Friday, November 21, 2003

The Boast - 191

The SECNAV asked Chegwidden to get to the bottom of an accidental "confession" to a reporter of an Iraqi prisoner. Lance Corporal Pete Kelly told Ginny Serrano about shooting a prisoner in the head when she asked him the "million dollar question" (have you killed anybody) in a bar. Unfortunately, she didn't accept his retraction after he found she was a reporter; and she dug up an identical incident which happened in the compound to Omar Billah. Also, unfortunately, in Serrano's "yellow journalism" the only thing she needed to run the story is no-one telling her it couldn't have happened. Kelly didn't have an alibi for when the incident occurred, and of course she didn't either ask or believe anyone in the military because they would just "lie." Kelly told both Bud and Mac that he just made up the story because he was sick of people asking "the question." Captain Rappaport confirmed there was an incident in the compound which held 200 - 400 EPWs. He also said that although Kelly's whereabouts couldn't be confirmed, the security was in chaos with all the influx of surrendering prisoners. One prisoner had been found to still have a gun, and Billah had to be handcuffed because he was trying to incite a riot two hours before he was killed. The SECNAV then came to say he'd talked it over with the joint chiefs and they now no longer considered it a priority. He wanted no prosecution unless absolutely certain of the case, because they didn't want to provide propaganda the enemy could use. B said "yes" to prosecution, M said "not sure" but prosecution went forward and C assigned B to prosecute and M to defend. Coates helped get information on Serrano but Billah was a complete blank. Rappaport said that Billah had "spit in Kelly's face" before the incident; but, told M she would have to go "a lot higher up than me" if she wanted any info on Billah. She went to the SECNAV and asked what he was not telling her. He eventually agreed to "talk to the joint chiefs" about it. She told him to tell them that they would keep all the testimony secret, but that she "was not going to go away." Rappaport testified that Billah was NOT a prisoner, but rather an Iraqi exile planted as in informant by the CIA and Marine Corps intelligence. M said "then there were 400 men in the compound with good reason to kill Billah if they found out who he was."

Chegwidden took Harm to Los Angeles for the international military law conference; but, the SECNAV opinioned that C was just going to go to the Navy-Marine Corps all-star baseball game. During the game, the MC coaches son, Lt. Dave Phelps, was hit in the head unconscious by a "brush back pitch." The father, pressed charges against PO Crawford, the pitcher who, he claimed, deliberately threw at the back of Phelps' head, so he would back into it. C took it personally and went to talk to the father; but, couldn't convince him that it could have been an accident. C arranged to hold the hearing in his conference room and said that he would defend the pitcher. He left M in charge to decide who the opposing counsel would be. She was going to "dump it on Turner," but H said he would do it because "the boss set it up so everyone else was busy and she would have to choose me." She told him that "you just want to nail the admiral for keeping you out of the Navy for 3 months," but told him he could. The Navy coach said that Crawford had been recruited by the Yankees and red sox and had a 95 mph fast ball with good control. He denied telling him to hit the batter because doing so might have put the winning run on base. Crawford said the ball just got away from him and he would "never throw a fast ball at another man's head, even if he was a marine." Seaman Johnson, the catcher, told C that he "didn't know" and "didn't recall" when asked about the sign he gave. C threatened him with videotapes and Johnson said that their manager had given a direct order for a brush back pitch. When finding that out, the MC coach/father wanted to charge the navy coach and manager too. Phelps said "dad, you're kidding!"

In the trials: Rappaport said that Kelly's whereabouts were unaccounted for but he was first on the scene and had said "guess he won't be killing any more American's." Serrano said his "confession" had to be true because it was "too disgusting to make up" and that she hadn't talked to anyone in the military about it. She had also just been hired by the Times but denied that she would ever "print a story just to advance my career." Coates discovered that the incident where a prisoner was found to have a gun was only 2 weeks after the Billah killing and was Khaled Fadani, who had been in Billah's compound at the time. In spite of the fact witnesses saw the gun to be a 9mm Beretta and Billah was killed with a 9mm, the judge wouldn't allow further discovery (?!!). M asked Kelly, on the stand, if he'd killed anyone. He initially refused to answer then told about his run through "ambush alley" where his buddies were killed. The question, he said, makes you "feel creepy" and sometimes when asked, he just made things up to make "them feel creepy too." He denied killing Billah because it would show disrespect to the memory of his fellow marines. The jury found him NOT guilty.

