As Bill Summers tells it, there’s a “foul smell in the air” in Christian County, Ky., and it stems from the way investigators and prosecutors are treating his client after several bodies were found in the small town of Pembroke, 30 minutes north-northeast of Fort Campbell.
This photo shows an Army depiction of court-martial proceedings in progress.
Just before noon Thanksgiving Day, I had the opportunity to speak by phone with Summers, a veteran defense attorney who, along with a team comprised of several talented attorneys, private investigators and others, is helping Army Maj. Christian “Kit” Martin fight allegations made against him by his ex-wife. That woman, by the way, pleaded guilty in Christian County Court Oct. 14 to one felony count of bigamy (i.e., she admitted in court to having married Major Martin without telling him she was still married to another man) only weeks before the major’s military trial — on sexual assault and other allegations she made against him — was scheduled to begin at Fort Campbell.
Though not my first conversation with Summers since I began reporting in August about the prosecution effort that could send Major Martin to prison for as many as 10 years, it was, by far, the most interesting — especially in light of the fact prosecutors, perhaps as a sign of the weakness of their case, are no longer seeking up to 58 years imprisonment to follow a conviction.
Much of our conversation had to do with events that took place Thursday after local law enforcement investigators found human remains were found in a burned-out vehicle on the outskirts of town, and it began with Summers requesting I share his contact information with members of the Fort Campbell-area law enforcement community.
“Give them my cell phone number, 216-538-0135! Tell anyone who wants to speak with me I’ll be at the hotel on post for several more days, but not beyond Dec. 3.”
Why does Summers want them to call? Because, despite the fact officials with the Kentucky State Patrol, Hopkinsville (Ky.) Police Department and Christian County Sheriff’s Department have had his number since Nov. 20, Summers said, he’s “never got a call, telegram or carrier pigeon” request from any of them to talk. Adding insult to injury, he added that he was once left on hold for 45 minutes by Sheriff’s Detective Scott Noiseworthy.
And then our conversation really took off.
Summers relayed how local law enforcement officials traced the burned-out vehicle to Calvin Lee Phillips, 59, and, soon after, began searching his home at 443 South Main Street in Pembroke as well as another across the street, owned by Major Martin. While searching, however, the local officers were not alone.
“Army (Criminal Investigation Division) agents arrived on that scene and joined their non-Army colleagues as they searched the first house and, soon after, at Major Martin’s house,” Summers explained. “And that’s the problem! The Commonwealth of Kentucky had a multiple murder over which the U.S. Army had absolutely no authority or jurisdiction. What were they doing there?
“As a matter of law, the Army could never prosecute nor ever have any jurisdiction over him in connection with these off-post murders,” Summers continued. “Only if Major Martin were convicted of something could (the Army) take any action against him, and I have yet to see Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Christian Martin on any court docket. So, again, why were they allowed in those homes?”
Asked if the presence of Army CID investigators on scene could be justified by the fact Phillips, whose body had been found dead from gunshot wounds inside his home, had partnered with Major Martin’s bigamist ex-wife in trying unsuccessfully to convince the FBI the Army officer was a thief and an international spy, Summers was quick with a response.
“All Law Enforcement personnel know how untouchable everything inside those homes was — especially by CID agents lacking jurisdiction,” Summers explained. “The KSP, Hopkinsville Police and the Christian County Sheriff all know about the scope and breadth of the attorney-client work product privilege and protected confidentiality, and they had to have been told something by CID agents as to why they were interested in the investigation.
“By allowing Army CID agents to enter these houses, especially Major Martin’s place, these local cops made it possible for them to take photos and otherwise gain access to information protected by attorney-client privilege.”
Summers went on to explain Army officials clearly knew they had no authority over the investigation and should not have entered either home. Still, they entered — under the guise of “assisting” their civilian colleagues — and provided “assistance” in the form of seizing Major Martin’s attorney-client privileged personal computer and work papers and removing them from his home.
“Even the dumbest lawyer in the world — and, yes, even Bashore — absolutely knows how sacred all of those items are/were!” Summers said. “They could not even look at the materials that fall under ‘attorney-client privilege,’ and every law enforcement officer on the scene should have known that — especially those in charge!”
