In The News
Though the vast majority of Mr. Culp's cases have been discretely resolved or litgated and have not been reported by the news media, Mr. Culp is well-versed in representing military clients in high-profile, media intensive cases. Mr. Culp's cases have appeared in nearly every major newspaper and news magazine in the United States. He is frequenly quoted in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and in hundreds of other newspapers across the nation.
Mr. Culp's cases have also been the subject of news documentaries such as 60 Minutes and Frontline, and Mr. Culp has personally appeared live on such broadcast network news outlets as CNN (Anderson Cooper 360), FOX News (Hannity's America), and NPR.
The United States military is an institution that deeply cares about public perception. Every branch of the U.S. military generally prohibits defense counsel from interacting with the press without prior approval. This is an important fact to consider if your case is a matter that is of public interest, or you believe that your commander or command would act differently toward you if the public knew about the facts of your case.
Mr. Culp and SFC Walter Taylor in Bamberg, Germany (Courtesy of Stars and Stripes)
Mr. Culp and PFC David Lawrence confer outside the courtroom at Fort Carson, Colorado. (Courtesy of Denver Post)
Mr. Culp speaks with a client and a witness outisde the courthouse at Fort Carson, Colorado.
Mr. Culp discusses the case of LCpl Justin Sharratt with Sean Hannity on FOX network's "Hannity's America."
|Mr. Culp speaks with reporters at a press conference following a court martial at Camp Pendleton, California.
Combat-Related Homicide Cases
** SFC Taylor Incident **Camp Liberty Incident **
PFC Lawrence Incident **
** Baghdad Canal Incident **
Haditha Incident **
Iskandariya Incident **
** Ramadi Incident **
Mahmudiya Incident **
Other Notable Cases
**Jalalabad Incident **
SGT Charles Jenkins ** LCpl Lance Hering **
The following news stories are representative of the news stories that have been published about Mr. Culp's cases.
SFC WALTER TAYLOR INCIDENT
4 Seconds in Afghanistan: Is it Combat or a Crime?
By Kim Murphy, The Los Angeles Times, June 10, 2012
Second 1: A figure dressed in dark, bulky clothing emerges.
Second 2: The figure begins walking towards the trunk.
Second 3: Taylor, with five wounded comrades behind him, sees a thin trigger wire seeming to snake directly towards the black car, Could there be a second bomb in the trunk?
Second 4: Taylor squeezes the trigger on his M-4 carbine. The figure crumbles to the dirt.
Taylor's civilian lawyer, James Culp, will argue at next week's hearing that every soldier is entitled to shoot in self-defense, no matter what the rules of engagement say. "Infantrymen who engage heavily armed combatants have fewer protections under the law then police officers," he contends. "Before criminal charges can be filed [against a police officer], it has to be demonstrated that no other police officer under those circumstances would have acted that way," he said. "But there's no such system for guys who are 100 times more likely to encounter a lethal scenario on a daily basis and die, and that's our soldiers."
Platoon SGT's Nightmare: He Made a Split Second Decision to Save His Men. Now he Faces Homicide Charges.
By Michelle Tan, The Army Times, June 23, 2012
A roadside bomb had thrown his platoon's 22-ton Buffalo vehicle 10 feet into the air, tossing it off the road like a toy. Five if his soldiers were wounded. Small-arms fire peppered the soldiers.
A black car sped towards the convoy, spinning to a halt as Taylor's gunners opened fire. Minuets went by and no one inside the black car moved.
But as Taylor and his soldiers walked toward the car, tracing a command wire that appeared to lead toward the car, a figure, dressed in black, emerged.
Fearing the person was going for a detonator or a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, Taylor fired his weapon. The figure dropped to the ground.
Pre-Trial hearing at Bamberg Opens for Soldier who Killed Afghan Civilian
By Steven Beardsley, The Stars and Stripes, June 20, 2012
Taylor, 31, is charged with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty after he allegedly shot and killed an Afghan doctor. The doctor, Aqilah Hikmat, and her family were traveling from a wedding party to Kabul when they inadvertently drove into the firefight, according to a 15-6 investigation, the administrative precursor to the criminal case against him.
An investigating officer in an Article 32 hearing, similar to a pre-trial hearing that began Wednesday will determine if those charges should be forwarded to a full court-martial.
The case centers on the military's rules of engagement and their application in the heat of combat: Does the instinct to defend oneself trump the stated rule that a soldier must positively identify a target before shooting?
Pre-Trial hearing for Soldier who killed Afghan civilian continues
By Steven Beardsley, The Stars and Stripes, June 21, 2012
Questioning on the second day of an Article 32 hearing for Sgt. 1st Class Walter Taylor focused on whether he established hostile intent before shooting an Afghan civilian who drove into a firefight with insurgents. Taylor, a route clearance platoon sergeant, is charged with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.
Army prosecutors argue that Taylor failed to positively identify hostile intent when he shot Dr. Aqilah Hikmat, a civilian who stepped out of a car that had arrived moments after the platoon hit a hidden bomb, and as insurgents attacked with small-arms fire, according to an Army investigation.
Taylor's lawyer says his client was relying on experience when he judged Hikmat to be dangerous — her car happened to stop over a command wire, similar to other command wires the platoon had found connected to roadside bombs in previous missions, according to testimony.
Soldier Who Killed Afgan Civilian Says he Felt Threat to His Men
By Steven Beardsley, The Stars and Stripes, June 22, 2012
After three days of testimony at an Article 32 hearing as to whether Taylor correctly followed rules of engagement to identify hostile intent before shooting Dr. Aqilah Hikmat, an investigating officer will soon make a recommendation as to the disposition of charges, which could include forwarding to court-martial.
In an unsworn statement Friday, Taylor apologized for the harm he had caused to both Hikmat's family and relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan, but he maintained his decision was the best possible under the circumstances. "Based on the facts available to me at the time, I believed the person dressed in black who exited the vehicle was a threat to me and my men," he said.
Ruling Opposes Court-Martial
By Kim Murphy, The Los Angeles Times, August 3, 2012
More than 5,600 people have signed on to a Facebook page in support of Taylor, who was seriously injured in a grenade attack a little more than a week after the firefight. The case has delayed his medical treatment in the U.S., needed to help repair his vision and reconstruct his face, which was severely disfigured in the attack.
Hart found no fault with the rules of engagement or with Taylor. He said the 31-year-old noncommissioned officer had complied with rules as well as could be expected.
Several members of the convoy had opened fire on Hikmat's car long before Taylor began approaching it, he noted, and at least one of them had positively identified it as hostile. "I find that a reasonable person, under these circumstances, with the training provided, and knowledge gained through daily operations, would determine that the vehicle's actions were the prelude to an imminent use of force against" the platoon, he said.
SGT's Court-Martial Rejected in Afghan Doc's Shooting
By Michelle Tan, The Army Times, August 13, 2012
Twelve days after the incident, Taylor and his men were on patrol when he was severely wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade. Taylor, who believes the attack way pay-back for Hikmat's death, was hit in the face.
Taylor said he is grateful for all for the support he has received, and he and his family look forward to moving on with their lives and getting the medical support he needs.
"I was looking at the picture of how I used to look and where I was going in my career," Taylor said. "And I looked at a picture from this year, and it was different, and it really reflected my heart and how much I've lost. My son asks me, 'Daddy when is your face going to get back to normal?' There is still an interesting road ahead, but it's something my family and I can deal with."
Charges Dropped Against SGT in Afghan Doctor's Death
By Michelle Tan, The Army Times, August 20, 2012
Culp blasted the system that put his client through months of hell and uncertainty.
"Consistent with the findings of Article 32 investigating officer, the dismissal of the charges against Sgt. 1st Class Taylor definitively answers the questions of his factual innocence," he said. "I am beyond relieved that Sgt. 1st class Taylor's case ended well for him, but I am not at all satisfied that service members have to first be charged with a crime to facilitate thorough and impartial investigations into questionable deaths resulting from combat actions. We can do better as a country than that.
Soldier is Cleared in Afghanistan Shooting
By Kim Murphy, The Los Angeles Times, August 10, 2012
Col. Darren L. Werner, commander of the Army's 16th Sustainment Brigade in Bamberg, Germany, released a charge sheet dismissing all counts after an investigating officer reported that there was insufficient evidence to support the charges.
The case has sparked widespread debate over the Army's rules of engagement in Afghanistan, which require soldiers to positively establish that a target is a non-civilian with hostile intent before using their weapons. Rarely in the past have service members faced homicide charges for split-second decisions made in the heat of combat.