Phelps said that his first time at bat he had gotten a single to left field. Then, when the next batter hit a slow line drive to second, he had charged and cleated the shortstop in order to disable him for the double play. He saw Crawford stare at him and point for a long time so he "knew he would try something." C asked him if he thought that he should be court-martialed for spiking the shortstop. The coach said Crawford hadn't given up a single walk, which H opined was "perfect control." The coach blurted that "you can't prove it," and "anyway it's part of baseball." Crawford said he aimed in front of Phelps' chest, as a brush-back, to set up the next pitch, a curve ball low and away. He didn't hit Phelps on purpose. The previous game the manager had asked him to throw at the hitter, but he didn't do it. Afterwards, he had been told to follow orders and that in order to be in the big leagues he had to be "tougher." H closed with: "we can't allow this kind of thuggery to go unpunished just because it's done in the name of sports. C said: "It's different in baseball (from hockey and racing). You wear a helmet and even little leaguers know they might be hit, which is implied consent. Famous pitchers all used inside pitches. Don't let lawyers kill baseball." The judge concluded: "the line between criminal assault and unfortunate, though predictable, sports accidents, is too thin to be resolved in court martial. No further action."

H took three pizzas to Mattie, because he didn't know what kind she liked. She told him to bring Pepperoni next time. He had set up a hearing in juvenile court, in three weeks, to try and make her his ward. He used the Batman and Robin analogy to explain the definition of ward. She asked him: "what do you get out of this?" He replied, "you." — Phelps had to tell his dad that "enough was enough" and there would be no further appeals. — Bud told M that, based on her actions in court, she was probably asked the "million dollar question" a lot too. She replied: "yes, and I never tell the truth!"

Friday, November 14, 2003

Posse Comitatus - 190

[A bit of an unrealistic premise and plot line. Not as strong an episode as customary JAG standards.] Sheriff Brad Driskell and deputy's, of Yuma Arizona, were pinned down behind their squad cars, adjacent to a barn where bachelor farmer Barclay Cale was shooting at them with an automatic rifle and armor piercing ammunition. A deputy was mortally wounded on the ground and another was tied up as hostage in the loft with Cale. Driskell had called for "backup" but was still hunkering behind the cars when a "super cobra" appeared and hovered just outside the barn. Cale fired again and Maj Tuney "took him out" causing beams to collapse crushing Linda Foyo, the deputy. Driskell flew into a tantrum and Tuney was eventually charged with violating the "Posse Comitatus" act which precludes military from participating in civilian law enforcement (except in very specific cases). Harm and Mac went to investigate. Lt. Col Pittman said Tuney had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was their best trainer. He said that Tuney had noticed the sheriff's action, a wounded officer on the ground and thought he could "medivac" the wounded. He called for permission to engage but was told to "hold his position" for further orders. When Cale "fired on him" he thought a shell might bring him down on the people below so he "shot back." To Ms incredulity, he responded that he "would never order a pilot to 'hold his fire' when he was being fired upon." Cale was being arrested for property tax evasion, having lost his farm to the bank. Tuney said he had seen Cale training his gun on the deputy and another on the ground bleeding; so, when he was shot at with armor piercing rounds, and with his co-pilots agreement, he shot "a microburst at a steep angle, so as not to hit the deputy." He had tried to contact the sheriff, but was told by the dispatcher that she had been ordered "not to put me through." The sheriff was a pissy know-it-all with a chip on his shoulder who claimed that he "didn't need or want help," he was "still negotiating," and "didn't need another trigger happy yahoo to deal with." M found that Tuney had a similar incident two years previously at another command. He "helped" the San Diego police who were chasing a felon up the wrong lane of a freeway. Tuney had brought his helicopter down in front of the criminal, but instead of stopping he drove off the freeway and into someone's back yard. "I took actions to save lives," Tuney told them, "if that's illegal, lock me up."

