Accusations of abuse against a military service member should be vigorously contested but without exposing the military service member to criminal or administrative process. In a dispute between a husband and wife, frequently the only direct evidence available is the testimony of the parties. There are ways of contesting accusations of abuse in the military without having your client make a statement that may be used against him.
I represented an O-5 whose wife had accused him of beating her up. She called the Base Security Office (even though the parties lived off-base) and reported that her husband came home drunk and had punched her and thrown her down. She had pictures of bruising on her head and other places she offered as proof. In her statement she wrote that she “just wanted to make sure that he could not hurt her again.” The Base Commander issued a Military Protective Order requiring the officer to stay away from her as well as their off-base home.
His wife met with a FAP caseworker and reiterated her accusations. My client (on the advice of base legal counsel) declined to make any statement because any statement he made could be used against him. After meeting with the FAP caseworker, the accused could predict where his case (and his career) was headed it something were not done. He understood that his wife’s accusations (without contradiction) would likely end his career and he could wind up facing criminal charges at a court-martial. Also, as a Medical Officer, his ability to practice medicine could be in jeopardy as a result of the accusations.
At our initial meeting, the Officer revealed that his wife had a long history of alcoholism and frequently acted erratically when drunk and that she had been drinking heavily in recent months. On the evening at issue, the couple had been arguing after he discovered that she had charged up $10,000 on their credit card over the previous two months on drinking and related activities. He told me he never touched her even though she was frequently violent with him.
I also learned that he had helped raise her two daughters from a prior marriage and that they would support him against their mother. One daughter had petitioned for a Protective Order when her mother became drunk and abusive with her. Other family members recalled family parties where his wife become drunk and abusive. At one Thanksgiving party, his wife got drunk became angry and stormed out of the house. The family found her passed out drunk on a neighbor’s front lawn several blocks away. Also, her past employers and her DUI convictions attested to her ongoing struggles with alcohol abuse and her erratic behavior while drunk.
After taking statements from each of these witnesses, I attached the statements in a letter to the Commanding Officer. In the letter, I explained my client’s version of events that evening and gave a long history of his wife’s struggles with alcohol abuse and referenced each of the witness statements (which were enclosed with my letter). I sent a copy of the entire package to the FAP caseworker as well as to my client’s chain of command. In this way, I was able to place my client’s statement (as well as his witnesses) before the CO, the FAP case worker, the CRSC (as well as his supervisors) without the possibility of the statement being used against him in a court-martial or other hearing.