Here’s a media report about the court-martial of Army Reserve Colonel Stephen E. Spelman.  He was reportedly sentenced to confinement for 60 days and a $20,000 fine for adultery with a subordinate.  He pleaded guilty at a court-martial held at Fort McNair on 6 September.

h/t Phil “My Liege” Cave

49 Responses to “Court-martial sentences Army Reserve judge advocate to, inter alia, 60 days’ confinement for adultery with a subordinate”

  1. Just Sayin' says:

    there’s a lot more to this story than meets the eye.

  2. OPLAW-LCDR says:

    You aren’t kidding. This was a classic case of a unit that was destroyed my misconduct at the top. It didn’t take long for GO1 to go completely out the window, and good people to be ostracized. Sad.

  3. Dew_Process says:

    Does anyone know if there was a PTA?  I mean female subordinate’s a “no show” yet there’s a guilty plea?  I think GO1 went out the window in more than just this unit in Iraq.  M*A*S*H seemed to have resurrected itself there!

  4. Just Sayin' says:

    OPLAW-LCDR, your opinion and mine differ greatly.

  5. Just Sayin' says:

    also, for a self styled OPLAW JAG, perhaps you should peruse Iraq’s GO1 for refresher.  I’m not condoning affairs with subordinates, but in Iraq that is covered by the UCMJ.  Not GO1.
    If we’re going to throw out references, let’s be sure they are accurate.  Just Sayin’.

  6. Charlie Gittins says:

    And, by the way, there is no female “victim” in a straight adultery case.  There are two equally responsible people, one of whome seems to have escaped responsibility for her own conduct.  Since it did not come to light until 3 years after the affair had ended, I am wondering what the adverse affect on good order and discipline could have been.  I frankly see a more damaging effect on public perception of the military service discrediting) by a woman female lawyer who tries to extort her former lover into dropping out of the primary race “or else.”  Sounds like communication of a threat, extortion, blackmail, etc.  And he goes to jain for adultery?  What am I missing?   

  7. OPLAW-LCDR says:

    Just sayin:  Actually, this was just the tip of the iceberg.  WAY beyond what made it to the Court.  LOTS of GO1 violations in that unit.  The official word from the top was “keep such things discreet”.  As I said – it destroyed a unit that could have done good work.

  8. Peanut Gallery says:

    It says he was the senior military officer for LAOTF in 2008.  I’d bet my ridiculous government salary that several who frequent this blog worked for LAOTF during that timeframe.  Definitely got to be more than meets the eye. 

    For those paying attention, did you catch the nerdy double Transformers reference?

  9. Just Sayin' says:

    As opposed to the TF-134 “JAGs Gone Wild”?
    And again, OPLAW-LCDR, Iraq’s GO1: No screwing local and foreign nationals.  No cohabitation amongst the non-married.  Silent on the topic of screwing your own side.  This is a 92 violation for the general frat order, not GO1.
    Very hard for me to bite my tongue on this having some inside gauge, so I’m just going to step quietly away from the computer, but the observations of Mr. Gittins are spot-on in this case.

  10. k fischer says:

    What happened to the whistleblower?  (no pun inten………okay, pun intended)  

    When is her court-martial scheduled?

  11. Anonymous Air Force Senior Defense Counsel with the initials NM says:

    The only information we have is from Col Spelman’s wife.  She is the one who identifies the female as “victim.”  That makes me think this started off as more than an adultry case.

  12. Bruce MacKenzie says:

    Just saying – I do apologize for something a mite off topic on this string.  What are you specifically referring to by your comment, “the TF134 JAGs gone wild”?  I would be very appreciative of further information and insight.  I would further be interested if you are an alumnus of TF134 and a personal observer of “JAGs going wild” or if you just republishing something other than personal observations.

    And I also agree with Mr. Gittens on his legal conclusion of “there is no female “victim” in a straight adultery case”. 

  13. Socrates says:

    Total speculation: But does this case imply the “power differential” feminist argument – that a subordinate female is never in a position to object, resist or give free consent?  Or, is it more likely that a sexual assault or some sexual agression was plead down to simple adultery?  Of course, the third option is that the female JAG is simply evil.  

  14. Just Sayin' says:

    I see what you’re trying to do there…bait me out of my shell of anonymity…

  15. Civilian Prosecutor says:

    First, why was this not burried at NJP? What a waste of tax payer resources.  Second, in the civilian criminal world “victims” fail to show all the time. This is not something unique to the military.

  16. Bruce MacKenzie says:

    Just Sayin – not at all.  No obtuse tactic nor ulterior motive was intended.  If remaining such is that important to you far be it from me to challenge your desires.  Perhaps if you could provide me the time frame of “the TF134 JAGs gone wild” period.  Or if you really want to communicate off-line, that certainly can be accomplished.