Harriet was asked to help produce the Christmas USO show in Bagdad with Garth Brooks. Bud was appointed Hearing Officer for Lt. Cdr Justin Bentley, a doctor whose training had been paid for by the Navy and who now, that his unit was being called up to Iraq, wanted out on "contentious objector" status. Bud saw a whole wall full of military photos on the wall of Bentley's private practice office full of the latest technology. Bentley claimed that he had "been overwhelmed with guilt" all during the last 6 years (the navy had been paying for) but joined the Quakers when he married this last year. He told B the photos were "for his patients" (who were mostly military and dependents) so B asked if he would take down the photos after he was discharged and he replied "yes." Turner, assigned to defend, went to Bentley's church meeting then asked C for reassignment. C's disbelief was met with "when I look at my father (50 year navy chaplain) I see his faith, but I don't see that in Bentley." C asked if Ts father knew he was turning his back on religion and T said he would defend Bentley but didn't respect him, then left. T called and asked his father for help. C stopped in to "say hello" and asked the chaplain if he had any "words of wisdom for me." The Chaplain said "Absolutely. Treat my son well and you'll be rewarded in heaven." He asked C if he needed help to straighten T out. C said "I think he is straight enough." T jokingly asked if he should leave "so you can talk about me," and C pondered and said down his nose "if you don't mind." T called his father as a witness at the hearing and the chaplain said that he was convinced of Bentley's sincerity. T asked about "finding God," and his fathers answer was subtly directed at T. Bud, as hearing officer, asked about the chaplains 50 year service despite disagreement with war. The chaplain said that he "found honor in providing solace to those who fought and comfort to the wounded and dying." B told Bentley that he was not impressed that he'd done anything to convince anyone that he was a pacifist and asked why he couldn't serve in a non-combat situation. Bentley said he didn't want to be connected in any way with the military and "wanted to serve God, nothing else matters." At a restaurant, T told his dad that "people have a way of letting you down." His dad asked if it was about congresswoman Latham and T said that was ancient history. He claimed that it "was in my nature to do my best… but my friends, coworkers…" then told him of his pending charges. He said that even though he had joined the navy when "we were called colored" and tolerated bigotry, he was accused of racial bias against Koreans. His dad asked "is it true?" and T answered "I don't know." "Then it's about you not your friends. T said that "I am so far away from what I wanted to be in my life that I don't even recognize myself." His dad told him that he needed to recognize he was imperfect and "move on. You’ve got to learn how to bend before you break."

H and M were hotly discussing the posse comitatus act, when M said "you love this. I know why you came back. You need JAG as much as JAG needs you." H asked, "what about you? Are you glad to have me back?" The phone rang before M had to answer. The Tuney case went to hearing and the sheriff acted his arrogant self claiming that he didn't ask or want help. He had been a marine for four years. No mention about what part his arrogance or stonewalling had played in the incident was made. The deputy claimed that she knew Cale from childhood and once the helicopter had shown up had been able to talk him into dropping his weapon. H got her to admit that no one else knew about it and Tuney had reason to believe otherwise.

The conclusions: Bud decided that he "wasn't sure he was right but couldn't prove that Bentley was wrong." So he said he was recommending to let him out; but added that "since you want complete separation" he would take away his "participating provider" status from navy medicine. Bentley then started arguing that it would bankrupt him, he would loose his practice etc. T saw the benefit of Bs decision and told Bentley "it seems consistent with your beliefs." B offered that "sometimes faith carries a high price." After Bentley left, B told T that "for awhile there I thought he might be for real." T replied, "never put your faith in people, you will always be disappointed." The judge told Tuney that it was "becoming difficult to distinguish between an act of terrorism worthy of military response and a criminal act better suited for police jurisdiction." He was recommending no action. But, when Tuney was telling H thanks, his CO informed him that the wing commander had transferred him out of the squad pending a FENAB to evaluate his flying status. M asked him if it was worth it. Tuney replied "yes, I'd do it again."