"It's not just a victory for me; it's a victory for all the soldiers," Taylor said in an interview Thursday. "For all the soldiers that did great things down range [in Afghanistan]. They don't have to think in their mind that one of their comrades was being done wrong."
PFC DAVID LAWRENCE
Army Private Accused of Murder in Afghan Prisoner's Death
By Tony Perry, The Los Angeles Times, November 29, 2010
Lawrence's parents, Brett and Wendy Lawrence, said that their son had told them repeatedly in e-mail messages and phone calls that he was hearing voices, including one that told him how to avoid the buried roadside bombs that are the top killer of NATO and Afghan troops.
"He said those voices were guiding him and telling him what to do," Wendy Lawrence said. The Army has ordered a sanity board investigation. Lawrence's civilian lawyer, James Culp, was denied a request to delay the preliminary hearing, called an Article 32, until the sanity board reached its conclusions.
"We are going to an Article 32 for a kid who is hearing voices," Culp said. He said he was concerned the Army might be rushing the case to court-martial to appease Karzai.
A Chaplain's Ultimate Sacrafice for God and Country
By David Zucchino, The Los Angeles Times, December 2, 2010
Capt. Dale Goetz is the first chaplain killed in combat since the Vietnam War. Recalling the night before what would be his final mission in Afghanistan, his wife says, 'It was like he knew he wasn't coming back.'
Shortly before he left to visit the outposts, Goetz called his wife and told her, "This place is dangerous."
"He never said things like that," she recalled. "I got down on my knees and prayed."
A fellow soldier later told Christy that on the night before departing, Goetz said he believed his family would be well taken care of if he did not return. "It was like he knew he wasn't coming back," she said.
Another soldier, Pfc. David W. Lawrence, 20, became so close to Goetz that he was traumatized by his death, according to the soldier's father. Lawrence was subsequently charged with killing a Taliban prisoner in Afghanistan. Lawrence's parents and lawyer say combat stress, including Goetz's violent death, brought on Lawrence's depression and mental instability.
Accused Soldier: Blood-Thirsty Killer or Insane
By Tom Roeder, The Colorado Springs Gazette, November 30, 2010
During his guard shift, prosecutors say, Lawrence entered Mohebullah's cell and fired a single round from his rifle into the Afghan's face. The case drew worldwide attention after Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a blistering condemnation of the killing a day after Mohebullah died.
Fort Carson prosecutors on Tuesday portrayed a soldier charged in the killing of an Afghan prisoner as a malingerer who is hiding behind a defense of mental illness to shield him from the consequences of his crime.
Defenders of Pfc. David Edwards say the 1st Brigade Combat team soldier is suffering from mental illness and is so doped up on drugs to battle schizophrenia that he didn't understand the hearing on whether he'll be tried for premeditated murder, a charge that can bring the death penalty.
Defense attorney James Culp spent little time during the hearing on whether Lawrence pulled the trigger. Instead, he focused on his client's mental state.
He argued that the government shouldn't move ahead in the case until it's known whether Lawrence is sane.
"If the military cares what perceptions are of the military justice system, it sure hasn't been evident in this proceeding," Culp said.
Soldier's Trial has Broader Implications for Military's Treatment of Mental Health
By Kevin Vaughan The Denver Post, December 5, 2010
The questions raised in the case against Army Pfc.David Lawrence go far beyond whether he killed a shackled Taliban commander, or even whether he knew what he was doing when he pulled the trigger.
They stretch to the military itself, and how commanders deal with service members who have mental-health problems during a time that the United States is fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During a time when military men and women are repeatedly deployed in combat zones. During a time when, a recent investigation found, one in six members of the armed forces is taking psychiatric drugs.
"I thought he was a little unstable at times," Pfc. Dimitri Jenkins, a combat medic, said by telephone from Afghanistan as he testified at an Article 32 hearing called to determine whether enough evidence exists to court-martial Lawrence.
Jenkins took his concern to a sergeant, he testified, telling the man who would ultimately lead Lawrence on patrol in Afghanistan that "he's f------ crazy at times."
Army Struggles With Mental Health Amid 2 Long Wars
By Dan Elliot, The Associated Press, December 7, 2010
A baby-faced, chain-smoking infantryman who was on a prescribed antidepressant when he allegedly shot and killed a captured Taliban member is the latest challenge
to the Army's ability to address mental health problems in the ranks while fighting two lengthy wars.
During breaks, he went outside and smoked, often two cigarettes in quick succession.
Dimitri Andre Jenkins, a medic in Lawrence's platoon, testified that after Chaplain Dale Goetz was killed by an improvised bomb in August, he saw Lawrence "chain-smoking and looking at the ground, angry."
Lawrence's father, Brett Lawrence of Lawrenceburg, Ind., and lawyer Culp portray the soldier as a troubled young man from a family with a history of schizophrenia. Before the shooting, Lawrence was badly shaken by the deaths of two friends in Afghanistan, including a chaplain, his father and his lawyer said.
Soldier Faces Murder Trial Despite Mental Illness
By Dan Elliot, The Associated Press, February 1, 2011
The Army has decided to put a soldier on trial in the shooting death of an Afghan detainee, even though two Army doctors say the soldier was mentally ill at the time of the slaying and didn't realize his conduct was wrong.
Pfc. David Lawrence faces a court-martial on a charge of premeditated murder, the Army said Tuesday. If convicted, he could face execution or life in prison.
Lawrence's civilian defense lawyer, James Culp, said the decision was unprecedented.
"It doesn't seem very fair to drag David and his family through the court-martial," Culp said.
U.S. Soldier to Plead Guilty in Killing of Taliban Prisoner: Army PFC David Lawrence makes a plea deal for a reduced sentence, even though psychiatrists say he suffered severe mental illness at the time
By David S. Cloud, The Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2011
Pfc. David W. Lawrence is expected to receive a "substantially" reduced sentence for the killing of Mullah Mohebullah, a senior Taliban commander who was shot in the face last October while being guarded by Lawrence at a U.S. detention facility in Kandahar province, said James Culp, the defendant's lawyer.
Lawrence had been charged with premeditated murder in military court. The plea deal will spare Lawrence from a possible life sentence without parole, the minimum punishment he faced if convicted on the charge under military law.
It will also shield the Army from the controversy over locking up a 20-year-old soldier for the rest of his life after its own doctors diagnosed him with schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Soldier Pleads Guilty to Killing Jailed Taliban Commander
By Kevin Vaughan, The Denver Post, May 26, 2011
FORT CARSON — Calmly, in a deliberate, emotionless voice, a young soldier described unlocking a cell door inside a U.S. compound in Afghanistan, raising his rifle, pulling the trigger and shooting a captured Taliban commander in the face.
"I walked out," Pfc. David Lawrence said at his court-martial Wednesday, "locked the cell door, and called up to highers." Lawrence's admission came after he pleaded guilty Wednesday to premeditated murder in the killing of a man identified as Mullah Mohebullah — a shooting that Afghan President Hamid Karzai termed an "assassination" and that raised questions about whether enough attention was being paid to mental-health issues among service members.
Culp told the judge that humans kill for many reasons — jealousy, money, power, the love of a woman. Not just anybody, he said, could kill for money or jealousy. "But deep in the heart of every man and woman is the deep capacity, the dark capacity, for revenge," Culp said.
Carson Soldier in Taliban Slaying Tries Suicide in Prison: has sentenced reduced to 10 years
By Dan Elliot, The Associated Press,October,
David Lawrence could have faced execution or life in prison on the premeditated murder charge. He pleaded guilty in exchange for a 12 1/2-year sentence.
Last week, the acting commander at Fort Carson, Brig. Gen. James Doty, trimmed that to 10 years after a clemency appeal from Lawrence's attorney, James Culp. Lawrence could now be released after about eight years with time off for good behavior,
Culp said Doty's order reducing the sentence didn't state his reasons. He didn't immediately respond to a request for comment through an Army spokesman.
CAMP LIBERTY INCIDENT
In Wake of Soldier Shootings and Suicides, Leaders Cite Mental Health Effects of Long-Term War
By Michelle Tan, The Army Times, May 15, 2009
The two shootings, along with suicide numbers that have increased steadily over the past four years and long, repeated deployments in two war zones, have led some to wonder if the Army — and its soldiers — have reached a breaking point. In response to the incidents, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli told Army Times the force is "into uncharted territory" in terms of what the long war is doing to soldiers.