  17. OPLAW-LCDR says:

    Just Sayin – Hmmm, I recall there is a lot more to GO1 than just sex.  Booze comes to mind, so does a lot of other things.  Not going to touch the 134 bait.  But the issues at  this unit were myriad and many-fold.

    The whistleblower is a victim.  There was, and is, a lot more to this story than made it out into public.  I, for one, would suggest when one party is an O-6, and the other is considerably more junior, there cannot ever be real consent.  Too much power differential.  Funny – I think that’s what the UCMJ says too, or words to that effect.  It seems to me, considering I paid attention in the mandatory sexual assault training we all just had, that such a power differential = sexual assault.  Force not required.  That makes her a victim – PERIOD.  I would think that with that, and with all the uproar over the VWAP issues in Japan with the doctor a while back, that would be obvious.

    Again – a good unit destroyed, a mission compromised, all because of lack of leadership.  Sad.

  18. stewie says:

     I, for one, would suggest when one party is an O-6, and the other is considerably more junior, there cannot ever be real consent.

    With all due respect, that’s a pretty ridiculously absolutist statement with no support. Of course it’s possible that a considerably more junior Soldier or Officer could say no to an O-6. Now, might there be situations where some in that position might have a harder time doing it? Absolutely. Thus one of the reasons why we prohibit it. And no, the UCMJ doesn’t say that at all. Can you point me to where a rank disparity/power differential = sexual assault? What’s the cutoff? Three grades? Major-Lieutenant is a fun Saturday night, but LTC-LT is a sexual assault? What about a MAJ-P?

  19. Just Sayin' says:

    you’re right, OPLAW…I hear they fed local stray animals.

  20. Just Sayin' says:

    also…did I seriously hear you just try to draw a comparison between a person who engaged in nonconsensual predatory sexual behavior against multiple unwilling participants, and an adult woman who screwed her boss and then tried to blackmail him?

  21. k fischer says:


    That is the stinking problem with the mandatory sexual assault training, if that is in fact what they are teaching.  I can sort of understand that in the drill sergeant/trainee situation, but in the JAG context?  

    Really?  A female lawyer who knows exactly who to report sexual harrassment cannot consent because the man outranks her?  So, I guess that logic dictates that  every case of fraternization due to a sexual relationship is sexual assault, even when the subordinate is a male and the superior a female–PERIOD.  

    I don’t have a problem if the facts of the case are such that the female felt she had no other choice, but to engage in intercourse based on the power differential.  However, if the female was a lawyer, then I have a much harder time believing it because she has been trained on these matters and would know how to report the sexual harassment, which led up to intercourse.  

    So, I guess that if a drunk Captain gets enticed by two female E-4’s, one with whom he works, to allow them to go to his place and he gets invited into a menage, then he has committed sexual assault, too?  And I suppose the same would hold true if a female Captain invites two enlisted E-4 males to go back to her place and they have a menage, then she should register as a sex offender.  That has to be the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life.

    But, thanks for disclosing the misinformation that is being put out there in the field to potential panel members who attend the mandatory training.  That part of the training is up there with if a female has one beer, then she is too drunk to consent and a woman who continues a physical relationship with her alleged brutal rapist is a credible witness.

    And, how exactly was this “good unit destroyed” based on an allegation that surfaced years later because the accused chose to run for public office and disregard the threat of extortion?

    Socrates, sounds like the 3d one.   

  22. Anonymous Air Force Senior Defense Counsel with the initials NM says:

    k fischer,

    I’ve got to say I mostly agree with OPLAW-LCDR on this one.  I was at LAOTF when this O3 left the FOB about 10 months early under really suspicious circumstances.  She was not some evil JAG trying to “screw her boss” so she could blackmail him.  This woman was under considerable stress from what I saw.  I would also agree that the unit was under stress as well.  Where I disagree is that the unit was destroyed. 

    We’re all trying to glean “facts” from an article written based off an interview with the “accused’s” wife.  OPLAW-LCDR was actually present. 

  23. Just Sayin' says:

    ah but due to the veil of anonymity that is the internet…how do you know others posting weren’t also there?

  24. k fischer says:


    You’re right.  I wasn’t there.  However, my issue was not so much with what happened in this case, but with the statement:  O6 male has sexual relations with lower ranking officer=sexual assault–PERIOD, based on the mandatory sexual assault training because a female cannot give “real” consent.  

    So, I’m wondering how this “real” consent legal standard affects a mistake of fact defense.  What if there is “apparent” consent, but it is not “real” consent because “real” consent is a legal impossibility when it involves an O6 and an O3.  Is this what Article 120 has become because apparently that is what is being taught every April.  

