Days after publishing a brief article about the hearing that took place Monday and Tuesday inside a military courtroom at Fort Campbell, Ky. I’m able to share more details about what took place as a military judge heard from attorneys on both sides about whether unlawful command influence and prosecutorial misconduct have tainted the prosecution of Army Maj. Christian “Kit” Martin. This is Part Three of a three-part series.
First, some background: Major Martin, 47, is an Army Ranger and attack helicopter pilot with a distinguished 29-year military career — including three combat tours in Iraq — under his belt. Soon after telling his “wife” he wanted a divorce, he found himself the target of serious allegations and multiple criminal investigations followed during the next three years. Today, he faces the possibility of 58 years in prison if convicted on the most recent charges stemming from his ex-wife’s allegations of sexual assault and abuse. Because there is much more to it than I can share in one paragraph, I recommend you read the overview article about the case published Sept. 4 before you read any further.
The Article 39A hearing, essentially a pre-trial hearing during which the parties hashed out details in advance of having panel members (i.e., jurors) present, began at 8 a.m. with attorneys on both sides meeting alone with Col. Andrew Glass, the military judge.
Ninety minutes later, attorneys began making arguments about potential evidence to be presented and potential witnesses to be called during the upcoming trial. More than four hours of banter and discussion followed until 2 p.m. when the opposing parties took a one-hour break for lunch. After returning to the courtroom, four hours of testimony began. It continued for more than five hours the following day.
In the space below, I share details of the hearing based, in part, upon reports obtained from hearing attendees, none of whom happen to represent the prosecution which, to date, has opted to remain silent about the case.
BREACH OF ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE?
During the hearing’s second day, Maj. Jenny S. Whyte-Schlack testified she had spoken with Major Martin during a face-to-face meeting in November 2013 and, soon after, had written a memo containing details of the 10-minute meeting and shared it with members of the prosecution staff. In addition, however, she testified that she had not read Major Martin his Booker Rights, a statement read to individuals facing the possibility of nonjudicial punishment. Major Whyte-Schlack’s admissions are significant in light of the fact that Major Martin filed a grievance against her April 15, 2015.
In his grievance, Major Martin explained that he believed Major Whyte-Schlack was not working as a prosecutor at the time they met and that she said nothing to make him think otherwise during the meeting. Further, he claimed that her actions to inform members of the prosecution staff about their conversation constitute a breach of attorney-client privilege.
WITNESS SAYS SHE OVERHEARD PROSECUTORS
Another Army attorney called to testify during the second day of the hearing was Capt. James P. Garrett, the lead prosecutor in Major Martin’s case.
I’m told by a witness to the hearing that Colonel Glass warned Captain Garrett to only answer the questions and to not embellish his answers to questions offered by Major Martin’s counsel, Tucker Richardson III.
Often-heated exchanges between Captain Garrett and Richardson centered on what took place when the prosecutor offered Major Martin a choice between two less-than-appealing options during a meeting in March 2014.
Captain Garrett said he was not familiar with Article 15 procedures when he met with Major Martin soon after the major had left the office of Col. Michael Minor, where Part 1 of Article 15 specifications were read to him by the acting rear division commander. Still, the captain admitted, he had taken it upon himself to meet with Major Martin — without his attorney present — and offer him the choice between accepting the Article 15 — a form of non-judicial punishment that’s deadly to the career of any military officer who accepts it — or, as an alternative, facing a court-martial.
Captain Garrett was also asked about an email message he’d sent to Major Martin’s legal counsel March 26, 2014. In it, he had used words to the effect of “if Major Martin wanted to meet with the commanding general about his Article 15, then he would have to plead guilty first and, if he didn’t, then I would advise further charges could be added.” When he did not deny sending the email, Captain Garrett essentially confirmed that he had sent it as a threat aimed at Major Martin (i.e., “Plead guilty to an Article 15 or we’ll find more dirt and prosecute you on more charges”). Apparently, Captain Garrett knew elevating the case to court-martial level would render as inadmissible the results of a polygraph exam Major Martin passed during an earlier investigation.
Captain Garrett was also asked how Major Martin’s Article 15 charge morphed into an Army Criminal Investigation Division investigation on the same day the major tried to meet with the commanding general and request an impartial adjudicating authority. This later escalated into 13 new charges, including rape, sexual assault and child abuse, against the major.
The captain responded by saying he contacted the accuser in April 2014 and then spoke with her neighbor, a man whom the defense described as “her lover,” and learned about several instances of alleged abuse. The allegations were followed by a new CID investigation.
Finally, Captain Garrett was asked if had had a discussion with Maj. Jacob D. Bashore, the special victims prosecutor who was the subject of my Aug. 27 article, Army Lawyer Surfaces in New Bogus Prosecution Effort, about Major Martin’s accuser the previous day while both were in the waiting room outside the courtroom. Specifically, he was asked if he had described the accuser as “totally un-credible” and if he had told Major Bashore that “(the prosecution) was only using her accusations as a threat and could drop them later.”
After Captain Garrett vehemently denied having spoken such words, Richardson
called Major Martin’s friend, Laura Spencer, to the stand.
A nursing instructor at a local university, Spencer testified that, one day earlier, she had been asked by the bailiff to wait in a side room. While waiting in that room, she said she overhead Captain Garrett tell Major Bashore the accuser “was totally un-credible as a witness, and that they were using her charges as a threat to Major Martin, and could drop them later.” She said she also heard Major Bashore agree and that she heard Captain Garrett also say that they “could drop the charges later.”
Not surprisingly, the Army prosecutors denied such a conversation ever took place when asked about the alleged exchange on the witness stand.
To read other articles about Major Martin’s case, click here.
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