Friday, November 7, 2003

Close Quarters - 189

[A odd little episode where Chegwidden acts like a pompous ass, Turner an uncertain patsy and the plot is barely believable. A lot of 'parallel play' fragments the storyline making the synopsis difficult] In the sea of Japan Cdr Joyner's sub, USS Cathedral City, rescued North Korean sailors when they were spying on South Korea and their minisub sunk on a reef. Chegwidden sent Turner to "see what's up" and decide if the spies are "combatants or survivors." C also told him to "come back with a new attitude." Unfortunately an arrogant intel officer, Lt. Ye, was also dispatched to conduct intelligence interviews and interpret. Without provocation, he immediately bristled and tried to put T "in his place" during the plane ride over to the sub. Ye said something to the prisoners and they all began yelling. T tried to interview the Korean captain but he refused to leave his men. T decided to ask questions right there and Ye tried to back him down, saying, "that's not the way it's done." Carefully considering their options, T calmly replied, "it is now." Ye began embellishing the questions, provoking an angry outburst. When T calmly challenged it, Ye said that he had asked about surveillance equipment and advised they would salvage the ship when the Korean yelled that the Americans had run them aground. T told them they might not be allowed back to their country, and Six sailors were happy because they wanted to defect. They had to split the group (neither of who would talk), so the crew had to give up even more of their birthing space. Ye became more openly smart mouthed to T, so T asked "do I annoy you?" The arrogant creep, turned it back on T as having offended him! T said whatever it was, wasn't intentional - but the toe-rag snotted back: "I think it was." T attempted to know him better and found that he had grown up in Los Angeles, and his father had become reclusive after being shot in a liquor store robbery. Just then Joyner announced that the Koreans were to be picked and taken to Japan. However, before they were one Korean was found unconscious in a head. T reprimanded the crew who were bad-mouthing the man. The ships corpsman used his "cookbooks" and came up with the diagnosis of SARS (?!) The entire ship had to wear "gas masks" and scrub down the entire surfaces of the boat, along with surfacing and exchanging air. Joyner Pontificated that "every molecule on the boat was suspect" but that they couldn't wear the masks for long, or it would "give them a headache and their brain would cease to function properly" [good grief, Dana. Where did you come up with this?] Then the Korean captain refused to remove his mask, saying it still wasn't safe (even though none of the Americans were still wearing them), and T asked the chief to remove the mans mask because "there brain would be affected, and they wouldn’t be able to question him." The chief tricked the man and took it off, and Ye belittled him for wanting to "feel superior." T said he didn't see that in the chief and Ye stormed off. With the SARS diagnosis, Japan wouldn't let them land so they were being diverted to Dutch Harbor, 7 days away.

Harm returned to JAG and was given the "cold shoulder" by everyone. He got T's old office with a dead rat in the wall and a stench. He met Terrance Minnerly, a one-armed, black seaman from 1942 - 45, in a pharmacy buying blood pressure pills. H befriended him and opened the pill bottle which he said he had been out of for 4 days. Police came and arrested Minnerly because the receptionist for the HMO across the street said she had been robbed. H told Mac that he was helping Minnerly, who had tried for four days to get his HMO to correct a mistake they were making but had been given the run-around. He'd been evicted for not being able to pay his rent and was sleeping at the shelter. When he went personally to the HMO offices the receptionist became obstructionistic and refused to let him see anyone. When she threatened him with security, he stuck his finger in his coat and demanded her purse. He only took enough for his pills but she called security. M advised H that he better not take the case because he had too much work to do reviewing 27 Imes cases, two times as many as the others. Coates came and gave him 6 more "singer" cases from C. H had already let Minnerly stay in his apartment. The public defender came to JAG and dumped the case back to H because Minnerly's disability was $137 above the poverty line. Bud refused to help H, first claiming that he had too many cases to review; then, when he had to tell H he had two, he let slip that he would "If I was allowed to." He said that "no one else could either." H asked if he was being "punished," and B said "consider it a hazing." He went with hat in hand to M, but she just mocked him for poor time management, until H just started to walk out saying "I'm sorry to have wasted your time." She relented and said she would meet with Minnerly "just to see" and H brought him into the room, introducing her as his new lawyer. She told H she had changed her mind because "if you were me you would have said 'yes' and I'm overwhelmed." M talked to Minnerly and C had to interrupt her because she was late for a sentencing hearing. She just left Minnerly in her office. When H returned, Minnerly was with C.