    Next thing you know, “guilt tripping” will be sexual assault in the military, the way they consider it at University of Montana. 

  25. Bruce MacKenzie says:

    Well – it seems another anon poster is in the “know”.  I would still like to hear the issues or the tales of wild JAGs.  That reputation of that command is something I care very deeply about. 

    “Not going to touch the 134 bait.  But the issues at  this unit were myriad and many-fold.” 

  26. ASWOJoe says:

    OPLAW: Is it really your contention that under the law an adult, a commissioned officer in the US Navy, of sound(ish) mind and body is utterly unable to consent to a relationship because of the rank difference?  This is not some ingenue E-2 fresh off the bus from Great Lakes we’re talking about here.  I suppose we know why you’re an OPLAW lawyer.  Are we to presume she was hypnotized by light glinting off his collar devices?  Obviously there’s more to this story than is offered in the article here, and I would look forward to reading it.  For the rest of the JAGC.  If you want to know why we mere line officers all just nod our head or correct EVALS during the bullshit SAPR training you all come up with to justify your budgets I think you need to look no further than the ridiculous line of thought presented in the idea that someone can give informed consent to an act and still be a victim.  We don’t believe you.  We think you’re lying to us and fluffing stats to justify your existence.  We are getting sick of it

  27. Dew_Process says:

    “All’s fair in love and war . . . .”

  28. Peanut Gallery says:

    Mr. Gittins, although I don’t necessarily agree with it, there is a CAAF case holding that the spouse of an adulterer is in fact a victim.  It’s in the context of the spousal privilege and I believe the case is called US v. Miller but I could be mistaken.  I also think it was in the 2007 timeframe.

  29. Not JAFL says:

    A lot of implied knowledge of the facts here…too bad none of the legal eagles here have the balls to share some of this oh-so-important information.  Put up or shut up.

  30. Phil Cave says:

    The case is Taylor, 64 M.J. 416, *; 2007 CAAF 

     I have tried to use it a couple of times to get Transition Compensation for the family of a client with a BCD.  Haven’t succeeded.  Because apparently for Transition Compensation you have to be the right kind of victim.

  31. Casual Reader says:

    ASWOJoe, you’re just annoyed that the money spent on those lectures could be used to upgrade ships to a habitable level.  Your common sense is not welcome.

  32. Just Sayin' says:

    ASWOJoe for CNO!

  33. kfischer says:

    It’s a shame that ASWOJoe or like-minded line officers were not on the Lucas panel.  Apparently, those panel members paid attention to the bs taught at SAPR training.

  34. Charlie Gittins says:


    I totally agree that spouses of adulterers are technically the victims of the crime.  (I also agree with Bill that you’ll have a hard time selling that to the Government when you are seeking transition benefits — I ha the same degree of success as Bill).  But the co-actor in an adulterous relationship?  Not buying it. Particularly where it is an adult female, been to law school, been to college, been to sex assault prevention training and mostly because she later tried to extort the man after the relationship ended and, unbelievably, faced no repercussions for her own more serious misconduct, in addition to her conscious, knowing and willful decision to have sex with a married man.  For all the BS I have been fed about equal rights for women since I was in high school, isn’t it about time adult college educated women are held responsible for their bad decisions?  I am way fed up with the victimology that holds women are powerless pawns subject to the whims of the bad, bad man. 

  35. N says:

    I remember those wild TF 134 days. Two near-beers A NIGHT. Really the most fun you could have… in Baghdad…

  36. Just Sayin' says:

    Guess you weren’t part of the Green Zone cool kids club frequenting the FBI bar…

  37. Peanut Gallery says:

    Mr. Gittins, we’re on the same page (or chapter at least).  I still don’t understand how an adult, “liberated” woman in possession of her full mental and physical faculties can choose to imbibe and yet is somehow instantaneously transformed into an utterly powerless damsel in distress the moment a male approaches.

    Why aren’t we spending more time/money/effort training our young females of the perils of drinkiing with males.  If I had females in my unit, I would be hammering it into their heads that drinking with guys is dangerous.  But yet they do it anyway and when something bad happens, they are not responsible for any of it.  I’m not saying that they deserved anything.  I’m saying that they put themselves in danger.  It’s no different than not wearing a seatbelt.  You don’t deserve to fly through the windshield, but when it happens, are you surprised?

  38. Just Sayin' says:

    that used to be the focus of the training…but it was too “victim focused” and the PC police complained.