"A lot of different factors make someone more protected or more at risk," said Bret Moore, a clinical psychologist and former captain who deployed twice to Iraq. "There's a cumulative effect with multiple deployments," he added. "The more times you're exposed to traumatic events, the greater chance to develop [problems]. It increases your risk." That statement is backed up by studies that show multiple deployments put soldiers at a higher risk level for combat stress and behavioral issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress, said Lt. Col. Ed Brusher, deputy director for behavioral health proponency at the Office of the Surgeon General.
Death of Psychiatrist and Other Soldiers Triggers Inquiry Into Military's Mental Health Care
By Arline Kaplan, Psychiatric Times, July 6, 2009
Alarmed by the rising suicide rate among soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and "wanting to help," Matthew "Matt" Houseal, MD, a psychiatrist with the Texas Panhandle Mental Health Mental Retardation Center (TPMHMR), reenlisted as an Army Reservist and volunteered to serve in Iraq.
Last month, Houseal, 54, of Amarillo, Tex, and Navy Cdr Charles "Keith" Springle, PhD, 52, a clinical social worker from Wilmington, NC, were working in the combat stress center at Camp Liberty in Baghdad when Army Sgt John M. Russell allegedly opened fire. Houseal and Springle were killed along with 3 soldiers awaiting treatment: Pfc Michael E. Yates Jr, 19, of Maryland; Spc Jacob D. Barton, 20, of Missouri; and Sgt Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, 25, of New Jersey.
Accused Soldier's Family Searches for Answers:Sgt, John Russell is awaiting a hearing on the slaying of five fellow troops. Convction could carry death sentence. His anguished relatives say he hadn't been himself, and snapped under stress
By Tony Perry, The Los Angeles Times, July 26, 2009
Russell, 44, is in custody in Kuwait, awaiting an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing. Under military law, a conviction can carry a death sentence; the minimum is life in prison. In more than seven years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, there have been a handful ofcases of alleged attacks between U.S. troops -- but never one in which a soldier stands accused of killing five colleagues.
The Russell case also brings up issues of how well the Army is evaluating the mental health of troops in the combat zones, many of whom, like Russell, have endured repeated deployments. The Army is now studying the psychological services available to soldiers in Iraq.
No Death Penalty in 09' Iraq Deaths
By John Milburn, Associated Press,
September 19, 2011
An Army sergeant accused of killing five service members at an Iraq military base's mental health clinic should be tried for murder but should not face the possibility of execution because he suffers from serious mental illness, a military judge recommended.
Sgt. John Russell, who is accused of opening fire at the combat stress center at Camp Liberty near Baghdad in May 2009, should be held accountable for his actions and face a court martial on the five counts of premeditated murder he faces, Col. James Pohl wrote in his recommendations issued Friday. "However, in my opinion, the accused undisputed mental disease or defect make the death penalty inappropriate in this case," wrote Pohl, who presided over a four-day preliminary hearing in August at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where Russell is being jailed.
Soldier Faces 5 Murder Charges in 2009 Shootings at Iraq Clinic:Faces death penalty despite judge's recommendation
By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times, May 18, 2012
A soldier accused of gunning down five fellow soldiers at a mental health clinic in Iraqafter reportedly being harshly admonished and laughed at by Army psychologists has been ordered to face a court-martial on charges of premeditated murder and could face the death penalty, the Army announced Friday. The recommendation to refer Sgt. John Russell on capital charges overturns the recommendation of the investigating officer who initially heard his case — the chief judge of the Guantanamo Bay war crimes court. He advised ruling out the death penalty because of the troubled sergeant's "undisputed mental disease."
Capital Punishment Rare for Killers in the U.S. military: Last execution was in 1961; two big cases unlikely to break pattern
By Adam Ashton, the Oregonian, June 18, 2012
Two soldiers are awaiting courts-martial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on multiple charges of murder that could send them to the Army's death row. But recent history suggests a military jury would be reluctant to use that punishment on defendants whose alleged crimes were committed in a combat zone.
Of the two, the soldier accused of turning a weapon on fellow servicemembers in Iraq is more likely to face the death penalty than the Stryker infantryman who allegedly slaughtered Afghan civilians unprovoked – at least based on the military's record in court.
Soldier: "I just did it out of rage": A U.S. Army Sergeant pleads guilty in the shooting deaths of five fellow service members in Iraq
By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times, April 23, 2013
With a family history of depression, Russell's case was severe, doctors said, tinged with "psychotic features" and post-traumatic stress disorder. A recent scan found that, possibly due to previous injuries, the areas of Russell's brain that govern impulse control and fear were not functioning properly. After a confrontation with his commanding lieutenant over the workplace issue, Russell said, "I personally cannot remember being more angry at any point in my life."
"I said he needed to either legitimately help me or send me back to my unit so I could kill myself," he recounted. Jones, he said, "leaned over very close to me" and put his hands on both sides of Russell's face. "He said, 'You're fixed.' "
Russell said he walked out with Jones following him, and in the parking lot he was yelling at me, and I was yelling back." "I looked up and said, 'It's all right, sir. You made your choice.'… He had made the decision not to help me, which means it was all right for me to kill myself.… He replied, 'No soldier, you made your decision.' "
Testimony Recounts Deadly Medical Clinic Chaos
By Michelle Tan, The Army Times, May 3, 2013
Amy Sgt. John M. Russell "was finished fighting" and wished someone "would put a bullet in my head," he told the court as he pleaded guilty April 22 to killing five service members at the Camp Liberty combat stress clinic in Iraq. In exchange for his guilty plea, Russell will avoid the death penalty for the May 11, 2009, shooting on one of the U.S. military's largest bases in Iraq.
But Russell refused to plead guilty to the premeditated killing of four soldiers and one Navy officer, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole, and attorneys will argue this portion of the case beginning May 6 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Five Killings at Camp Liberty in Iraq: Calculation or Despair
By Kim Murphy, The Los Angeles Times,May 11, 2013
The court-martial of Army Sgt. John Russell concluded Saturday with a military judge asked to decide whether the 14-year Army veteran was deluded by depression and despair as he shot five fellow service members in Iraq, or was executing a calculated plan of revenge against psychiatrists who had blocked his hopes for an early exit from the Army.
Defense lawyers presented testimony from a leading forensic psychiatrist and the Army's mental health board, which found that Russell suffered from severe depression with psychotic features and post-combat stress. A brain scan, they said, showed damage to the part of his brain that affects impulse control. Russell, on his fifth combat deployment, had long sought help with sleep troubles — a colleague videotaped him crying in his sleep — and was stammering and crying for help in the days before the shooting. His commanders were so alarmed that they disarmed him and sent him for repeated visits to mental health clinics, civilian defense lawyer James Culp noted.
Sgt. John Russell Sentenced to Life WIthout Parole for Killing Five at Baghdad Clinic
By Adam Ashton, The News Tribune,May 16, 2013
An Army judge on Thursday handed down the toughest sentence he could to a soldier who murdered five fellow service members at a Baghdad combat stress clinic four years ago.
Sgt. John Russell will serve life without parole for shooting to death two care providers, two patients and an escort at the clinic in Baghdad's Camp Liberty on May 11, 2009.
"You are not a monster," Army Judge Col. David Conn said at Russell's sentencing, according to Reuters.
"But you have knowingly and deliberately done incredibly monstrous things." "Sgt. Russell, you have forced many to drink from a bitter cup. That cup is now before you," Conn told Russell.
Russell, 48, had faced the death penalty going into the first phase of his court-martial last month. The Army capped his penalty at a life sentence when Russell agreed to plead guilty to killing the service members.
BAGHDAD CANAL INCIDENT
The Good Soldier
By William Langewiesche, Vanity Fair, July 2015
At 26, Army Staff Sergeant Jess Cunningham had a bright future. He'd been handpicked for Alpha Company - nicknamed "Wolf Pack" - by its hard driving, charismatic First Sergeant, John Hatley. Then, in Iraq, during the surge of 2007, Hatley changed the rules. Dissecting a cold-blooded war crime, and the military's response, William Langewiesche reveals how a warrior fought to become something more: a better man.
Charges Dropped Against Soldier in Iraq Shootings
By Seth Robson, The Stars and Stripes, February 13, 2009
The Army has dropped all charges against a 172nd Infantry Brigade soldier who was allegedly involved in the execution of four Iraqi men in Baghdad last year.
Staff Sgt. Jess Cunningham, 27, faced charges of conspiracy to commit premeditated murder for his role in the alleged execution of the Iraqis by three U.S. non-commissioned officers in April 2007. However, on Thursday the Joint Multinational Training Command (JMTC), which is the convening authority for the case, withdrew and dismissed all charges against Cunningham, according to JMTC deputy public affairs officer Denver Makle.
