Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Jeffery and the Great Reward!
Back in the day, when I was an Army JAG officer at Ft. Dix, in the early 70s, I was called out to the Area Confinement Facility (“ACF”) to represent a new client, who I will call “Jeffrey.”
When I got there, I was told by the sergeant at the desk that I couldn't see him because the Criminal Investigation Division (“CID”) were interviewing him. I insisted that the exact time I arrived was logged in and then asked if the Major in charge of the ACF, who I was friendly with, and who was a good man, was in.
The first thing I said to the Major was “You know, of course, that anything that the CID gets out of Jeffery after I arrived will not be admissible in court, right?” He chuckled and said something to the effect that if the CID got anything useful out of a suspect, it would be a first!
So we then chatted about why Jeffery was there in the first place.
Back at that time civilian courts had a habit of dealing with juvenile offenders by offering them an opportunity to join the military and have their civilian records “sealed.” One slight problem was that, even though a state might “seal” a juvenile arrest record, it wasn't sealed to the FBI. So, after an FBI background check, which would take about 30 days, such people were designated for an administrative discharge and assigned to “Company D,” awaiting that discharge. It was an unique place to visit. The officer in charge, who I was also friendly with, had an interesting set of rules. As any officer entered, bodies would suddenly fling themselves against the walls and salute … a rather disconcerting effect.
Well, the ACF major told me that Jeffery had been assigned as “barracks guard” for Company D one night and for some reason three none-too-sober drill sergeants decided to harass him .
Jeffery, who was about 6'3” and about 235 lbs., proceeded to beat the shit out of the three drill sergeants … no small feat.
Anyway, he was eventually taken to the ACF doing the “stockade shuffle” … in handcuffs, belly chain and leg irons. However, he had fought the restraints to such a point that that he had left his wrists and ankles rather significantly damaged.
At that point, the ACF decided that it might be a good idea to take him for a psychological evaluation. I was also friendly with the sergeant who escorted Jeffery there and got him to tell me about it.
The sergeant and several other MPs delivered Jeffery to a psychologist and waited around to see what would happen. The first thing the psychologist did was to say that 'you have to take all those restraints off the patient … I can't possibly treat him in that condition!' The sergeant said that he couldn't take off the restraints without his commander's permission. He called the ACF and was told by the second in command that, if that was what the doctor wanted, he should do it, So he removed the handcuffs, belly chain and leg irons but still stood guard over Jeffery. The psychologist told him he had to leave so he could “treat” Jeffrey.
Now here's the only part of the sergeant's story I doubted … he said that he went to get some coffee when, next thing he heard was 'Wapp, Wapp, Wapp” ... “Oh, My God!”
The part I have my doubts about is when he said he “rushed” backed into the doctor's office” … but, in any event, when he got there, he found Jeffery 'sitting on the psychologist's chest, punching him in the face.'
So, now, after the the CID had (fruitlessly) left, I went to see Jeffrey. He was less than responsive. I went though my usual spiel … I'm your lawyer now … don't talk to anyone but me … etc, etc, … and at the end … I asked if he has any questions, To this point he hadn't even looked at me and had been quite silent. Next thing I hear is a low, barely audible rumble … 'how long can I get?' I try to explain that the maximum penalty for striking a superior officer is 45 years but that no one is likely to get such a sentence. But I don't get beyond “45 years” before a long awful moan comes out of Jeffrey of 'Oh my God …' that ends all conversation.
Then it got truly bizarre. The psychiatrist whose chest Jeffery was sitting on and punching filed a report saying that, while Jeffery was perfectly sane while he was pummeling him, he wasn't now sane enough to be tried!
The post's JAG took one look at that and said 'Hey, we were going to send him back to the civilians anyway, so why bother?' and decided not to try him.
The psychologist, then, changed his opinion yet again and said Jeffery wasn't ever insane … lest he get a disability.
The kind of sad thing was, though I was in contact with Jeffery's family and a family minister and told them they could easily sue for such a disability and I'd happily testify on their behalf, I never heard from them again.
After the JAG decided to just administratively discharge Jeffery, I went out to the ACF to let him know the news. As such things were done, I was locked into Jeffery's 6 foot by 3 foot cell, with a solid steel door. Jeffery was seated on the steel cot attached to the wall and was no more responsive than when I first met him.
So I explained that the Army had decided to just discharge him … he wouldn't be facing 45 years in jail ... and in a couple of weeks he'd be home in Philadelphia.
Jeffery looked up at me from the bed and, with tears in his eyes, said:
Captain Pieret … can I blow you?Did I mention that Jeffery was about 6'3” and about 235 lbs? I was and am about 5'8” and maybe 160 lbs. And I was locked in a small cell with Jeffery …
I managed to babble something about how it was reward enough to help others as I sidled over to the cell door and started pounding on it for the guards to let me out, which they eventually did without any further incident.
But I will never forget Jeffrey and the great reward.
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