Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sixth Amendment Wounded By Coast Guard Court.

Good news travels fast, bad news even faster. Webster Smith is one step closer to the Supreme Court. That is the good news. He lost his appeal to the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals. That is the bad news.

There is no joy in Mudville; Webster Smith has struck out. As far as the Coast Guard and its ability to right a terrible wrong is concerned, all men of goodwill are left bewildered. The Coast Guard no longer has the power to correct its own mistake.

The Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals by a narrow margin has made the wrong decision for the wrong reason. They have left the Sixth Amendment to the U S Constitution in shreds. {Footnote.(1)} By a majority of 2-1, they voted against Webster Smith. Only one member of the Appellate Court was able to see clearly the errors made by the Trial Court. There will be much said about this decision in the future.

Several pieces of the puzzle were missing at the Trial and the Appellate level. For the moment, let us provide just one missing link.

The Missing Link In the Webster Smith Case: Katie Collela

Most people know the basic premise of the story, the collusion of several young women that resulted in the court-martial of the first cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Shelly Raudenbush Wyman was the lone victor of the several women that accounted for the 22 charges against Webster Smith. Why did she come forward over two months after Webster Smith was removed from classes, following the allegations by then Regimental Commander-Kristen Nicholson, her two best friends Shannon Frobel, Kristin Strizki and Nicholson's subordinates: Stacy Chmielecki, Keri McCormack, and Katie Collela?

During the Court-Martial, Webster was represented by LT Stuart Kirkby and Merle J. Smith. Neither believed that the charges would prevail for the government. They did not pursue details of Shelly's relationship with the other female cadets. They could not mention Katie Collela or call her to the stand, Captain Judge denied her as a defense witness. Besides Kristen Nicholson, she was the only person who could detail how and why she came forward. Her father had just been appointed the Dean of Students and wanted no part of it. This was not the only reason that Smith's attroneys did not further pursue Shelly. Shelly Raudenbush Wyman was charged with two UCMJ violations--including disobeying an order--by the Coast Guard Academy, to push her to cooperate. She consulted with an attorney before the Smith trial and would not testify in the May pre-trial hearing so that she would not incriminate herself. The academy did not give her prosecutorial or testimonial immunity until the day she testified.

Why did she come forward?

The only cadet that knew about Webster and Shelly's sexual relationship was then-cadet Katie Collela.
Katie Colella and Webster went out several times in November of 2005. Over Thanksgiving break when Webster decided to stay at the academy, he picked her up from Captain Collela's home in Ledyard, CT. They went out on the first of two or three dates, with the blessing of the Captain. The first night, they went to a club called Complex and outside of the Complex Webster told Katie about Shelly. Katie asked Webster to end it if he wanted to hang out with her.
Before the investigation, as the evidence revealed, Katie had not told the Regimental Commander about Shelly.
Katie played as integral of a role as Kristen Nicholson did in pushing the charges but when it came time to end Webster's career, she was nowhere on the charge sheet.
The circumstances around their relationship could not be crafted for a charge sheet and maybe she had a little more integrity than the others.
In February of 2006 when CAPT Wisniewski realized that Webster was not going to plead guilty to the original charges, he stood before the Corps of Cadets in the Chase Hall wardroom and asked for any additional female cadets to testify against Webster Smith.
Katie Collela, Shelly's track teammate, told Kristen of the conversation about Shelly. Kristen, the acting Regimental Commander, approached Shelly (Shelly admitted in trial) and several days later, she was interviewed by CGIS
Not only was there a question of criminal prosecution for Shelly, she squelched rumors to save her engagement to Grant Wyman by agreeing to help the girls with Webster Smith.
Shelly's fiance was not there to support her during any of the hearings or the trial
Shelly did not attend or testify against Webster at the sentencing hearing
Katie Collela was later kicked out on an Honor Violation
Webster's continued relationship with Shelly was never allowed into evidence in court. Breakfast and physical therapy in CDR Richard Shumway's office the next day, her lobbying webster to join the track team, and her frequent trips to Webster's dorm room to comfort him after several issues that Webster had with his ex-girlfriend Kristen Nicholson in early November were never allowed into evidence.
The court of appeals majority ruling stated that there was no reason for Shelly to misrepresent the truth in trial.

U.S. Constitution: Sixth Amendment
Sixth Amendment - Rights of Accused in Criminal Prosecutions

Amendment Text | Annotations
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Attorneys for former Coast Guard Academy cadet Webster Smith have filed a brief and a petition for review and appeal of his court-martial with the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. (Aug 2008). This is the last level of appeal before the U S Supreme Court.

1 comment:

ichbinalj said...

Attorneys for former Coast Guard Academy cadet Webster Smith have filed a brief and a petition for review and appeal of his court-martial with the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. (Aug 2008). This is the last level of appeal before the U S Supreme Court.