A Bad Start: Will Military Defense Counsel Feel Safe to Represent Their Clients?

In a startling turn of events, the Secretary of the Army recently fired the Army’s very first leader of the Army’s new “independent” prosecution office.

The decision, attributed to a decade-old email criticizing the handling of a sexual assault case, raises significant concerns about the purported independence of military attorneys. 

The Background
The saga began in 2013 when then Lieutenant Colonel W. Wells, serving as a supervising military defense attorney, expressed concerns about the fairness of the investigation of a sexual assault allegation in Japan. The Commander responsible for deciding what should happen in that case had his decisions overturned by HQ Army. The result was that a Soldier case, who many thought had insufficient evidence to proceed to trial, was nevertheless referred to trial and the General who had declined to do so was reduced in rank from two stars to one. 

In response, BG Wells, who was then the supervisory military defense counsel, sent an email to his troops to rally them to the seeming unfairness, emphasizing the vital role they played in ensuring fair trials and criticizing the handling of sexual assault allegations. In that email he wrote: “expect no commander to be able to make objective decisions involving [sexual assault] allegations as long [as] Congress and our political masters are dancing by the fire of misleading statistics and one-sided, repetitive misinformation by those with an agenda.” 

The Secretary’s Rationale
Ten years after he sent that email, BG Wells is appointed to be the Army’s top prosecutor, responsible for deciding which military criminal cases have enough evidence to warrant a trial.  However, a former Soldier who had filed complaints against BG Wells in the past forwarded the email he wrote in 2013 to the Secretary of the Army, who promptly fired BG Wells, claiming the email was dismissive of civilian control of the military and “negatively characterized sexual assault response” at the time.

Ominous Response
In response to the Secretary’s decision, LTG Pede, the Army’s former Judge Advocate General, made several good points about how the Secretary’s decision painted an ominous picture for the future of military justice.  See full story here: Guest Post: Chuck Pede asks “Firing the Army chief prosecutor–is this what independence looks like?” – Lawfire (duke.edu)

Dangerous Precedent for Military Defense Counsel
First, he explains that the Secretary’s decision sends a terrible message to uniformed military defense counsel. Using internal defense communications as grounds for relieving one of one’s duty raises legitimate concerns about the fear of reprisal, jeopardizing the zealous, independent representation that every service member deserves.

Doubting The Fairness of Charging Decisions
The whole point of appointing BW Wells and the “Office of Special Trial Counsel” was to take charging decisions out of the hands of commanders, whom Congress believed might make decisions for the wrong reasons.  By relieving BG Wells, the Secretary has created the same concern, but for different reasons. 

Unlawful Command Influence
Finally, the firing of BG Wells creates the appearance that the Secretary is placing her hands on the scales of military justice—that if you “negatively characterize sexual assault,” than you are not fit to serve in prosecutorial roles. 

The Future
The case that prompted Wells’ email a decade ago ultimately validated his concerns, as the Army acknowledged its errors and corrected the reduction in rank for the Commanding General. But the same types of mistakes continue. Soldiers deserve military defense counsel who are not only insulated from risks to their careers if they act zealously in their clients’ behalf but are also SEEN to be insulated.  The Army Secretary’s firing of BG Wells sets that effort back years. 

If you or a loved one are accused or convicted of sexual assault, or any military crime, please reach out to an experienced, independent military defense attorney for a free consultation. 

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The Importance of the Military Appeal Process in Military Court-Martial Cases 

Don King of King Military Law recently met with a client at the Camp Pendleton Jail. After a court-martial conviction, the client’s family hired Don to handle their son’s military appeal. This encounter prompted Don to create a video to emphasize the significance of the appeal process in military cases. Most people don’t understand it and underestimate its importance, but it offers a real chance for some remedy, ranging from reduced sentences to a new trial and even having the client found not guilty at the appellate level. In this video, Don, who twice served as a Senior Judge on the Navy and Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, explains the appeal process and why it should never be overlooked.   

The Power of Military Appellate Courts 

Unlike civilian appellate courts, military appellate courts have the authority to find clients not guilty and eliminate their convictions entirely, preventing any future retrials. Civilian appellate courts do not have this authority. Don discusses several cases where he overturned convictions and why. However, he reminds us that it can be a complex process, so it’s crucial to approach the military appeal process correctly, which is why hiring an experienced military attorney is of utmost importance. 

While he acknowledges that not everyone has a strong case on appeal, Don has seen numerous instances where clients succeeded. You need a military lawyer experienced in military appeals to review the case as soon as possible since there are strict deadlines to submit military appeals.   

