A Fort Cavazos brigade commander who was relieved of command is accused of groping and kissing the wife of another Army officer while that officer was in the field, according to documents released by Army officials Friday.
Col. Jon Meredith, who is facing a possible court-martial over the issue, twice groped and kissed the wife of the other officer while the officer was in field training last summer, according to a redacted copy of the charge sheet signed by Maj. Gen. John B. Richardson — commander of the 1st Cavalry Division — and a major with the U.S. Army Legal Services Agency.
Meredith’s arraignment hearing happened on Monday, according to Lt. Col. Jennifer Bocanegra, spokeswoman for the division.
It has been well-publicized that the Army colonel at Fort Cavazos faces a possible court-martial, but what will that process look like?
The Herald this week spoke with Robert Capovilla, an attorney and founding partner of Capovilla & Williams, a Woodstock, Georgia-based law firm, to find out how the process may go.
Neither Capovilla nor anyone in the law firm are representing Meredith, who has had two charges of abusive sexual contact and two charges of conduct unbecoming an officer referred upon him on April 21.
Meredith was relieved of command of 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team in October 2022 by Richardson.
The Army initially reported Meredith was relieved due to “a loss of confidence in (his) judgment and ability to command,” the Herald reported last year.
Capovilla said the arraignment is a simple process that gives the judge an opportunity to ensure Meredith understands his legal rights, the prosecutor informs him of the general nature of the charges referred upon him and Meredith has an opportunity to enter pleas for the first time — either not guilty or guilty.
Bocanegra did not specify whether Meredith had plead one way or another, but Capovilla said the pleas can be deferred to a later date. Capovilla said that in his experience, defendants do that in a large number of cases because once he/she enters a plea, certain timelines associated with the Uniform Code of Military Justice are triggered. Capovilla, a 10-year veteran of the United States Army Judge Advocate General Corps, has represented soldiers in similar situations.
After the arraignment, according to Capovilla, the judge will do a pre-trial order that lists all the different dates of when things are due to the court.
Capovilla stressed that just because charges have been referred against Meredith, it does not guarantee the case will reach a trial.
“A number of different things can happen along the way,” he said. “For example, there may be new evidence that comes forward that negates the elements of the crimes that he’s accused of and the government would feel it necessary to dismiss and withdraw charges. Col. Meredith may enter into a plea deal — either to the offenses as charged or to lesser included offenses or to any offenses that him, that his counsel, and the government counsel agree upon. And then of course, there’s a number of other issues that could happen — for example, the alleged victim may decide that she does not want to testify anymore. That does happen, and in sexual assault cases, if the alleged victim decides not to testify, it becomes very difficult to move forward in the process.”
There is no evidence that suggests any of the potential scenarios Capovilla presented relate to the case with Meredith, however.
Should the case proceed to a trial, Capovilla said it may take a few months from the time of arraignment, depending on the potential mitigating factors and the court’s schedule.
If it is a jury trial, Meredith will be tried by a jury of his peers senior either in date of rank or senior in rank, meaning the jury would consist of officers who have been a colonel for longer than Meredith and/or general officers.
Meredith has been in the Army since 1996.
Just as with civilian courts, however, defendants in military cases are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Capovilla & Williams represents service members from all branches of the military in an array of legal matters, including court-martial defense.
“I’ve been doing nothing but military law and litigation to the military system for about the last decade-plus,” Capovilla said.
Oh my, [ohmy] this appears to be a very troubling case for the accused.
That said, even under the UCMJ, the accused is cloaked in the presumption of innocence.
I'm going reserve my opinion and allow the UCMJ to determine the outcome.
Whatever the outcome, the allegations are troubling.
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