• September 23, 2014

Chapter 10 request denied for Chestnut

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Posted: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 4:30 am

A soldier found guilty of sexual assault is continuing to fight his court-martial’s findings.

The defense counsel for Pfc. Thomas A. Chestnut Jr. filed a Chapter 10 following the closing of his court-martial July 2, which was later denied by the convening authority, according to information provided from 1st Cavalry Division. Chestnut is a soldier in the unit’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

A Chapter 10 is a request for discharge in lieu of court-martial, said Brian Bouffard, former Navy JAG officer now working criminal defense cases out of Fort Worth.

Typically filed before a court-martial, a Chapter 10 allows the accused service member to be discharged instead of going through the full trial.

“It’s not a bad idea at all to file,” Bouffard said.

Chestnut, 25 and openly gay, was found guilty by a military jury June 24 of one specification of sexual assault and found not guilty of one specification of assault consummated by a battery against another male soldier during his time at Fort Sam Houston. He was sentenced July 2 to three years in prison, reduction in rank to private and a dishonorable discharge.

During the sentencing phase of the court-martial last month, the judge in the case, Col. Gregory Gross, said he would recommend to the convening authority to overturn the guilty findings.

It was submitted to the convening authority — 1st Cavalry commander Maj. Gen. Michael Bills — through the court-martial records.

“The military judge made his recommendation by stating it on the record,” according to an email release from the division. “The entire record of trial will be considered by the convening authority before he takes initial action on the case, which has yet to occur.”

Bouffard said the Chapter 10 filing could have “sweetened the pot” for the general officer to overturn the finding — a way to “make it go away quietly.”

“If I were the defense counsel, I would do what I could to get the judge to write something,” Bouffard said. “Getting as much from the judge as possible as to why (it should be overturned). ... If it goes to the Army Court of Military Appeals ... chances of relief on appeal really improve tremendously.”

Having the recommendation said on the record is good, he said, but if the judge is willing to give more detail and go to bat for this kid, it could help, Bouffard said.

Chestnut is held at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., but his family in Dripping Springs continues to fight for him. His mother, Melissa Chestnut, created the website http://thomas.vop2.net/.

“I know Thomas is innocent and from what I’ve seen so far, he hasn’t been given a chance,” she said.

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