The Role of Appellate Experience 

Ideally, you should retain an attorney experienced in military appellate law to represent you at the initial court martial. The reason is that your trial lawyer must understand and “capture” issues at the trial level that may help you on appeal. If your military trial lawyer fails to address and preserve critical issues during the trial, those issues cannot be used in the appeal process. Preserving issues for appeal is vital, so ensure your trial lawyer has appellate experience if possible. Such an attorney will understand how to tackle both stages of the legal process to maximize the chances of a successful appeal should you be found guilty at trial. Hiring a military lawyer with expertise in courts-martial trials AND appeals can dramatically improve your chances of ensuring every issue is preserved and used for your benefit.   

Don’t Overlook the Appeal Process 

Don closes by encouraging the viewer to think about the appeal process within the military court system. IT’S A REAL CHANCE at a second shot if you need it and might result in a finding of not guilty.  If that happens, you are released from prison, restored to active duty, all your lost benefits are restored, and your conviction is erased. Don hopes that by understanding that you have this chance, many more servicemembers will pursue it.  

If you or your loved one has been convicted at a military court-martial, please reach out to an attorney experienced in military appeals.  If you are facing the beginning of a military court martial, try to engage a military trial attorney experienced in military appeals. Doing so will increase your chances of success.  

If you or a loved one find yourself accused of a crime in the military or need of an appeal, the team at King Military Law has over a century of combined experience, including experience as military judges, military appellate judges, prosecutors, military defense attorneys, military law enforcement officers, and military Commanding Officers–all ready and willing to support your fight. Give us a call–and let us help.  

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~~ When Experience Matters Most ~~

KML Urges Supreme Court to Evaluate Troops’ Right to Unanimous Verdicts in Courts-Martial

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces previously ruled in a 5-0 decision that service members are not entitled to unanimous verdicts, a right guaranteed to every citizen under the Constitution. As a result, military members may be convicted and prisoned even though a portion of the jury believed the member to be not guilty. The military criminal justice system only requires that three-quarters of a jury vote for guilt for the military member to be found guilty.

This issue is now ripe for Supreme Court review and Air Force Master Sgt. Anthony Anderson has petitioned the Supreme Court to do so, arguing that the lack of unanimity undermines the fairness of the proceedings. The outcome of this case has the potential to challenge long-standing precedent within the military justice system. This issue is of great significance as it raises questions about the fairness and due process afforded to service members within the military legal system.

In a recent interview, Don King, of King Military Law (KML), argued that the rationale for depriving military members of the same jury rights that our non-military citizens enjoy is outdated. See his comments here.

The lawyers at KML stands ready to assist service members facing courts-martial. With over a hundred years of combined military law experience, the team at KML can provide you the experience you need and deserve.

If you or a family member are involved in a general court-martial or any military legal matter, find an experienced military lawyer to assist you through the complexities. You CAN win!

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King Military Law

~~ When Experience Matters Most ~~

Clearing Your Name: Speaking with Law Enforcement or Your Military Command

Being falsely accused of a military crime can be a daunting and distressing experience. When asked to provide information about the allegations to law enforcement, remaining silent is typically the best course of action. However, there are rare instances where speaking with law enforcement can actually work in your favor.

The Importance of Legal Representation

Before even thinking about speaking to law enforcement or your command, you should ALWAYS talk to an experienced attorney first. Never attempt to navigate these types of situations alone. A lawyer skilled and experienced in military law will safeguard your rights, ensure proper procedure, and provide expert guidance.

Understanding the Context

When suspected of committing a crime, law enforcement or your command will eventually approach you and ask you to make a statement. If you’re innocent of the crime, AND IF YOU HAVE ALREADY DISCUSSED THIS OPTION WITH AN EXPERIENCED MILITARY ATTORNEY, it may be worthwhile to provide law enforcement with the information necessary to help clear your name. This is especially true in current times, where false allegations are routinely filed and investigated despite the lack of evidence of guilt. If you can provide proof of your innocence, AND ONLY IF YOU HAVE THE ASSISTANCE OF A MILITARY ATTORNEY, you may want to provide this information to law enforcement. Not only will doing so help close the investigation, but it may help avoid an arrest, an action that could follow the client far into the future, even if the client is never formally charged with a crime.

A Real-Life Example

As discussed here, one instance where speaking with law enforcement helped clear a client’s name occurred in San Diego at the Coast Guard Investigative Service Law Enforcement Office. Don King, a lawyer from King Military Law, accompanied his client, who was falsely accused of serious crimes, to the office. After extensive discussion with Mr. King and careful consideration, it was decided that the best course of action would be to come forward and attempt to clear the client’s name.

