• November 26, 2014

Bill to halt pay for military defendants has legal precedent

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Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 2:13 pm, Thu Jan 23, 2014.

A bill designed to halt pay to soldiers charged in violent crimes is bound to resonate with many people in the Fort Hood community.

Authored by a pair of Republican congressmen from Arkansas and West Virginia, the legislation — called the Stop Pay for Violent Offenders Act — is a direct response to the Maj. Nidal Hasan case.

Hasan, accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32 others in the Nov. 5, 2009, mass shooting at Fort Hood, continues to draw a salary from the Army at taxpayers’ expense, in accordance with the code of military justice.

In the nearly four years since Hasan was charged in the shooting, the accused shooter has drawn more than $278,000 from the government as he awaits trial.

The proposed legislation would cut off pay to soldiers charged with violent crimes — such as rape, sexual assault or capital offenses — and divert it to a fund for crime victims. It also has safeguards, providing waivers for service members who can prove they were wrongfully accused.

Though the legislation may sound like a big departure from current military justice, the bill would actually bring the military into closer compliance with the law regarding federal employees — which calls for a suspension of pay while the employee is accused.

Because of the repeated delays in Hasan’s capital murder court-martial, he has earned about 3½ years of officers pay while awaiting trial — a fact that is no doubt upsetting to the shooting survivors, as well as the victims’ families. And Hasan will continue to get paid until his likely conviction by a jury, which could take another two months.

Obviously, the current rules are set up to presume innocence on the part of the accused, at least until a verdict is rendered to the contrary. That’s fine, on its face. But a policy that authorizes continued pay for the accused can bring further anguish and trauma to the victims of a violent crime. Bottom line, it may be legal, but it’s also highly insensitive.

This is especially true in the case of Hasan, who has admitted to the shootings and on several occasions attempted to plead guilty — though that is not allowable under military law, since this is a death-penalty case.

As testimony in Hasan’s court-martial finally gets underway next week, the fact that the defendant continues to draw more than $6,000 per month is bound to be a source of frustration for many in attendance.

This is especially true for the shooting survivors and victims’ families, as many of them have been denied thousands of dollars in benefits — thanks to the Defense Department’s classification of the shooting as “workplace violence,” rather than a combat-related incident.

In fact, more than 100 victims and family members impacted by the shooting have sued the Defense Department and the Army, seeking a change in the classification to a terrorist act. The suit claims that political correctness has barred them from receiving benefits that are due them, including necessary medical care for injuries sustained in the incident.

It’s understandable why the Pentagon has stuck with the “workplace violence” label. Officials don’t want to risk negatively affecting Hasan’s court-martial before it gets off the ground.

But if and when a conviction is secured, Congress needs to right this wrong. If this was a terrorist act — and the defendant freely admits he acted to defend the Taliban in Afghanistan — then victims’ families and survivors are entitled to be compensated accordingly.

The Fort Hood area’s two congressmen, Republican Reps. John Carter of Round Rock and Roger Williams of Austin, have proposed that Congress pass the Fort Hood Victims and Families Benefits Protection Act. The measure would award all casualties of the Nov. 5, 2009, attack the same status awarded to the casualties of the 9/11 Pentagon attack. All would be eligible for the Purple Heart or the civilian award equivalent.

As a result, military casualties would receive benefits such as VA health care co-pay exemptions, preference for government jobs and college tuition breaks.

This is extremely worthwhile legislation that is deserving of bipartisan support. But as Fort Hood’s representatives in Congress, Carter and Williams should also throw their support behind the Stop Pay for Violent Offenders Act.

While it’s important to respect the rights of the accused under the law, it’s time to remember those who have suffered and lost the most — especially in the nation’s worst mass shooting on a military post. Both the stop-pay act and benefits-protection act do just that.

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14 comments:

  • Bubba posted at 10:00 am on Sat, Aug 3, 2013.