Cunningham blew the whistle on the killings in January last year, revealing them to Capt. Richard Newman, an Army trial defense attorney. Newman then passed the information to a CID special agent without negotiating immunity for his client, Cunningham’s civilian lawyer, James Culp, said in August.
GIs Go From Informants to Defendants
Defense Lawyer claims soldiers unfairly faced hearing after helping investigators with case of four detainee deaths in Iraq
By Matt Millham, The Stars and Stripes, September 1, 2008
It was after dark, but still early, on a night in April 2007 when 1st Sgt. John E. Hatley allegedly huddled with his troops in the motor pool of their grimy combat outpost in southwest Baghdad and told them not to talk about what just happened. He directed some of the junior guys to burn the blindfolds and plastic handcuffs and to wash the blood off the Bradley.
But in January, Staff Sgt. Jess Cunningham came forward to reveal the alleged crime committed by three members of Company A, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.
CID apparently sought statements from everybody who’d been on the patrol, except for Cunningham, according to Culp. Six soldiers were granted testimonial immunity from prosecution, but not Cunningham or Quigley. Culp insists the government has singled out his client.
The reason for that omission, Culp said in his closing statement, is that if they asked the question, they would have known the truth: "Cunningham wasn’t a part of this." Culp told the investigating officer, Maj. Lobash, that his client was no hero for coming forward after the alleged slayings, and probably could have done something to try to stop them. But, he said, "Failure to act like a hero doesn’t make you a criminal."
Army Hearing on Deaths of 4 Iraqis Ends
By Matt Millham, The Stars and Stripes, August 29, 2008
Attorneys delivered their closing statements Thursday in an Article 32 investigation that will be used to determine whether two Army junior noncommissioned officers face courts-martial on charges of conspiracy to commit premeditated murder.
James Culp, Cunningham’s civilian attorney, told Lobash that Navarro’s testimony was unreliable. "Navarro took the stand and he told you, ‘I made a false statement to CID,’" Culp said, referring to the Army’s criminal investigation branch.
He also noted that nearly every witness who testified at the Article 32 received immunity for their truthful testimony, and had received non-judicial punishment for their roles in the killings, "yet they cooperated far less" than Quigley, who wore a wire for nearly three weeks to help investigators.
U.S. Army Article 32 Investigation Ends
International Herald Tribune, August 28, 2008
A military court wrapped up a hearing on Thursday about whether two U.S. soldiers should be court-martialed in the killing of four bound, blindfolded Iraqis last year. A decision isn't likely for several weeks. The Article 32 hearing heard testimony and statements from witnesses that the Iraqi men were shot in the head and dumped in a Baghdad canal in April 2007 as retribution for casualties suffered by U.S. soldiers with the 172nd Infantry Brigade in Iraq.
An Article 32 hearing is equivalent to a civilian preliminary hearing to determine whether there insufficient evidence for a court-martial. Defense lawyers representing Staff Sgt. Jess Cunningham and Sgt. Charles Quigley pointed to two days of testimony that showed their clients didn't participate in the killings and had little, if any, knowledge of them.
James Culp, a civilian lawyer representing Cunningham, said the hearing hinged on a number of betrayals from the actual incident through the investigation, and even to some of the testifying witnesses. He said that while Cunningham may or may not have had a questionable degree of knowledge of the event, that did not constitute the conspiracy to commit murder charges the U.S. government is considering.
Witness: GIs Were Not At Shooting Scene
By Matt Millham, The Stars and Stripes, August 28, 2008
According to Adkins, the basis for the entire investigation into the murder of four Iraqi detainees in either late March or early April 2007 stemmed from a statement forwarded by Cunningham’s lawyer at the time.
The lawyer, Capt. Richard Newman, contacted Adkins around Jan. 10 to discuss with him a client "who had info about some homicides he had witnessed," Adkins said under questioning by James Culp, Cunningham’s civilian attorney.
The contents of the statement haven’t been made public, and Culp lobbied the hearing’s investigating officer to disregard the statement. Because the statement was made presumably without Cunningham’s consent and using information he’d given to Newman, Culp argued that considering the statement would amount to having his statements used against him.
Will Marine Show Trials End?
By Nathaniel R. Helms, Newsmax, March 30, 2008
The tarnished image of the Marine Corps continues to darken as more trials, more acquittals and more scandals corrode the brightly burnished steel that armors America’s premier fighting force.
Defense attorneys and beleaguered Marines say their cherished Corps’ surprise decision Friday to dismiss criminal charges against a Marine infantryman accused of mass murder at Haditha, Iraq, is just another billboard announcing the troubles plaguing Marine Corps morale today. Loyalty up and down the ranks, the bedrock on which the 232-year old fighting force was built, is under attack.
“First the Corps takes their innocence and then the enemy tries to take their life, and then when they finally come home the government tries to take their freedom,” said James Culp, a military defense lawyer in Austin, Texas, who worked on the Haditha case for more than a year. “When does it ever end?”
It is an honest question.
General Dismisses Charges Against 2 Marines in Haditha Case
Associated Press, August 10, 2007
All charges have been dismissed against two Marines accused in the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha, the Marine Corps announced Thursday.
Lance Cpl. Justin L. Sharratt, 22, of Canonsburg, Pa., was charged with murdering three brothers, and Capt. Randy Stone, 35, a battalion lawyer from Dunkirk, Md., was charged with failing to adequately report and investigate the Nov. 19, 2005, combat action in which women and children were among the dead. Sharratt attorney Culp criticized Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents for their role in the case.
"This was a terrible investigation that was biased from the beginning," Culp said. "This Article 32 could have been avoided if the NCIS had not closed their eyes to every single piece of exculpatory evidence that arose."
General Drops Charges for Two Marines in Haditha Shootings
By Teri Figueroa, North County Times, August 9, 2007
In dismissing the charges facing Sharratt and Stone, Mattis' written statement noted the realities and brutalities of war. "The experience of combat is difficult to understand intellectually and very difficult to appreciate emotionally," the statement reads. "Where the enemy disregards any attempt to comply with ethical norms of warfare, we exercise discipline and restraint to protect the innocent caught on the battlefield. Our way is right, but it is also difficult." Sharratt's attorney Culp said that Mattis' decision was welcome, and his client is "speechless."
"You have to put yourself in his position. He survived Fallujah. He survived close quarters combat in Haditha. He survived this prosecution," the East Coast-based Culp said in a phone conversation Thursday morning. "I don't know that he will be able to have a clear thought on this for a long time."
A Day When Death is on the Minds of Many at Base
A memorial for eight Marines follows final arguments in a hearing on alleged murders.
By Tony Perry, The LA Times, June 16, 2007
The accusations against Sharratt are part of the largest case of alleged war atrocities levied against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan: Four officers and three enlisted Marines, all from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment, are accused in the killings of 24 civilians in Haditha. After prosecutors made their final pitch to have the case against Sharratt go to court-martial, hearing officer Lt. Col. Paul Ware said he was strongly leaning against making such a recommendation.
The five-day Article 32 hearing was rife with disagreements about forensic evidence, various witnesses' credibility and the thoroughness of the investigators' work. But there was one point that prosecutors, defense attorneys and the hearing officer agreed on. No one at the memorial service would have argued about it either. "Sir," defense attorney James Culp told Ware, "people die in war."
Hearing Officer: Evidence Does Not Support Murder Case
By Mark Walker, North County Times, June 15, 2007
Defense attorney James Culp centered his summation, which is similar to a closing argument, on the forensic evidence, saying it fully supports Sharratt's account.
The Marine told Ware on Thursday that he emptied his 9mm pistol in the process of shooting the three men. When his clip was emptied, Wuterich followed into the room, shooting a fourth man with his M-16 rifle.
"The most important element is the forensics," Culp said. "The evidence completely corroborates Lance Cpl. Sharratt's story." Culp also suggested that the prosecution of his client is colored by politics surrounding the civilian deaths in Haditha, which generated worldwide condemnation when first reported by Time magazine in March 2006.
Until then, the Marine Corps maintained the civilians died when caught up in a bombing and in crossfire from a small arms attack on the troops. "This is a new kind of war, and this case is a result of the new kind of warfare," Culp said, referring to insurgents who do not wear uniforms and mix within the civilian population. "There's also politics involved here, and the politics of the war is tearing at this nation."
U.S. Inquiry Hampered By Violence
By Paul Von Zielbauer, New York Times, June 13, 2007
Two naval investigators testified at a military hearing here on Tuesday that their inquiry into allegations that marines killed 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha in 2005 was hampered by insurgent bombs and gunfire as well as the absence of basic equipment like tape recorders.