Upon arrival, the client was read his rights, and the agents from the Coast Guard Investigative Service questioned him. During the questioning, the client’s innocence became evident, leading to the removal of any personnel flags or suspicions associated with his name. Furthermore, the agents assured him that they would report back to his command, effectively eliminating him as a suspect in the crimes he was wrongly accused of. Most importantly, law enforcement declined to arrest the client, preventing the client from having a record of the arrest.

The Benefits of Speaking with Law Enforcement

Clearing your name from false accusations is not only emotionally relieving but also helps protect your future prospects and career. Addressing the situation with the guidance of an experienced military attorney, you might restore your reputation, avoid an arrest record, and move forward with your professional life.

Final Thoughts: Seeking Professional Assistance

It cannot be stressed enough that clients should NEVER engage with law enforcement without the assistance of a lawyer experienced in military criminal law. Speaking with law enforcement or military command representatives is very risky, even if you believe you are innocent and have proof of that innocence. Always first consult with an experienced military attorney who has the expertise to navigate the legal complexities surrounding false accusations and who can help you make informed decisions about engaging with law enforcement.

Remember, when you are accused of a crime, declining to engage with law enforcement should be the default. However, making a statement may be worth considering if doing so might help clear your name or avoid your arrest, but NEVER do so without the assistance of an experienced military lawyer.

If you or a loved one find yourself accused of a military crime, the team at King Military Law has over a century of combined experience. We are former military judges, military appellate judges, prosecutors, military defense attorneys, military law enforcement officers, and military Commanding Officers–all ready and willing to support your fight. Give us a call and let us help.

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~~ When Experience Matters Most ~~

Air Force Initiates Review of Discharges for Troops Affected by Mental Health Conditions

The Air Force has announced its intention to review the cases of former Airmen who claim they were unfairly discharged due to mental health conditions or being victims of sexual assault or harassment. These individuals received other-than-honorable discharges, which significantly  impact their post-service benefits and civilian prospects.

The proposed settlement in Johnson v. Kendall, a class-action lawsuit, highlights the importance of rectifying unjust discharges that result from mental health conditions and traumatic experiences. These discharges deprived veterans of access to vital benefits, including Department of Veteran Affairs-run medical care, home loans, and tuition assistance. Unjust discharges can also hinder veterans in finding civilian employment.

If you or a loved one were discharged from the Air Force with a less than honorable discharge, please review the options for having that discharge upgraded. To help, we’ve placed significant information about this process on our website at www.kingmilitarylaw.com/services/upgrading-discharges. If, after reviewing this information, you need help, please reach out to a lawyer experienced in requesting discharge upgrades through the Discharge Review Board.

At King Military Law (KML), our experienced military lawyers are dedicated to assisting veterans in their pursuit of military discharge upgrades through the Discharge Review Board. We recognize the challenges veterans face and offer comprehensive legal support, including:

  • Providing clear guidance on the Discharge Review Board process.
  • Assisting in gathering relevant evidence to support military discharge upgrades.
  • Advocating for veterans’ rights and justice.
  • Ensuring veterans understand the potential benefits of an upgraded military discharge status.
  • Simplifying the often-complex process and making it more accessible.

The Air Force’s commitment to reviewing and potentially upgrading military discharges for veterans affected by mental health conditions and trauma is a significant step toward justice. Having an experienced military lawyer can greatly increase the chances of achieving this upgrade. If you or a loved one are in need of this service, reach out and let us help.

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King Military Law

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Pentagon to Reevaluate ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Discharges: Discharge Review Board and Upgrades

The Pentagon has initiated a significant effort to reevaluate the discharges of thousands of LGBTQ+ veterans who were separated from service under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy due to their sexual orientation.

The Pentagon’s proactive review of LGBTQ+ veterans’ discharges is a crucial step towards rectifying the injustices of the past. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a policy that prohibited LGBTQ+ service members from openly expressing their sexual orientation, resulting in thousands of less than honorable discharges. These discharges had severe consequences, affecting veterans’ job prospects and access to essential benefits such as healthcare, loans, and funeral expenses.

The Pentagon’s proactive review of LGBTQ+ veterans’ discharges is a crucial step towards rectifying the injustices of the past. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a policy that prohibited LGBTQ+ service members from openly expressing their sexual orientation, resulting in thousands of less than honorable discharges. These discharges had severe consequences, affecting veterans’ job prospects and access to essential benefits such as healthcare, loans, and funeral expenses.