Summers’ Bashore reference in the previous paragraph has to do with Army Maj. Jacob Bashore, the special victims prosecutor at Fort Campbell, who is leading the prosecution’s effort to convict Major Martin on nothing more than the word of his bigamist ex-wife. Summers believes the SVP was directly involved in the effort to get CID agents “in the door” of his client’s home.
Taking into account Major Bashore’s own sworn testimony and the sworn testimony of others — including Capt. James P. Garrett, the Army’s lead trial counsel; Katherine Garber-Foster, Christian County assistant prosecutor; and Laura Spencer, Major Martin’s fiancée — during recent months, Summers believes Major Bashore deserves to be kicked out of the Army, lose his law license and be prosecuted for numerous misdeeds he’s committed.
“In my professional opinion, Major Bashore is ruthless, has a reckless disregard for truth and should lose his license to practice law in Tennessee and anywhere else he might try!” he said.
Familiar with the tactics employed in 2009 by then-Captain Bashore during his wrongful 2009 prosecution of Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Stewart, I must agree. You can read about those tactics in my first nonfiction book, Three Days In August. But I digress.
In addition to Bashore, Summers pointed his virtual finger at members of local law enforcement for some of their suspicious decision-making.
“We know for sure the (Christian County) Sheriffs Department were offered the security videos of the night after the murders but before the search, and refused,” he told me, referring to security cameras Major Martin had installed on the exterior of home a few doors down and across Main Street from Phillips’ home. “They seized them later with a search warrant! Why not when we offered them?”
Though Summers didn’t come right out and say it, I got the impression he’s concerned about the skill level of investigators who would delay taking possession of items that could, potentially, reveal much about the person(s) making noises that, at around 2 a.m. on the day Phillips’ body was found, caused Major Martin’s dog to, in his words, “wake up and go ballistic.”
The sheriff’s refusal to accept the cameras isn’t the only example of strange behavior on the part of civilian law enforcement. Along with colleagues from the Kentucky State Patrol, Summers said, they’ve refused other offers as well.
“I offered for (Major Martin) and I to sit down with the sheriff and the KSP, but without the Army,” Summers explained, noting the civilian investigators had expressed interest in interviewing Major Martin — but without his lawyer present. “I said, respectfully, he would be glad to appear but only with me present. They said ‘No deal if the Army can’t be part of the interview.’ Naturally, I said, ‘No Army or no interview!’”
Why is Summers so adamant about restricting his client, a 47-year-old attack helicopter pilot who served multiple combat tours in Iraq, to sit-down talks with non-Army investigators only? Because he doesn’t trust anyone associated with the Army’s investigation of his client, especially after seeing firsthand some of the underhanded and unethical legal tactics Major Bashore has employed.
According to Summers, Major Bashore was “exceedingly dishonest” with members of Major Martin’s defense team when, during a nine-hour period on the day after the bodies were found, they asked him multiple times about the major’s whereabouts. Only later did the defense attorney and his colleagues learn their client had been held for 11 hours without food and water at an undisclosed location at Fort Campbell as Army CID agents tried to “break him down.” Worth noting, the career Army officer remained under virtual “house arrest” on post for four days after members of his defense team learned of his whereabouts.
Summers said he will be submitting a motion to the military judge very soon, requesting that a new hearing be held during which he will explain to the military judge why he believes prosecutorial misconduct charges should be brought against Major Bashore and other members of the prosecution team.
Stay tuned for updates as they surface.
UPDATE 12/2/2015 at 8:02 p.m. Central: According to an evening update to a report in The Leaf-Chronicle newspaper, the Christian County (Ky.) Sheriff’s Office confirmed today that Army CID agents were involved in the search of Major Martin’s home! Therefore, it appears they overstepped their authority and jurisdiction. Stay tuned to see what happens next!
UPDATE 12/7/2015 at 8:15 a.m. Central: A military judge continued the military trial date for Army Maj. Christian “Kit” Martin to sometime in March 2016, though no specific date has been set.
UPDATE 12/10/2015 at 11:09 a.m. Central: I’ve learned that Major Martin’s military trial date is set for March 14-18, 2016.
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