Nayda Mannle, a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said she had conducted a hurried group interview of six relatives of the men killed three months earlier, rapidly jotting notes of the translation of their overlapping responses as American troops stood outside, ready to fend off any attack by enemy fighters.
James D. Culp, a civilian lawyer defending Corporal Sharratt, suggested that group interviews had been “contradictory to everything you have been taught.” Ms. Mannle said she did not have time to conduct separate interviews or review her notes before the marines said it was time to leave. She did not record the interview, she said, because she could not find a recorder, but when pressed by Mr. Culp, she said she never sought to buy one from the post exchange.
By Diana West, Washington Times, April 11, 2008
This is where pounding outrage over an injustice to an American soldier — who at least deserves the benefit of the doubt — turns to a sickening sense that what has gone wrong here is even bigger than Sgt. Vela's personal tragedy. It may well be as big as the entire U.S. effort to prevail in Iraq. Let's go back to the scene of the so-called crime: an area outside Iskandariya, which as recently as last May was Sunni "Triangle of Death" Central.
Well, he was. To the question "why," I can only offer more questions: Is it possible that Evan Vela's Baghdad court martial was all for show? And can his punishment be seen as a sacrificial offering to any of our Iraqi "allies"?
American Sniper Hung Out to Dry
By Marcia Drezon-Trepler, New York Daily News, March 30, 2008
On elevated ground near Iskandariyah, Iraq, two years later, American snipers faced the same dilemma: kill or release two civilians who had discovered their hideout, Genei Nesir Khudair al-Janabi and his 17-year-old son, Mustafa. The SEALs and snipers, facing stunningly similar situations, would make radically different choices - with radically different results.
Our military should have told the Iraqi government "that sometimes there are hard choices that have to be made" and that civilians will sometimes be killed, Vela's attorney, James Culp, told me.
The Six-Letter Word That Changes Everything
By Tom Junod, Esquire Magazine, July 2008
They thought instead of assurance they were being offered license. They thought that Balcavage and Knight were revising the ROE instead of clarifying them, with perception of threat trumping
evidence of threat as the rationale for pulling the trigger. Most significantly, they thought—and later, they testified in court—that they were being pressured by Balcavage and Knight for more production, in the way of “increased kills." . .
It was a reminder that the natural divide between officer and enlisted man could turn into a divide between accuser and accused, and so when Sergeant Major Knight said, at the end of the meeting, “Now, we don’t want to turn you guys into murderers or anything,” he believed he was saying what had to be said, and that neither he nor Balcavage nor anyone else ever encouraged the snipers to commit murder. What Murphy remembers, however, was saying to himself: “Okaaaaay, what did he say
that for? They’re up telling us to go out and kill people. What’s he talking about murder for? Who the hell ever said anything about
Idaho Politicians Calling for Clemency for Local Soldier Convicted of Murder
Associated Press, April 5, 2008
Two Idaho politicians are calling for clemency for a local soldier who was court marshaled and convicted of murder without premeditation. Senator Mike Crapo and Representative Mike Simpson have each written letters to Major General Rick Lynch on behalf of Sergeant Evan Vela of St. Anthony.
G.I. Gets 10-Year Sentence in Killing of Unarmed Iraqi
By Solomon Moore, The New York Times, February 11, 2008
“An armed warrior who operates in the backyard of the enemy without sleep is an accident waiting to happen,” Mr. Culp said. “These men were extremely sleep deprived. No one was thinking clearly; no one was acting clearly. You couldn’t expect anything reasonable from these men anymore.”
Sergeant Vela’s adoptive father, Curtis Carnahan, and the sergeant’s wife described a compassionate family man who had never used violence until he became so proficient at it in Iraq. Sergeant Vela used his father’s surname until he joined the military.
Sgt. Anthony G. Murphy, a member of Sergeant Vela’s sniper team and his best friend, said they had gone on at least 45 combat missions together and had been shot at five times. “It’s a terrible war out there,” Sergeant Murphy said. “And you have to make tough decisions. This war doesn’t provide that luxury to be perfect.”
Murder Verdict in Iraq: Sleepless but Guilty
By Jim Frederick, TIME, February 10, 2008
Despite his best efforts to remain vigilant, Vela fell asleep during his one-hour turn guarding the others. He was awakened by Al-Janabi who had somehow gotten into their hideout and was standing just a few feet from him. Some of the men were so exhausted that they were difficult to rouse, even when told their position had been compromised. Once Hensley awoke and processed the seriousness of the situation, he took charge, pinning the man to the ground and searching him. The men spotted Al-Janabi's 15-year-old son nearby and gestured him into the hideout. Soon after, however, Hensley ordered everyone but Vela out of the hideout and released the boy. "I just sat there, in a kind of daze, with my pistol propped on my knee," Vela told the court. Then, Vela testified, Henlsey moved out of the way and said shoot. Vela did. But, said Vela, his response was a reflex and not a conscious decision. "I don't remember pulling the trigger," he said. "It took me a while to figure out that the shot had come from the pistol in my hand."
During closing arguments, Culp recapped several issues introduced during the trial that he said called the murder charge into doubt. He emphasized a medical expert's testimony about just how dangerous extended sleeplessness can be. In one study he cited, test subjects whose blood alcohol level was .05 performed better at a driving simulator than those who had been kept awake for 24 hours. And cognitive function and memory retention declines exponentially as one day without sleep stretches into two and then three. "This is the elephant in the room," Culp said. "How completely, utterly, totally sleep deprived these men were. This killing was not murder, but a horrible accident committed by a severely impaired soldier."
G.I. Tells of Ordering Unarmed Iraqi’s Death
By Solomon Moore, The New York Times, February 9, 2008
Sergeant Vela’s lawyer, James Culp, of Austin, Tex., did not dispute that his client had shot and killed Mr. Janabi, but emphasized the battlefield stresses the soldiers endured. Mr. Culp argued that Sergeant Vela had had only a few hours of sleep over three days of constant operations.
Mr. Culp also said his client’s superiors pressed his squad to increase their kill rate, while holding out the threat of prosecution for unjust shootings.
“It’s not a case of beyond reasonable doubt,” Mr. Culp said in an interview after Friday’s proceeding. “It’s about giving warriors the benefit of the doubt.”
Murder or Exhaustion in Iraq
By Jim Frederick, TIME, February 8, 2008
A trial unfolding in a makeshift courthouse in a dusty corner of the U.S. Army's main Baghdad base camp complex is demonstrating in stark and dramatic terms just how far some American soldiers are being pushed on the battlefield, just how doggedly the Army is willing to pursue serious alleged crimes like murder — and just how interested the Iraqi government is in the process.
As the first day of testimony in what is expected to be a four day trial kicked off on Friday before an eight-person jury of both officers and enlisted soldiers, Vela's civilian defense attorney James Culp argued that his client was not guilty of murdering Genei Nesir Khudair Al-Janabi because, at the time Vela pulled the trigger, he was so sleep-deprived and dehydrated after four days of non-stop battlefield action that he was neither in control of his actions nor fully aware of what he was doing. "It was a terrible accident," Culp said outside the courtroom during a recess, "but Evan didn't intentionally shoot anyone."
Iraq's Minister of Human Rights, Wijdan Mikhail Salim, however, does not see the case as either a justified kill or a horrific accident by an exhaustion-impaired soldier. She was attending today's proceedings, she told TIME, because, "I want to be sure that any American soldier who wrongs an Iraqi will go on trial. [Vela] killed an Iraqi man, an unarmed man. He must be punished."
Sniper Accused of Murder Disputes Statements
By Ned Parker, The Los Angeles Times, December 8, 2007
According to court testimony and interviews, Vela's sniper unit was revamped in spring after the 1st Battalion of the 25th Infantry Division's 501st Regiment suffered a number of casualties in the Jurf Sakhar region. By June, as many as 20 soldiers had been killed. In an interview, the unit's leader, Sgt. Michael S. Hensley, who was acquitted of murder charges, said that Sgt. Maj. Bernie Knight brought him in to get more kills.
"The reason I am doing this is I want to start killing some bad guys, I want to increase our kill ratio," Hensley said Knight told him.
Hensley said he agreed on the condition that he would run the section by himself and report directly to the battalion commander. The unit expanded from seven to 13 men. Knight and Lt. Col. Robert Balcavage pushed the soldiers to become more aggressive, Hensley said. "Balcavage and Knight, they would throw out their things like, 'You guys don't need to worry if you feel threatened for a second, don't hesitate to engage.' "
Knight and Balcavage refused to comment for this article. Their commander, Col. Michael Garrett, said they had done nothing wrong. "We were all under pressure fighting an elusive enemy," he said.