    Bubba Posts: 752

    Real Americans know that we must live by our core values, and that these core values spring from our Constitution and the principles of liberty and justice for all embodied in that document. Simply, we are a nation of laws. Real Americans follow the law because it is the foundation of our liberty. Real Americans do this, particularly when it is difficult or unpleasant to do so, because the principles of freedom flow from the law. Those proposing legislation to deny military personnel accused of offenses their pay authorized by law are simply angry that the law is unpleasant for them, and they lack the emotional patience to stay the course. They're angry, and they want revenge and to punish the accused, prior to trial, simply to make themselves feel better. They are willing to throw away the Constitution, specifically the 5th and 6th Amendments, to assuage their overblown egos and sensitive feelings. This behavior is quintessentially Un-Constitutional and Un-American. Our forefathers fought wars to preserve our freedoms and our way of life and passed this legacy to us, and we have a responsibility to live up to that legacy. When you throw out the rules that make you angry, in order to take revenge on someone you don't like, you are no better than the evil regimes that civilized humans opposed, often at the cost of their lives, to ensure that the rule of law and the Constitution reign supreme. To suggest that there is a" legal precedent" in setting aside the Constitution in order to impose punishment without trial and take revenge on the reviled to appease ourselves is absolute nonsense. To further this lie with the specious argument that civilian employees can have their pay withheld in these instances is the playground of the weakminded. These are the same propaganda stories spread by terrorists who desperately want America to throw out its own laws in our effort to combat them, handing them the victory-the destruction of the Constitution. It's time for those proposing this nonsense to have a real good, long, hard look in the mirror and see who they really are, deep down inside-Real Americans, or constitution shredders?

     
  • Bubba posted at 7:44 am on Thu, Aug 1, 2013.

    Bubba Posts: 752

    "The proposed legislation would cut off pay to soldiers charged with violent crimes — such as rape, sexual assault or capital offenses — and divert it to a fund for crime victims. It also has safeguards, providing waivers for service members who can prove they were wrongfully accused."

    It is illegal to divert federal funds to anyone but the payee or the treasury and the 5th Amendment of the Constitution still applies. This is an illegal piece of legislation and I want to see you admit it in writing in this paper.

     
  • Bubba posted at 9:27 am on Wed, Jul 31, 2013.

    Bubba Posts: 752

    "Obviously, the current rules are set up to presume innocence on the part of the accused, at least until a verdict is rendered to the contrary. That’s fine, on its face. But a policy that authorizes continued pay for the accused can bring further anguish and trauma to the victims of a violent crime. Bottom line, it may be legal, but it’s also highly insensitive."

    This is the most ridiculously stupid comment I have read yet.

     
  • Bubba posted at 8:43 am on Tue, Jul 30, 2013.

    Bubba Posts: 752

    "(f) Punishment prohibited. Pretrial restraint is not punishment and shall not be used as such. No person who is restrained pending trial may be subjected to punishment or penalty for the offense which is the basis for that restraint."

    Uniform Code of Military Justice, Rule 304. Pretrial restraint

     
  • Bubba posted at 6:31 pm on Mon, Jul 29, 2013.

    Bubba Posts: 752

    He was court-martialed and sentenced to death for murder. he currently sits in prison pending his final appeals and execution of his sentence. His actions were no more a terrorist act than the accused in this case-no ties whatsoever to terrorism.

     
  • 11B38 posted at 5:43 pm on Mon, Jul 29, 2013.

    11B38 Posts: 7

    This is not the first instance of a soldier murdering other soldiers. Sgt. Asan Akbar threw a grenade, (or at least allegedly) into a command tent in Kuwait, killing one and wounding 15. This took place in 2003, he was already in trouble for insubordination. Not exactly sure what happened to him.

     
  • jbone72 posted at 11:51 am on Mon, Jul 29, 2013.

    jbone72 Posts: 2

    I suspect that we have not seen a case like this because in old times such an act treason would constitute an immediate trial and a date with a firing squad. However, I would hate for presadent to be set that soldiers would lose pay for being accused of crimes they did not commit. Say not standing up against atrocities because of fear of lose of pay.

     
  • Bubba posted at 6:36 pm on Sun, Jul 28, 2013.

    Bubba Posts: 752

    Attempting to equate the military justice system with the civilian employee administrative management system on any topic reveals a galactic lack of intellect in anyone seriously suggestion such an analogy. There is no legal precedent for violating the law to make oneself feel better about things.

     
  • Bubba posted at 4:36 pm on Sun, Jul 28, 2013.

    Bubba Posts: 752

    There is very little relevance between prosecuting a Marine for a war crime and prosecuting 13 murder specifications. So declaring the team of professionals at Fort Hood, who have undoubtedly worked very hard on this case, "incompetent bunglers" hardly seems fair.

     
  • Bubba posted at 4:32 pm on Sun, Jul 28, 2013.

