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  Military Law - Legal News


The Supreme Court is leaving in place a decision that the alleged mastermind of the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 U.S. sailors should face a trial by a military commission.

The court on Monday declined to take up the case of Saudi national Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri (ahbd al-ruh-HEEM' al-nuh-SHEE'-ree). Al-Nashiri had sought to challenge the authority of a military commission in Guantanamo Bay hearing his case. But an appeals court ruled last year that al-Nashiri's challenge would have to wait until after his trial.

Al-Nashiri argued that military commissions only have authority over offenses that take place during an armed conflict. He said the U.S. was not officially at war with al-Qaida at the time of the attack.


A military equipment dealer was convicted Thursday of scheming with soldiers at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to steal sensitive material for sale to buyers in Russia, China and Mexico.

John Roberts, of Clarksville, Tennessee, was found guilty of conspiracy to steal and sell government property, two counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act and 10 counts of wire fraud. Prosecutors said he faces up to five years in prison for conspiracy and up to 20 years for each count of arms export violations and wire fraud.

More than $1 million in weapons parts, body armor, helmets, gun sights and other equipment was stolen and sold in a vast black market, prosecutors said. Six soldiers and another civilian pleaded guilty. One testified that Roberts was given a tour of the base to see items to be stolen. Eventually, they brought equipment back from Afghanistan and sold it by the truckload.



Relatives of two of the three U.S. military trainers shot dead at the gate of a Jordanian air base last year have described the pain of their loss to a military court trying the alleged killer.

The family members attended a court hearing in Jordan's capital Monday and will remain until the verdict, expected next week.

A Jordanian soldier charged with murder in the shootings faces life in prison if convicted.

The soldier, who allegedly opened deadly fire on U.S. troops at the gate, has pleaded "not guilty." The judge has said he has no ties to terrorist groups.

The defense attorney said his client fired because he feared the base was under attack The prosecutor said the defendant acted with intent, having fired dozens of rounds over several minutes.



Military prosecutors have reached into a section of military law seldom used since World War II in the politically fraught case against U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier held prisoner for years by the Taliban after leaving his post in Afghanistan.

Observers wondered for months if Bergdahl would be charged with desertion after the deal brokered by the U.S. to bring him home. He was -- as well as misbehavior before the enemy, a much rarer offense that carries a stiffer potential penalty in this case.

Bergdahl could face a life sentence if convicted of the charge, which accuses him of endangering fellow soldiers when he "left without authority; and wrongfully caused search and recovery operations."

Observers say the misbehavior charge allows authorities to allege that Bergdahl not only left his unit with one less soldier, but that his deliberate action put soldiers who searched for him in harm's way. The Pentagon has said there is no evidence anyone died searching for Bergdahl.

"You're able to say that what he did had a particular impact or put particular people at risk. It is less generic than just quitting," said Lawrence Morris, a retired Army colonel who served as the branch's top prosecutor and top public defender.

The Obama administration has been criticized both for agreeing to release five Taliban operatives from the Guantanamo Bay prison and for heralding Bergdahl's return to the U.S. with an announcement in the White House Rose Garden. The administration stood by the way it secured his release even after the charges were announced.

The military has scheduled an initial court appearance hearing for Bergdahl on Sept. 17 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Afterward the case could be referred to a court-martial and go to trial.



Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier who left his post in Afghanistan and was held by the Taliban for five years, is asking a military appellate court to disqualify the general with discretion in his case.

Bergdahl's attorney, Eugene Fidell, says Bergdahl filed the request Friday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces in Washington.   

Bergdahl wants the court to disqualify Gen. Mark Milley because he has a personal interest in being confirmed as the next Army chief of staff.

Bergdahl, who is charged with desertion, was exchanged last year for five senior Taliban officials held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Bergdahl's preliminary hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury, is set for September. From there, his case could be referred for trial.



A retired Army colonel pleaded guilty to negotiating his post-military employment with a helicopter company that did business with the Defense Department office he ran while still in uniform, according to court records filed Tuesday by U.S. government attorneys.

The former officer, Norbert Vergez, caused the terms of a contract to be adjusted so that the company would be paid faster, said a plea agreement detailing the charges. Vergez also failed to disclose on his ethics form that he had received a $30,000 check from a second company for relocation expenses. Officers of Vergez's seniority are typically allowed to be reimbursed by Defense Department for their final moving expenses.

The companies are not named in the records, which were filed in U.S. District Court in Alabama. But the documents describe MD Helicopters in Mesa, Arizona, and Patriarch Partners, a private equity firm in New York. Both companies are owned by Wall Street executive Lynn Tilton.

Vergez, 49, went to work for Tilton three months after retiring from military service in November 2012. Attorneys for Vergez did not respond to a request for comment.

The Associated Press reported in March 2014 that Vergez and Tilton were in unusually close contact for more than a year before he retired.

In an emailed statement, Patriarch Partners said it and MD Helicopters cooperated fully with the government's investigation. "Mr. Vergez's plea agreement does not contain any allegations of improper conduct by MD Helicopters, Patriarch Partners, or any of its personnel," according to the statement.


A Philippine court entered a not guilty plea Monday for a U.S. Marine charged with murdering a transgender Filipino, allegedly after he discovered her gender when they checked into a hotel.

Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton refused to enter a plea in the brief proceeding in a court in Olongapo city northwest of Manila, according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. Journalists were barred from the courtroom.

Dozens of left-wing protesters waved red flags outside the courthouse, demanding justice and an end to the U.S. military presence in the former American colony. Gay and lesbian groups have also staged protests denouncing the killing of Jennifer Laude, whose former name was Jeffrey, as a hate crime.

Monday's arraignment paves the way for Pemberton's trial, which lawyers of the victim's family said is scheduled to start next month.


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