"To get me to make a statement, they threatened me that I would never see my family again. After I made the statement, CID actually sat down at the computer and changed my statement without me knowing it," Vela said in an unsworn statement at a hearing last month to determine whether his case would go to trial.
Vela was held for 30 days in Kuwait without seeing a court-appointed lawyer, who then recommended by phone that Vela waive his right to an Article 32 hearing, the equivalent of a grand jury, to determine whether the case should go to court-martial.
Sniper Team Tells of Pressure From Above
By Ned Parker, The Los Angeles Times, October 5, 2007
Here they were, hardened combat soldiers, grounded on a military base far from the palm groves, canals and marshes where they once prowled.
But at least for a moment this week, they were still the Painted Demons, the elite sniper unit that struck fear in the so-called triangle of death south of Baghdad. That couldn't be taken away: not by breaking them up, as the Army had done, and not even by the murder trials of three of their members at Camp Victory.
They surrounded Sgt. Evan Vela, whose preliminary hearing on murder charges began Sunday morning. Vela, a stocky 23-year-old, bear-hugged them, smiling and laughing. He looked nothing like the man who had broken down on the witness stand days before, at the trial of a fellow sniper.
"Our government is asking our soldiers and Marines to make morally bruising decisions under the most horrific conditions imaginable," Culp added. "When the government doesn't like the results, they isolate and vilify the soldier while hiding behind security clearances, classifications and unreasonable expectations."
In Iraq, A Perilous Alliance With Former Enemies
By Sudarsan Raghaven, The Washington Post, August 4, 2007
U.S. commanders are offering large sums to enlist, at breakneck pace, their former enemies, handing them broad security powers in a risky effort to tame this fractious area south of Baghdad in Babil province and, literally, buy time for national reconciliation.
American generals insist they are not creating militias. In contracts with the U.S. military, the sheiks are referred to as "security contractors." Each of their "guards" will receive 70 percent of an Iraqi policeman's salary. U.S. commanders call them "concerned citizens," evoking suburban neighborhood watch groups.
"Officially, we will not deal with those who have American blood on their hands," said Balcavage, 42. "But how do you know? You don't. There's a degree of risk involved. A lot of it is gut instinct. That's what I'm going on. They didn't teach me how to do this at West Point."
The Jenabi splintered. Some sided with the al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters out of fear. Others joined because they wanted to isolate themselves from the region's Shiites and their militias. Those who refused to align were targeted, often by their own tribesmen. "The Jenabi tribe, the problem they're having is that the al-Qaeda is them," Balcavage said.
Killing by Guardsman in Iraq Called Appropriate
By Josh White, The Washington Post, July 22, 2006
An investigating officer in Baghdad has recommended that commanders drop voluntary manslaughter and conspiracy charges against a Pennsylvania National Guard soldier after determining that he followed appropriate rules of engagement when he killed an Iraqi man in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi in February.
"It is very rare for an Article 32 investigating officer to recommend the dismissal of all charges against an accused," Culp said yesterday. "The charges against Specialist Lynn were very serious. The investigating officer's well-grounded recommendation in Specialist Lynn's case demonstrates the Uniform Code of Military Justice at its best."
In Baghdad, a Courtroom for U.S. Troops
By Paul Von Zielbauer, New York Times, June 22, 2006
In a musty courtroom overlooking a weed-choked lake created on orders from Saddam Hussein, Specialist Nathan B. Lynn and Sgt. Milton Ortiz Jr. sat quietly in a military hearing known as an Article 32, accused of crimes against two Iraqi citizens.
Specialist Lynn denied both the manslaughter and conspiracy charges. He said that he had spotted Mr. Zaben emerging from bushes carrying an automatic rifle in the "low ready" position and that he had fired at him. He said he had nothing to do with a scheme to plant a weapon near Mr. Zaben's body.
Specialist Lynn's military lawyer, Capt. James D. Culp, said Article 32 hearings rarely resulted in recommendations for dismissal of serious charges like manslaughter, although he called it appropriate in this case. "It showed that the military justice system does work," he said.
U.S. military clears soldier of killing Iraqi
Pa. Guardsman had been accused of murder, cover-up in Ramadi
By Reuters, MSNBC, July 23, 2006
Charges were brought against Lynn last month at a time when several murder investigations into U.S. troops in Iraq have prompted questions about their behavior and complaints from the new Iraqi government about a culture of impunity among soldiers.
“The commander ... has withdrawn ... the charges,” a military spokesman said on Saturday. “He is now authorized to rejoin his unit in Pennsylvania.” Lynn, a 21-year-old Pennsylvania National Guardsman, was accused of voluntary manslaughter and conspiracy to obstruct justice over the death of Gani Ahmed Zaben during a raid on a suspect’s house in the western city of Ramadi on Feb. 15.
“I am very pleased that Specialist Lynn was vindicated this early in the process,” his military counsel, Captain Jim Culp, told Reuters.
SERGEANT CHARLES JENKINS
From Hell With Love
By Jim Frederick, TIME, October 17, 2005
Knowing how badly my wife missed Japan, it wasn't long after we were married that I asked her what the Japanese word for "good night" was. Thereafter, every night before we went to bed, I would kiss her three times, and tell her "Oyasumi." Then she would say back to me, "Good night," in English. It became a ritual from which we never varied. We always wished each other a pleasant night's sleep in the other's native language. We did this so we would never forget who we really were and where we came from. Even though we were in love and thankful to be together, we did this to remind ourselves that this place was not really our home, and that no matter what happened, she was still Japanese, and I was still American.
In From the Cold
By Jim Frederick, TIME, December 5, 2004
During a day of dramatic testimony on Nov. 3, veteran defense lawyer Captain Jim Culp, himself a former infantry sergeant, argued that Jenkins shouldn't do time. Culp presented his client as a broken man who had suffered so severely under North Korea's brutal regime that compassion could only dictate he had already paid for his crimes. Colonel Denise Vowell, the Army's chief judge, apparently agreed. She recommended to the commander of the U.S. Army Japan that the 30-day sentence be suspended for clemency's sake. The commander, Major General Elbert Perkins, ignored the suggestion, although according to standard Army confinement rules, Jenkins' sentence was ultimately reduced by five days for good behavior. "I have made my peace with the U.S. Army," Jenkins said after his release, "and they have treated me very fairly.
The Long Mistake
By Jim Frederick, TIME, November 4, 2004
In his closing arguments, prosecuting attorney Captain Seth Cohen argued for stern justice, asserting that being a good husband and father was irrelevant to this case. "The bond between a noncommissioned officer and his soldiers is a sacred bond," he maintained, "more sacred perhaps than the bond of marriage." Cohen accused Jenkins of a "deliberate, selfish and despicable act."
In his closing arguments, Culp called Jenkins "America's prodigal son." "Like the Bible story we all know so well," said Culp, "Jenkins took his treasure, in this case, his freedom, and squandered it." But given the first realistic opportunity, Culp maintained, Jenkins returned, to repent and face justice. At the end of the day, and a 40-year journey, Jenkins appeared to be closer to his and his wife's publicly declared desire that he be allowed to live out the rest of his years on Soga's home island of Sado. As he was whisked away by helicopter to begin his confinement at nearby Yokosuka Naval Base, he was one step closer to achieving that dream.
U.S. Deserter: Sentence is Fair
By Eric Talmage, Associated Press, November 4, 2004
Former U.S. Army Sgt. Charles Jenkins believes his conviction and sentence to 30 days in jail for desertion after nearly 40 years in North Korea is "very fair," his defense attorney told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Bringing one of the Army's longest desertion cases to a close, Jenkins, now 64 and in poor health, pleaded guilty Wednesday to abandoning his unit early in 1965 and to then aiding the enemy by teaching English to North Korean military officer cadets.
"Sgt. Jenkins and his family believe the sentence was very fair," Capt. James Culp told The Associated Press in an interview.
Justice Appears Near for Jenkins in Sensitive Desertion Case
U.S. Army Sergeant, Accused of Fleeing in 1965 To North Korea, May Have Struck a Deal
By Donald Greenlees and Jeremy Kirk, Wall Street Journal, October 4, 2004
Sgt. Jenkins has remained tight-lipped about the circumstances of his disappearance. In an exclusive interview with the Review in August, he said he wanted to turn himself in to the military, reunite his family and "clear my conscience.