Back on the sub, T thought Japan's refusal was "overkill" for just a corpsman's diagnosis out of a book. The corpsman he had a microscope but no "virus matching software" (huh?). T offered to be "point man" on making the slides and transmitting them to the mainland via the internet connection the ship had. The Korean captain continued to be upset and Ye accused the chief of "assaulting" the man. Another crewman was "unconscious" and the chief had thought he was just sleeping. The Korean began screaming and smashed some electronic equipment with a fire extinguisher (they were being kept in the torpedo room!!) and had to be subdues. So now, even more birthing was taken up by the Koreans and the captain asked T if he could put the four (non-defectors) into a raft and set them adrift after notifying the Koreans where they were. T said no and the Capt. retorted "who is going to protect my crew, and don't tell me God." T asked "you were under the impression that I would?" and the Capt. said "you look like a pious man." T replied "less and less." The captain said there was no more room and he would have to secure the saboteur to his rack. Ye then got in the Captains face over "inhumane" treatment. T agreed with the Capt. and said it was "strange talk from an intel officer." Ye smart-mouthed back, "keep working those cliché's." T asked "who are you representing here" and Ye claimed "his country" and that he could "do it without penalizing these men for being who they are." Finally T responded that he "resented the implication," but Ye snapped "doesn't surprise me." Trying to help the Capt. T asked "what about sedation" and Ye snapped back "great, treat him like an animal." The Capt. stood them down saying "no need to make this personal." The Capt. decided on sedation; but the lab came back that there was no SARS - it was "just a nasty flu" (right, that rendered two victims unconscious!) Ye told T "good for you, sir" and T calmly replied that it "was too bad they couldn't have gotten along better." True to his arrogant, chip on his shoulder, character, Ye responded "do you know how that could have been avoided?" T said he didn't and, instead of an intelligent conversation, Ye just smirked his adolescent snarl and said "that's too bad." T merely said "I won't argue the point" and dismissed him, after asking "was the man who robbed and shot your father black?" Ye said yes.

H called Mattie to see if Mrs. Del-Mucci was stopping by to check on her. Mattie whined that she had been given two dresses, a grammar text and a bean casserole. H responded that she was a good neighbor to have but Mattie just bellyached that she "couldn't get past the hairs on her cheek." H said that her father still being alive complicated guardianship and he would see her when "I can see over my desk." He told her that he wasn't going to abandon her. Playing the jerk, C asked H and M into his office and whined "why wasn't I informed" about Minnerly. He grandiosely pontificated about the navy's "Great Lakes Experiment" where president Roosevelt had recruited thousands of black men and placed them in supportive roles. Minnerly said that "at the time it was an honor" and many barriers were broken. He was stationed in the band at Treasure Island in San Francisco. He had played the piano - until he lost his arm in an accident two weeks after his discharge. C said that he had contacted the commonwealth attorney, who he knew in law school, and got him to agree to drop the charges for an anger management class. After Minnerly left, he chastised H for not being on "top of this… I thought better of you… aren't you the man who does what it takes to get the job done?" More calmly and respectfully than most would have been, H merely said he had the "impression that man was unwelcome in this office." C responded: "not entirely." H asked "what is expected of me? Am I to prove myself, or be myself." C looked down his nose and said "do what you do." H said it was difficult under the work load, and C smirked as he told him to give Singer's cases to M. Turner came back with the "flu" (why wasn't he unconscious too?) C told him to go home so he didn't spread it around, then informed him that Ye had filed a complaint against him through the chief of naval intelligence. He asked T if it was true and T said no. "Then that's good enough for me," C said but asked T if he "ever got angry?" T wanted to know why and C said "if you think you've been falsely accused why don't you get pissed off?" T wrung his hands and simpered he had been doing "introspection" and he "might have handled it better." C shook his head that T seemed to be buying into the accusations, then tried to introduce T to Minnerly. T declined because he was sick and said "when I'm more worthy, sir." (?!)