    Bubba Posts: 752

    As stated, suspension of pay prior to conviction is punishment before a finding of guilt. It is simply Unconstitutional.

     
  • Eliza posted at 1:51 pm on Sun, Jul 28, 2013.

    Eliza Posts: 867

    What about a suspension of pay until a not guilty plea may be returned.

    The man is locked up, he is receiving his room and board and medical care at the expense of the tax payers. I might add the medical care is due to his being the cause of his own injuries. And,
    He has no immediate family who has to depend on his pay.

    There may not be a legal military law in affect at this time, that would state suspension of pay until trial finds a guilt or non guilt verdict .
    But the country's military has never had one of its own, not in modern times, go into one of the biggest military post in the world in the United States, and slaughter his fellow soldiers while yelling out in a foreign tongue his allegiance to a foreign enemy army.

    If so, I feel the idea of at least a suspension of pay, when there's as much evidence of the guilt of the accused, as in this case, would be acceptable.
    Sometimes you have to cut the 'lawyer talk' and get on with common sense since ,if the victims can't have they're rightful due in the form of benefits or financial assistance , then the criminal shouldn't be entitled either.

    The country owes Hasan nothing, He owes the people who because of him have had they're lives changed forever.

     
  • don76550 posted at 9:09 am on Sun, Jul 28, 2013.

    don76550 Posts: 64

    The presumption of innocence is important and should not be changed for one criminal. The only reason this is an issue is we have a pro muslim terrorist for a president, incompetent bunglers at Ft Hood who don't want to ever, ever hurt the feelings of a terrorist and have allowed this travesty to go on for over 4 years. However if you are a soldier who pees on a quoran thus offending our pro muslim president and pro muslim thugs in the army rest assured you will face trial in less than three months.

     
  • JohnnyinHarkerHeights posted at 8:16 am on Sun, Jul 28, 2013.

    JohnnyinHarkerHeights Posts: 44

    While Hasan's guilt is clear, the guilt of many "accused" perpetrator's of a criminal act while serving in the armed forces is NOT.

    To change the law, because it doesn't fit one case is ludicrous.

    All to often when it comes to being charged with a crime, irreversible damage is done by simply getting charged REGARDLESS of of even an innocent verdict later on.

    The notion that this bill has "waivers" that would prevent this is laughable considering how no such waivers included in other bills along those lines have ever seemed to work.

     
  • Bubba posted at 5:16 am on Sun, Jul 28, 2013.

    Bubba Posts: 752

    This is why members of Congress who have never served a day in uniform should not be sticking their noses into military justice matters. Further, as a former U.S. Attorney, Mr. Griffin should be familiar with the following:

    "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous, crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service, in time of War, or public danger; nor shall any person be subject, for the same offence, to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation."

    Simply, imposing punishment, which is what forfeiture of pay is under military law, prior to conviction at court-martial is Unconstitutional. Therefore, the bill proposed is Unconstitutional and also a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

    "At general courts-martial, if both a punitive discharge and confinement are adjudged, then the operation of Article 58b results in total forfeiture of pay and allowances during that period of confinement. If only confinement is adjudged, then if that confinement exceeds six months, the operation of Article 58b results in total forfeiture of pay and allowances during that period of confinement. If only a punitive discharge is adjudged, Article 58b has no effect on pay and allowances. A death sentence results in total forfeiture of pay and allowances."

    This is why members of Congress should be directing their attention to matters such as the out-of-control IRS, and stop interfering in military justice issues. Recently, some public comments by the President were adjudged by a military court to be "unlawful command influence". Recommend you whip open the UCMJ and look that up. Members of Congress are not experts on military law and should allow those duly appointed, trained and qualified to accomplish these duties to do so without further interference from the unqualified.

    Further, comparing military members to civilian employees in this instance is intellectually specious. Civilian employees are not employed under Title 10, United States Code, nor are they subject to the UCMJ. Civilian employees can suspended from their positions, without pay, for a number of reasons; military personnel cannot be suspended in this manner. Comparisons between these two classifications of personnel are without merit.

    Hopefully, Mr. Griffin will now have the sense to withdraw his illegal and unconstitutional legislation without further delay.

    Further, passing legislation that entitles a certain classification of military personnel to benefits to which they would otherwise not be entitled is simply wrong. Again, this is yet another attempt to inject civilian law into military law, where it has no place. The appropriate response is to change the classification of the incident, if you have the evidence to do so.