  39. k fischer says:


    Didn’t you learn at the Personal Injury Prevention and Response (PIPR) training that you should focus on the conduct of the negligent driver?  You are merely blaming the victim in an auto accident.  In my experience, it is counterintuitive to believe that just because when someone doesn’t wear a seatbelt they will be injured.  Some people who don’t wear seatbelts are injured and some who don’t are not injured.  Shame on you for victim blaming and being a personal injury apologist.  I suppose the next personal injury myth you will throw out there is someone who waits a year to go to the hospital for a serious back injury and report it to their insurance company lacks credibility or that perhaps an injured parties who embellish their injuries lack credibility.  Have you heard the questions the doctors and insurance company’s ask the victims?  It’s like they put the victim on trial!  No wonder they fail to report it!  Unbelievable!!  Also, I am aghast at the lack of personal injury lawsuits.  Did you know that there were 2.5 million people injured in auto accidents in Georgia in 2011?  The number of lawsuits filed was less than 10% and the number of jury verdicts for the Plaintiff was a paltry 7%.  If there were more lawsuits, studies have shown that negligent drivers would drive more carefully. 

  40. Peanut Gallery says:

    Fischer, I’m not a Jedi (yet), so it’s hard for me to tell if you were being sarcastic.  I’ll assume you were and save myself from a day of butthurt. 

  41. k fischer says:

    “For the rest of the JAGC.  If you want to know why we mere line officers all just nod our head or correct EVALS during the bullshit SAPR training you all come up with to justify your budgets I think you need to look no further than the ridiculous line of thought presented in the idea that someone can give informed consent to an act and still be a victim.  We don’t believe you.  We think you’re lying to us and fluffing stats to justify your existence.  We are getting sick of it.”

    Be careful AWSOJoe.  You are coming dangerously close to the textbook definition of cultural cognition.  You should check out 31(b) blog put out by the instructors at the JAG School if you really want blood to squirt from your eyes:

     Good to know that some line officers still use good old common sense and don’t fall for the “rape myth” myths.  I hope that you are in the vast majority rather than the minority.

  42. k fischer says:


    Wise in the ways of the force, you are.  Liked your analogy, I did. 

    But, seriously, your analogy touched on a common theme with those who cry “victim blaming” when a criminal defense attorney questions an accuser’s credibility:  In no crime, other than sexual assault, does the victim get blamed. 

    Well, that’s not so true because I’ve blamed the victim, rightfully so, in an assault case where my client was defending himself, the “victim” lacked credibility by making contradicting statements, and the “victim” was suing my client for $3 million.

    But, look at other areas of the law, for instance, a personal injury lawsuit.  While not a criminal “victim,” a person who is injured by a negligent driver would be the victim of the person’s negligence.  Or how about a contract dispute?  Isn’t one of the parties a victim of breach?  Or, how about a civil RICO action?  Isn’t a person charged a usurious rate of interest a “victim.”  I can tell you that in every other legal action, there is an alleged victim, and in court, they usually get blamed.  

    Yet, those who are focused on the rights of the accusers in sexual assault cases say that “victim focus” is unique ONLY to sexual assault cases.  It clearly is not.  If anything, I would say that supplanting the common sense of the juror with “rape myth” myths regarding matters of witness credibility that have official sounding terms like “cultural cognition” and “counterintuitive behavior” is unique only to sexual assault. 

  43. Dew_Process says:

    Or perhaps, when you say that a woman lacks “capacity” to consent, isn’t that just one step removed from simply saying she “lacks capacity?”

  44. Rusafa says:

    CAAFlog is like a 2008 LAOTF reunion!

    SDC NM is right.  60 days is pretty good for adultery, so you know there must be more to the story.  

    Like Rihanna:  “We found love in a hopeless place.”    

  45. Karkh says:

    I was not with LAOTF but was with another command in Baghdad in 2009. I heard rumors about what had been going on there. I have to say my interactions is LAOTF folks were not the greatest. Aside from any indiscipline, they often did not play nice with the other commands in the city.

  46. LAOTFsurvivor says:

    I was there the day COL Spelman got there through the day he left. Whatever happened between the two of them–it certainly appeared to be consensual to all of us on the ground. To say that it hurt morale there though—morale sucked–except amongst the field grades who were there to get there BSMs and pretend like they were doing important work. To COL Spelman’s credit–which isn’t a lot in my book–at least he wasn’t a hypocrite. Neither he nor any of the other leadership there seemed to care who was scewing who as long as it was kept under wraps. I have little sympathy for him though. He got himself in this mess. No one made him do it either.

  47. Christopher Mathews says:

    Without wading into victimology (if such a field of study actually exists and deserves its own name), it seems to me the government could justify prosecuting the senior party in an adulterous relationship on the grounds that s/he should have known better, and exercised more self-control … and justify not prosecuting the junior person because they want their cooperation in the prosecution of the senior.

  48. Rusafa says:

    Karkh:  COL Spelman was long gone by 2009.  Totally different crew.