ops.” She said Ward, who is married with children, told her he was separated. She said he impregnated her and, in an effort to end the relationship, faked his death in an email communication in July.”  Official Navy release here.

Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals Sets Aside Hazing Related Conviction for Sentence Appropriateness

Here is a link to the unpublished opinion in United States v. Michaels, No. 1352, slip op. at 3-4 (C.G.Ct.Crim.App. 2012), which held:

We doubt that the differences in convictions provide a rational basis for the disparity in outcomes between Appellant’s case and each of the companion cases, and the Government does not argue that they do. The Government does argue that the differences in the sentencing cases provide a rational basis for the disparities between Appellant’s sentence and the sentence in each of the six companion cases. It is difficult to avoid the impression that the Government seeks to maintain Appellant’s bad-conduct discharge because his generally negative service record warrants a less-than-honorable discharge. We will not support use of this court-martial as a convenient opportunity to discharge a servicemember whom the service does not want to retain. We decline to approve a punitive discharge upon the junior-most accused, given the minimal sentences, with no punitive discharges, adjudged against the other six accuseds, in these seven closely-related hazing cases.


5 Responses to “Military Justice News for Aug. 14, 2012”

  1. Cloudesley Shovell says:

    That Coast Guard case is ripe for reversal.  It effectively nullifies the sentencing authority’s power (whether members or judge-alone) to sentence an offender based upon admissible and relevant matters in aggravation, simply because his fellow miscreats had much better service records. 
    In other words, a dirtbag sailor who commits misconduct with other sailors who have far superior service records gets the benefit of the superior service of his co-offenders.  That has never been the law.  So much for sentencing based upon individualized consideration of both the offender and his offenses. 

  2. k fischer says:


    But, shouldn’t the more senior individual who was “usually in charge of the events” be held accountable in a hazing case?  H/She was in a better position to stop it.  Plus, this individual did not plead guilty, and still did not get a punitive discharge.  So, this guy pleads guilty, and gets 5 months confinement and a BCD?  I think it was a good call, but should only be applied in a hazing case where the Senior NCO who was in charge and knows better gets a far less punishment than his underlings.

  3. Cloudesley Shovell says:

    k fischer:
    What if the more senior individual had been acquitted by the members in his trial, for whatever reason?  Does that entitle Seaman Apprentice Michaels to an acquittal as well?  I recall several years ago a colleague represented one of three men accused of a gang rape.  The other two pleaded guilty.  My colleague’s client went to trial, and was acquitted.  Do the other two men now get acquittals or do-overs or reduced sentences?  Of course not.  SA Michaels could have gone to trial rather than pleading guilty.  There is probably a good reason he didn’t.
    Disparate sentences happen all the time, and they are legal.  The Coast Guard Court could have been more clear on the basis of their ruling.  They hint that it’s pursuant to the Court’s Art. 66 power.  That being said, the Court didn’t cite a single case in support of its decision, and with good reason.  None of the existed cases on disparate sentencing in closely-related or companion cases remotely support the Court’s decision here.

  4. k fischer says:


    I see your point.  I’m not well versed in the caselaw regarding disparate sentencing in closely related or companion cases.  I am assuming that none of the service courts have reduced a sentence for the appellant if none of the cases remotely support the Court’s decision.

    But, my gut just tells me that it’s unfair for an E-7 to get a bust and at most 75 days in the brig for hazing when an Seaman gets a BCD and 5 months for something that appears to be the E-7’s responsibility.  A gang rape is entirely different.  Hazing is a little different.  This one does seems like it could have been charged as an indecent act because they were pulling out their junk and sticking it into the targeted member’s faces.  Sounds like there are some other facts that might have been left out in the opinion.

  5. N says:

    The E-7 was awarded no punishment. He is, however, now a registered sex offender. I bet he would trade 5 months to avoid that.