The Pentagon’s proactive review of LGBTQ+ veterans’ discharges is a crucial step towards rectifying the injustices of the past. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a policy that prohibited LGBTQ+ service members from openly expressing their sexual orientation, resulting in thousands of less than honorable discharges. These discharges had severe consequences, affecting veterans’ job prospects and access to essential benefits such as healthcare, loans, and funeral expenses.

  • Providing clear guidance on the Discharge Review Board process.
  • Assisting in gathering relevant evidence to support the upgrade.
  • Advocating for veterans’ rights and dignity throughout the Discharge Review Board process.
  • Ensuring veterans understand the potential benefits of the upgrade and the importance of their privacy.
  • Simplifying the often burdensome and opaque process to make it more accessible and efficient.

The Pentagon’s initiative to reevaluate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” discharges is a significant step towards justice for LGBTQ+ veterans. Having an experienced military lawyer from KML can make a substantial difference in achieving discharge upgrades through the Discharge Review Board and ensuring veterans receive the benefits and recognition they rightfully deserve.

If you or a loved one received a less than honorable discharge for sexual orientation, please reach out to a lawyer experienced in discharge upgrades to discuss whether this new initiative can help you get the rights and characterization of your service that you deserve.

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King Military Law

~~ When Experience Matters Most ~~

 

 

Navy Begins Reevaluation of Medical Discharges

The Department of the Navy is initiating the process to reconsider medical discharges for over 3,770 veterans, offering them the opportunity for a new Physical Evaluation Board hearing, potentially resulting in an upgrade to medical retirement. Thousands of Sailors and Marines will receive this letter informing them they are eligible for “re-adjudication” of their Physical Evaluation Boards. This offer is available to thousands of veterans who were medically discharged between September 12, 2016, and June 11, 2018, when the Navy restricted the consideration of medical conditions by the Physical Evaluation Board, potentially leading to unjust outcomes for veterans.

The letter notifies those eligible that they may receive free legal assistance from military attorneys:

Should you wish to speak to an attorney about this letter, assistance is available, free of charge, from government counsel. Government counsel is available through the Department of the Navy’s Office of the Judge Advocate General, Disability Evaluation System Counsel Program (DESCP). The DESCP may be reached at (202) 875-1198 or [email protected].

Veterans may also obtain advice from Veterans’ Service Organizations at no expense to the government.

Veterans may also consider reaching out to an attorney experienced in military law, who might bring several tools to this fight:

  • Veterans may find the process confusing and may be disincentivized to apply for a previously denied benefit. An experienced military lawyer can provide clarity and guidance.
  • Veterans fear losing Veterans Affairs (VA) disability benefits or receiving a lower VA disability rating. An experienced military attorney can help veterans understand that these concerns are not tied to the Defense Department’s medical discharge evaluation process.
  • An experienced military attorney can assist veterans in presenting a strong case, gathering necessary evidence, and navigating the legal intricacies involved in the reevaluation process.
  • Experienced military lawyers can advocate for veterans’ rights, ensuring they receive the benefits they deserve, including potential discharge upgrades through the Discharge Review Board.

How KML Can Help:

At King Military Law (KML), our team of experienced military lawyers is dedicated to assisting veterans and can help with discharge upgrades. We can provide:

  • Providing comprehensive legal guidance to veterans considering a request for medical retirement.
  • Offer pro bono legal assistance for those veterans in need.
  • Advocate for veterans’ rights and interests throughout the reevaluation process.
  • Ensure veterans understand the potential benefits and consequences of their applications.
  • Assist in preparing solid cases, including gathering medical and non-medical evidence.

The Department of the Navy’s decision to reconsider medical discharges is a significant development for veterans’ rights.

If you or a loved one are eligible for this program, please consider contacting an experienced military lawyer to help navigate this complex process and get you the benefits you deserve.

 

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King Military Law

~~ When Experience Matters Most ~~

 

WRONGED BY THE MILITARY? MILITARY RECORDS NEED CORRECTION? MILITARY PROMOTION WITHHELD? You CAN Win!  

Here’s the background: Client, an active duty E4 who worked so hard to be selected for a commission program, contacts King Military Law while in OCS. Why? Well, he graduates from OCS, receives his commission, and is promoted to Ensign. Finally, his hard work pays off and he’s going to be an officer in the United States Navy! But, during a flight physical, a doctor decides not only that he is not fit to be commissioned, but that client lied about his medical history because he failed to inform the Navy about the condition. Doctor refused to clear him, OCS instituted a command investigation into an “integrity violation,” and client is then told that he is being reverted to E4 and sent to a deployed ship. Client tried reasoning with is command, pleading with his Congressman, he even contacted the Inspector General—nothing worked. Other lawyers told him his case was “impossible.” Then he called KML. 

