The Commandant Strikes Back: USMC Sacks Whistleblowing JAG, Orders Psych Eval
A Marine Corps JAG officer who successfully got criminal charges dropped against a marine involved in the Taliban urination case has been relieved of his post and ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, the Marine Corps Times reports.
The JAG, Maj. James Weirick, had written a six-page complaint to the Inspector General accusing a number of senior Marine Corps officers, including the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, himself, of exercising unlawful command influence in the prosecution of eight marines involved in the video showing a few marines urinating on the corpses of Afghan fighters. Unlawful Command Influence is a violation of Article 37 of the UCMJ. Weirick also accused the Marine Corps of suppressing evidence in favor of the defendants.
MilitaryAuthority.com has previously reported on the issue of unlawful command influence in UCMJ proceedings here.
According to Weirick and his immediate supervisor, Col. Jesse Gruter, both JAG officers have been subject to professional retaliation over the summer as a result of their report to the IG, including pressure from the staff JAG officer at the office of the Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) to remove Weirick from key cases.
They also pushed to have Weirick counseled, in writing, for going to the IG. Any kind of letter of reprimand or administrative discipline in Weirick’s file would be a likely violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act, a federal law outside the UCMJ that would restrict military commanders by prohibiting them from taking negative administrative action of any kind in retaliation for a marine going to the IG.
According to the Marine Corps, Weirick was relieved due to e-mail harassment of Peter Delorier, a civilian attorney and advisor to the CMC, and one of the individuals he named in his complaint to the IG.
The Marine Corps relieved Maj. Weirick of his post, ordered him to relinquish his personal firearms, and ordered him to report to Navy officials for a “psychiatric evaluation.”
The Marine Corps’ concern about the content and tone of Weirick’s emails to Delorier appears to bet the heart of their move to force Weirick into a psychiatric eval. According to the Marine Corps Times reporting, Weirick sent a series of emails in which he refers to himself in the third person – a peculiar construction which indicates that Weirick’s methods may have become… unsound, believes Jason Van Steenwyk, the author of this article. “He can’t offer you protection from Weirick. That protection can’t be offered by anyone. Ever,” Weirick wrote, referring to Delorier’s boss.
The emails led Marine Corps officials to issue a restraining order barring Maj. Weirick from communicating with Gen. Amos, Delorier, and several other people, and prohibits Weirick from coming within 500 feet of them.
The move to sack Weirick, however, highlights General Amos’s earlier conduct in the case. Weirick and his team had filed a motion to open Amos’s Marine Corps and personal emails in discovery – a tactic that Weirick and other attorneys representing the marines involved in the Taliban urination video could show that Amos had indeed exercised undue command influence in prosecuting these cases.
Weirick also showed what appeared to be the favorable treatment of another Marine Corps officer, the son of a previous Commandant of the Marine Corps. According to the Marine Corps Times’ reporting, then Maj. James Conway, the son of former CMC Gen. James T. Conway, Ret., was also involved in the urination case, but senior Marine officials removed a flag blocking future promotions. This is in stark contrast to the case of Lt. Col. Christopher Dixon, the battalion commander, who was never accused of any wrongdoing in the case. Dixon was already selected for Colonel, But Marine Corps officials denied the promotion recommended by the board and revoked orders to attend prestigious career schooling. He has also had a hold placed on his promotions, which remains in place to this day, and which the Marine Corps has indicated will remain in place until all litigation surrounding the urination video is complete.
While Conway had direct supervision of the marines involved in the video, neither Conway nor Dixon was present on the operation, nor has either been accused of any wrongdoing. It is not clear why Conway has received more favorable treatment than Dixon.
The disparate treatment of the two officers – one obviously connected to the highest levels of the Marine Corps because of his father – was among the points Weirick brought to the attention of the IG.
In the process of removing Weirick from his post, Marine Corps officials confiscated Weirick’s access card and computer and access to his emails on behalf of the marines he represented, potentially compromising the integrity of the attorney-client privilege normally afforded to JAG officers.