Thursday, January 17, 2008

Will Webster Smith case prove no lie can live forever?

(ARLINGTON, Va., 16 January 2008) Former cadet Webster Smith, the first man ever court-martialed at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, sought to have his conviction overturned on Wednesday, 16 January 2008.The former cadet appeared before the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals outside Washington. The Coast Guard started investigating allegations in 2006 that he raped his former girlfriend, Kristen Nicholson, a fellow cadet and the Coast Guard Academy's first female Regimental Commander, after she got drunk at a party. Smith was acquitted of rape, but convicted on extortion and sodomy charges based on a sexual encounter he had with a different female cadet, Shelley Raudenbush, in her room in Chase Hall, the cadet barracks. He was sentenced to served six months in a military jail on the lesser charges. He was released after five months because of good behavior.
The court, especially Chief Judge Lane I. McClelland, a former Coast Guard law specialist, briskly questioned lawyers from both sides during the hour-long session. The small gallery was packed with more than 20 people.Channel 3 Eyewitness News reporter Eric Parker reported from Arlington that Smith's civilian lawyers argued on Wednesday that their client's rights were violated by a decision made during the court-martial. Smith did not speak during the hearing before a three-judge panel.At the court-martial, Coast Guard lawyers argued that Smith had coerced the female cadet into the sexual activity in exchange for his keeping a secret for her -- a secret that WAS the basis for much of the appeal presented Wednesday.
The defense argued that the trial judge at the court-martial didn't allow defense lawyers then to properly cross-examine Shelley Raudenbush. She was essentially given a free ride. She even testified under a grant of immunity. No charges could have been filed against her for any of her past misconduct. There was really no reason not to allow a vigorous cross-examination of Shelly Raudenbush, except that the entire trial had been a witch hunt designed to make an example of Webster Smith, a top football player and the most popular Black cadet in the senior class. The two men most responsible for this travesty were Captain Douglas Wisniewski and Admiral james Van Sice.
Smith's lawyers argued that since they weren't allowed to tell jurors specifics of the secret, or about past sexual charges levied by the same female cadet Shelly Raudenbush, they lost the chance to attack her credibility. The trial was a classic "he-said, she-said" soap opera.
Jurors ultimately appeared to believe her version of events over Smith's.That was the version that the Academy Command was pushing. There were many instances of undue command influence through the trail.
Webster Smith's appellate defense attorney asked the court to "take a fresh look at the evidence to see if there was sufficient evidence to convict Cadet Smith."Defense lawyers argued if it weren't for Shelly raudenbush's testimony, the verdict "would have been a clean sweep."They also said that without the extortion charge, the sodomy charge for the sex acts in the Shelly raudenbush's cadet's room, must be thrown out. The defense argued that if it wasn't forced, the oral sex was nothing more than a consensual act between two adults of the same rank and not criminal.
The Government's Appellate Attorney, Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Flynn argued that the conviction should be upheld, saying, "They looked at the evidence and found beyond a reasonable doubt that the elements of extortion were met."The court could simply uphold the sentence, order a new trial or permanently overturn the verdict if it finds no reasonable jury could have voted to convict Webster Smith. The court will eventually issue a written opinion, which could take as long as several months to be released.
The defense had limited comments outside the court."We're waiting for the process to play out and we have no further comment at this time," defense attorney Ronald Machen said. Should either side disagree with this court's ruling, they can appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, after which they would have to apply for review by the U.S. Supreme Court.A civil lawsuit could also be filed.The courtroom was closed to News cameras during hearing.

Former CGA Cadet, Caitlin Stopper

(Caitlin Stopper, said:” Seeing those God-forsaken red brick buildings of Chase Hall and Hamilton Hall in the picture makes me sick to my stomach. I will never go back there as long as I live.”)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

450 E Street, Northwest

Washington, D.C. 20442-0001


United States v. Webster M. Smith, No. 08-0719/CG

(Appellee) (Appellant)

Counsel for Appellant: Ronald C. Machen, Esq.

Counsel for Appellee: LT Emily P. Reuter, USCG

Case Summary: GCM conviction of going from place of duty, attempting to disobey an order, sodomy, extortion, and indecent assault. Granted issue questions whether the military judge violated Appellant’s constitutional right to confront his accusers by limiting his cross-examination of [SR], the government’s only witness, on three of the five charges.

NOTE: Counsel for each side will be allotted 20 minutes to present oral argument in this case.


ichbinalj said...

Webster Smith's lawyers told the U.S. Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals in Arlington that the convictions should be thrown out because Smith's defense team was not allowed to fully cross-examine his accuser, Shelly Raudenbush, during the court-martial. Further questioning could have raised doubts about the her credibility, they said.
"What we are asking the court to do is take a fresh look at this case," attorney Ron Machen said.
Lt. Cmdr. Patrick M. Flynn, the government's lawyer, urged the three-judge panel to uphold the convictions. Jurors "found beyond a reasonable doubt the elements of extortion were met," he said.
Smith, 24, declined to comment after oral arguments ended at the U.S. Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals.
Judges did not immediately rule and did not say when they would do so.

ichbinalj said...

Merle J. Smith, Jr. was Webster Smith's Civilian Individual Military counsel at the Court-martial. He wrote 29 Feb 2008 in the DAY: The article, “Service academies faulted in GAO report,” published Feb. 20, stated: “In the summer of 2006, former cadet Webster Smith became the first student court-martialed at the academy. He was acquitted of rape but convicted of extortion, sodomy and indecent assault.”
One might conclude they got him for three of four charges, instead of the more accurate and detailed portrayal that, of the 10 charges referred to the general court martial, he was acquitted of one charge of rape, one count of extortion, one count of sodomy, one count of indecent assault and one charge of assault (five of 10 charges). All findings of guilty cited in the article related to one woman. He was also convicted of two relatively minor military offenses. The conviction is pending appeal.

That is only part of the story. The incidents related to Webster Smith were publicly announced as 16 pending charges in mid-February 2006. These charges related to five women. In early 2006 the Coast Guard Investigative Service undertook an investigation related to yet another woman and Webster Smith. This resulted in six additional charges, filed in March 2006. An Article 32 Investigation resulted in dismissal of 12 of the 22 charges. This means, 17 of 22 charged allegations were not substantiated (12 dismissals; five acquittals).

As reported Feb. 20, only 36 of the 96 sexual-assault incidents reported from 2003 to 2006 at other academies were substantiated. That's a substantiation rate of 37.5 percent. If we eliminate the two strictly military charges from the calculation in the charges against Webster Smith, the Coast Guard substantiation rate was 15 percent (three guilty findings in 20 charges) for all allegations against him and no legal substantiation of allegations of sexual-abuse to the five women in the original charges publicized by the Coast Guard in February 2006.