According to a record of an interview with the Japanese diplomatic mission, published by the Kyodo News Agency in October 2002, Ms. Soga disclosed details of how she was stuffed in a sack and kidnapped from her village by North Korean agents in 1978. Brought to North Korea to train spies in Japanese language and customs, Ms. Soga met and Sgt. married Jenkins in 1980.
Since Sgt. Jenkins's voluntary surrender to the military, he has been on active duty, wearing a uniform and reporting for duty as an administrative assistant. He has been living on the army base with Ms. Soga and daughters Mika, 21, and Brinda, 19. The aim of any plea bargain negotiated by his defense attorney, Capt. Culp, would be to ensure Sgt. Jenkins is either released or that he serves only minimal jail time.
Four Decades in North Korea
By Jeremy Kirk, Far Eastern Economic Review, September 9, 2004
From 1965 to 1972, on the other side of the DMZ, Jenkins shared a harsh life with three other alleged U.S. Army defectors: Pfc. James Joseph Dresnok, Pvt. Larry Allen Abshier and Cpl. Jerry Wayne Parrish. "At first the four of us lived in one house, one room, very small, no beds--we had to sleep on the floor," Jenkins says. "There was no running water. We had to carry water approximately 200 meters up the hill. And the water was river water." According to Jenkins' discharge request, which was written on his behalf by his military attorney, Capt. James D. Culp, Jenkins and the three other men tried to escape. "In 1966, Sgt. Jenkins even risked his life to leave North Korea by going to the Russian embassy and requesting asylum. Obviously, the Russian government denied the request. That leaves him to face his next challenge: a possible court martial. His lawyer, Culp, says Jenkins can offer details about the use of foreign nationals in the North Korean spy programme. The request for a discharge asserts that Jenkins can confirm that "a number of Americans were used, most often unwillingly, by North Korea to arm spies with English-speaking skills so they could target American interests in South Korea and beyond."
Still Out in the Cold
By Richard Jerome, Leah Eskin, Bonnie Bell and Andrew Marton, People Magazine, April 15, 1996
In contrast, Charles Jenkins earned "excellent conduct and efficiency ratings," according to the Army. Growing up in tiny Rich Square, N.C. (pop. 1,000), the red-haired, freckled Jenkins was one of seven children born to Clifton and Pattie Jenkins (his father died when he was 13). A poor student, he was kept back at least twice in elementary school. Recalls Jenkins's classmate Mary Leggett, 53, a homemaker: "He was just a good ole country boy who clearly came from a good, hard-working country family." Jenkins joined the National Guard in 1955 and three years later enlisted in the Army. "The last time I saw him, he had come home for Christmas in 1964," says Wayne Pope, 51, a classmate. "He kept saying that we would never see him again."
Days later, on Jan. 5, 1965, Jenkins, by then a sergeant, was leading a four-man night patrol just south of the DMZ. Around 2:30 a.m., he disappeared. Like Parrish, he left behind a short note. "Dear Mother, I am sorry for the trouble I will cause you..." it began.
Those were Jenkins's last words to his family.
Soldiers are Convicted; Army Assailed
By Andrew Wolfson, The Louisville Courier-Journal, April 14, 2009
Barker's lawyer though, said that while the soldiers were to blame, the Army bore some responsibility for putting them on duty at a dangerous post with no supervision and broken leadership. "The deaths of Fakhriya, Kassem, Hadeel and Abeer can't be undone," lawyer James Culp said. "But these type of actions didn't happen in a vacuum."
When parents send "their young boys off to war," he said, "and they face things that shouldn't ever have to be faced, and they see the sort of things that human beings aren't born to see, . . . when they become altered by those things," officers should be "there to make sure that they do the right thing."
U.S. Soldier Pleads Guilty in Iraqi Rape and Murder Case
By Ryan Lenz, New York Times, November 23, 2006
One of four U.S. soldiers accused of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl last spring and killing her and her family pleaded guilty Wednesday and agreed to testify against the others.
Barker, who sat beside his military attorney Cpt. James Culp, told the judge that Green approached him with the plan to attack the family while they were drinking whiskey purchased from Iraqi Army soldiers. Barker described changing then climbing through backyards as the five left the checkpoint to commit the attack. "I hated Iraqis, your honor," Barker answered. "They can smile at you, then shoot you in your face without even thinking about it." The soldiers were stationed in a violent area south of Baghdad known as the "Triangle of Death" because of frequent attacks on soldiers patrolling the roads. Soldiers in Barker's unit, the 502nd Infantry Regiment, were often asked to spend weeks manning remote checkpoints, where several from the unit died. Green was discharged from the Army for a "personality disorder" before the allegations became known, and prosecutors have yet to say if they will pursue the death penalty against him.
Investigator Recommends Court Martial for 4 Soldiers
By Paul von Zielbauer, New York Times, September 4, 2006
In his recommendation, Col. Dwight D. Warren agreed with military prosecutors that “reasonable grounds exist to believe that each accused committed the offense for which he is charged,” including premeditated murder, which under the Uniform Code of Military Justice could be punishable by death. Defense lawyers said they would file objections to the recommendation, which goes to a convening authority that will decide whether to follow it. Colonel Warren is the investigator in the case, and presided over the initial hearing in the case last month to determine whether enough evidence existed to recommend a court-martial. Prosecutors have told defense lawyers that they intend to pursue the death penalty, said Capt. James D. Culp, a lawyer for Specialist Barker.
Prosecutors Shun Excuses for Accused G.I.s
By Charles J. Hanley, Associated Press, August 8, 2006
"You're just walking a death walk," Pfc. Justin Cross told a hearing to determine whether five fellow soldiers must stand trial in the March 12 attack near Mahmoudiya. Testimony during the Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury, has painted a picture of a demoralized unit, drained emotionally after the deaths of comrades and exhausted after the frequent attacks in the mostly Sunni Arab area, a stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq and other religious extremists. "It drives you nuts. You feel like every step you might get blown up," Cross told the hearing. "You just hit a point where you're like, 'If I die today, I die.'" Cross said the unit was "full of despair," and he feared dying at his post before he could go home. "It might influence whether it's sent to trial as a capital case," he told The Associated Press. "That may be what the defense considers the main event here... They may be hoping to have the nature of the charges modified, have the case go to trial as something other than premeditated murder."
G.I. Crime Photos May Be Evidence
By Robert F. Worth and Carolyn Marshall, New York Times, August 5, 2006
“I know none of that would have happened if he was around,” the sergeant said of the squad leader. At least one staff sergeant in the unit repeatedly complained that checkpoints were under-manned, said David P. Sheldon and Capt. James D. Culp, lawyers who represent Specialist James P. Barker, one of the accused men. He and Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, Pfc. Bryan L. Howard and Sgt. Paul E. Cortez have been accused of rape, murder and arson. The fifth soldier in the hearing, Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe, is accused of dereliction of duty for not reporting the crime, but he is not thought to have been at the house. Mr. Green is being tried in civilian criminal court. Even relatives back home knew the men were stretched. Pfc. Shane Hoeck, a soldier in the unit, shared his worries with his brother Cody, 16, in frequent e-mail messages. "They lost so many guys they don’t have enough manpower to cover things,” Cody Hoeck said in a telephone interview.
For a Marine Unit, the Battle to Restore Reputation Goes On
By David Zucchino, LA Times, June 14, 2015
The Marines were called into an office one at a time and interrogated for hours, with no Miranda warnings and no access to lawyers, Galvin says. They were held incommunicado for days. They were publicly condemned by top military commanders.
"We weren't just abandoned — they tried to destroy us," he said recently near his Kansas City home, his hand resting on a file box containing thousands of pages of documents from the case.
"To this day, I encounter people, including Marines, who say we got away with murder," he said. "We'll take this to the grave."
Task Force Violent: The Unforgiven
By Andrew deGrandpre, The Military Times, March 4, 2015
They called themselves Task Force Violent. Recently declassified documents raise troubling questions about the military's effort to send these Marines to prison. A legal tribunal ultimately cleared them of allegations they had mindlessly mowed down innocent Afghans, and exposed failures by senior leaders who sent them into the war zone without clear orders and without being sufficiently outfitted for combat. But the highly publicized ordeal left many of these men shattered — casualties, they say, of a politicized war and the sensational coverage by a media fed a story that sacrificed the truth from Day One, a truth only now coming to light.