Winning these cases IS hard. Success requires persistence and hard work. In this case, the KML team conducted an exhaustive investigation, painstakingly collected medical and military records, and thoroughly researched the law. Once complete, we produced a multipage memo complaining to the Commanding Officer’s Senior officer and—we lost.  

We immediately produced another memo and complained to that officer’s senior officer. Expecting to lose there, the team was already preparing to petition the Bureau of Correction of Naval Records (BCNR).  But—we won! The Admiral agreed that the Commanders below him had made the wrong decision and ordered them to make it right. As a result, our client will now be permitted to exercise the options that were wrongly denied him. KML congratulates this hard-working Sailor, thanks our attorney who worked so hard on this, and tips our hat to the Navy legal staff and Commander who saw the right thing and ordered it done.    

Portions of the Navy’s letter is attached. We hope it gives potential clients the hope they deserve. The military DOES make mistakes. Those mistakes CAN be corrected. But you can’t give up. If you’ve tried everything else, call us. Impossible cases are our specialty. 

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~~ When Experience Matters Most ~~

 

Wrongfully Convicted at NJP? Let the Experienced Lawyers at KML Win Back What you Lost

Picture this: An honorable Sailor, dedicated to serving their country, finds themselves facing an unjust reduction at non-judicial punishment (NJP). Everything they have worked for, including their retirement and reputation, is suddenly at stake. In a system that seems to be stacked against them, where can they turn for help?

Enter the Navy lawyer – the unsung hero who steps in to save the day. In this blog post, we delve into the incredible story of how King Military Law, armed with their expertise and determination, fought tooth and nail to defend a Sailor’s rights, ultimately securing not just their retirement but also their hard-earned reputation.

You see, this Sailor had already exhausted all avenues within the NJP process and even went through an appeal, only to be met with disappointment and despair. But when they approached King Military Law, they found a glimmer of hope. With a strategic approach, the firm brought the case to the Board for Correction of Naval Records (BCNR). And guess what? The BCNR agreed with them!

In a stunning turn of events, the BCNR recognized the validity of the Sailor’s claim and decided to remove the guilty finding on the first specification of the NJP. This crucial move made it incredibly difficult to justify the Sailor’s reduction in rank. As a result, the BCNR made the decision to restore the Sailor to the prestigious rank of Petty Officer First Class.

This victory not only saved the Sailor’s retirement but also restored their faith in the system. It goes to show that when faced with injustice, fighting back is not only possible but essential. The military justice system can be daunting, but it is important to remember that you don’t have to navigate it alone.

When the chips are down, hiring a firm that knows how to tackle these complex legal battles can make all the difference. King Military Law, with their extensive experience and unwavering dedication, has proven time and time again that they are the ones you want in your corner. So, if you or a loved one find yourselves wronged by the military justice system, don’t lose hope. Reach out to King Military Law and let them fight for your rights.

Remember, when it comes to defending your rights, a Navy lawyer can be your saving grace in the face of adversity. Stand up, fight back, and reclaim what is rightfully yours – your retirement and your reputation. Let King Military Law be the ally that stands with you on this challenging journey.

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Dismissed Before Trial: Celebrating Our Client’s Victory

two kids and their mom with their military dad

In the realm of military court martials, few outcomes are as favorable as having the case dismissed before the trial even commences. It’s the ultimate victory, a moment of celebration for both the accused and their legal representation. Today, at KML, we are proud to share the news of our latest triumph. After months of arduous work, tireless evidence collection, and intense pre-trial hearings, we have achieved precisely that outcome for our client – an innocent Marine who can now leave this grueling saga behind and embrace a future full of promise and possibilities.

This well-deserved victory not only ensures our client’s freedom but also secures an Honorable discharge, a testament to their innocence and dedication to serving their country. It is a moment of vindication, a turning point that allows them to move forward with their life, putting this ordeal firmly in the rearview mirror. We, at KML, congratulate our client on their resilience and unwavering determination throughout this challenging journey.

If you or a loved one find yourself facing the daunting prospect of a military court martial, it is crucial to arm yourself with an aggressive and experienced attorney well-versed in the intricacies of military law. The difference between success and failure often rests on the expertise and tenacity of your legal representation. So, don’t hesitate to seek out the assistance you need to navigate this complex and demanding process. At King Military Law, we understand the gravity of these cases, and we stand ready to fight for your rights and deliver justice. After all, it is in moments like these that experience matters most.

Discover how our seasoned court martial lawyers can help you secure the best possible outcome. Read on to uncover the intricacies of military court martials and the importance of having a skilled advocate by your side.

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