Marines Dispute Accounts of Excessive Force in Afghans’ Deaths
By Paul von Zielbauer, New York Times, September 5, 2007
But as a Marine general is mulling whether to bring charges against a handful of the 30 Americans involved in the episode, lawyers for two of the marines, including a company commander riding in the convoy, are disputing the official military and Afghan descriptions of their actions that morning. In interviews with The New York Times, the lawyers offered the first public account by the marines, giving what amounts to a preview of any legal defense. They said that their clients and other platoon members had responded appropriately to what they described as continual small-arms fire after the bombing, and that they had fired only at people who had fired at them first or posed a legitimate threat under the unit’s rules of engagement. Mr. Culp’s client a Sergeant Brooks whose full name has not been made public killed only people who fired first, he said. Mr. Waple said that Major Galvin did not fire his weapon during the attack and that he would probably not be charged. “There was a firefight that took place between gunners and people,” as the convoy idled in the road, Mr. Culp said. He said his client did not fire on or kill civilians, but that “he did intentionally kill individuals who were firing at his position, primarily from vehicles to the southwest.”
Marines Probed in Afghan Civilian Deaths
By Tom Bowman, National Public Radio, May 29, 2007
The U.S. military is investigating the deaths of 19 Afghans including women and children after an attack on a Marine convoy outside Jalalabad in March. There's one fact everyone agrees on: The Marine unit was attacked by a suicide car bomber. But there's a dispute about what happened next. James Culp, a lawyer for one of the Marines, says insurgents attacked: "There were several insurgents, Taliban members, Afghan males that were firing in the direction of the vehicles," Culp says. Culp won't reveal his client's name, other than to say he's a Marine sergeant in his late 20s who also served a tour in Iraq. He says the man he's representing was part of an elite unit two dozen Marines in all who rode in that convoy. Culp says his client was careful only to shoot those who were a threat. "My client did not shoot women or children," he says.
Congressman Tells Army: Stop MARSOC Comments
By Trista Talton, Marine Corps Times, May 18, 2007
A congressman has asked the secretary of the Army to prohibit Army officials from making public comments about special operations Marines involved in an attack in Afghanistan until the investigation is complete. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., also called for an apology in the letter he sent May 14 to Acting Army Secretary Pete Geren. “As secretary of the Army, your responsibility is to ensure that your subordinates disseminate the proper information to the press, especially if it involves another branch of the armed forces,” Jones wrote. “Not only has the presumption of innocence been discarded, but the reputation of these Marines may be maligned.” A call to the Army secretary’s office was not returned Wednesday. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating the March 4 incident, in which a Marine convoy was struck by a car bomb.
SEXUAL ASSAULT NEWS STORIES
United States v. U.S. Army Staff Sergeant
Staff sergeant acquitted of rape in Okinawa court-martial
GI gets 90 days, reduction in rank for adultery, break-in
By David Allen, Stars and Stripes, December 15, 2005
“Her behavior is not consistent,” Culp said during his closing argument. “You don’t go to the room of the person who raped you to use his computer. Was that the only computer on the whole installation?” Culp also argued that the woman’s testimony Monday was inconsistent. She said she had not danced provocatively at a party in Stanfield’s room the night of the first incident but several soldiers testified they saw her perform a split on Stanfield’s bedroom floor and one witness said he saw her rub herself suggestively with a beer bottle.
Private testifies to being raped at Tori Station by staff sergeant
By David Allen, Stars and Stripes, December 14, 2005
Stanfield did not testify. In a signed statement made to an investigator, he said the May 21 encounter was consensual but that he crept through the window on June 3 without intending to have sex. “We just sat there and talked,” he told Special Agent Greg Nix. “And then it just happened.” Nix said Stanfield was “very cooperative, open and friendly,” during the interrogation. “He told me he talked to her and was hoping to have sex.” Lead defense attorney James Culp attacked Nix’s testimony, asking why it was not noted on his report that Stanfield at first denied all of the allegations and only signed a statement after being interrogated for over an hour.
GI on Okinawa found guilty of adultery, but cleared of rape
Soldier demoted but allowed to remain in the Army
By David Allen, Stars and Stripes, December 11, 2005
Capt. James Culp, lead defense attorney, said the prosecution’s case consisted of “stories that hover between those inspired by actual events and fantasy.” But none were true, he argued. Culp said the most serious charge, the Kadena rape, was consensual, initiated by Bonilla’s accuser — who was drinking with him the night before. He also shrugged off prosecution claims the woman was so scared when Bonilla was inside her home that she failed to call for help, even after he fell asleep in her bed.
United States v. U.S. Army Specialist
Testimony of soldier’s accuser undergoes strict scrutiny
By David Allen, Stars and Stripes, December 10, 2005
Army Capt. James Culp, lead defense attorney, countered that the family’s aggressive, 100-pound Rottweiler neither barked nor attacked the intruder; nor did the woman phone anyone. Also after the incident, she dressed, left the house, walked her son in his stroller for a half hour, then returned with no assurance Bonilla was gone, Culp said. Culp argued that the sex was consensual and the dog did not attack because the woman let Bonilla into the house. Also, he said, she did not report the incident until May, when she learned Bonilla was to be court-martialed for attempting to rape another specialist during a Hokkaido exercise in February.
‘Desperate husband’ tale unfolds in Camp Foster
By David Allen, Stars and Stripes, December 9, 2005
Lead defense counsel Capt. James Culp characterized the charges as a “tree of lies” in his opening statement. “This case is about a whole bunch of fiction,” he said. “What you end up with is three good stories based upon false statements.” The “lie seed,” Culp said, was an accusation that Bonilla tried to rape another Army specialist on Feb. 1 while deployed to Camp Higashi-Chitose in Hokkaido. The woman, 30, testified Bonilla groped her in the stairwell of the barracks they were staying in and fondled her while masturbating.
United States v. U.S. Army Staff Sergeant
Yongsan Staff Sergeant Found Not Guilty of Rape Charges
By T.D. Flack, Stars and Stripes, October 28, 2005
Defense attorneys argued the woman who accused Pailen of rape did so because she feared her relationship with the accused would come to light during the court-martial and she would get in trouble. During closing arguments, prosecuting attorney Capt. Rochelle Howard, co-counsel with Capt. J.P. Leary, asked the jury if they really believed the victim lied about being raped because she was afraid she would face punishment. “Who has the greater motivation to lie?” she asked. Capt. C. Jack Marks, who with Capt. James Culp defended Pailen, argued the woman — who had heard junior soldiers were getting in trouble in similar cases — fabricated the rape to protect her career.
Court Martial of Staff Sergeant Accused of Rape Begins
By T.D. Flack, Stars and Stripes, October 27, 2005
A nine-member jury heard a day of "he-said, she-said" testimony during the rape court-martial of Staff Sgt. Nathaniel W. Pailen, which began Tuesday. Defense attorney Capt. James Culp compared the case to an onion that looks good but when you "start pulling away layers, it stinks." He questioned the woman about inconsistencies among Tuesday's testimony, her official written statements and her testimony in an earlier hearing. He also asked if it occurred to her to tell Pailen to stop having sex with her as soon as he began. "No," she replied.
United States v. U.S. Army Sergeant
Yongsan MP Gets 9 Months, Discharge for Sex Assault
But Soldier Acquitted of Rape Charge
By T.D. Flack, Stars and Stripes, October 23, 2005
Defense attorneys Capt. C. Jack Marks and Capt. James Culp told the court their client was a soldier who simply made a mistake. “No one was saying ‘sex’ except Sgt. Fleming,” she said. And “how could she consent if she physically cannot even take care of herself?” Howard asked. “He took care of her to the point where he could take advantage of her,” she said. Culp argued that jurors only have to read his client’s CID statement. “It screams the truth,” Culp said. He said Fleming, who continued to drink that night, made a bad decision to be in the room with the victim. “It was stupid but that doesn’t make him a criminal,” he said. Culp also was critical of the victim’s testimony, pointing out repeated answers of “I don’t know.” “This case is about two lonely, drunk people who engaged in stupid, intimate activity,” he said.
Chain of Events Questioned as Rape Trial Begins at Yongsan
By T.D. Flack, Stars and Stripes, October 22, 2005
She said he continued to say nothing had occurred but the kissing. The woman stated she knew he was lying but didn’t “want to be part of ruining a baby’s life.” “Basically he made me feel like a cheap whore” by lying about what happened, she said. Defense attorney Capt. James Culp, co-defending with Capt. C. Jack Marks, attacked apparent differences among Thursday’s testimony, testimony during the case’s Article 32 hearing and CID reports. Culp keyed on the fact that in early CID statements, the woman stated remembering kissing Fleming. “I couldn’t have said that, sir,” she replied to repeated questions. Under Culp’s questioning, she also stated that while passed out her attempts at saying “no” might have been mistaken for a “moaning sound.”