From Video to Charge Sheet: A Cautionary Tale

Suppose you are absent without authorization from the Army. That’s a military crime, punishable by a healthy stay in prison and a punitive discharge, depending on the severity and particular form of the absence.

Let’s review a few helpful hints in your situation:

(NOTE: Don’t rely upon this advice. They are general helpful hints and are a poor substitute for advice given by a lawyer who knows and understands your specific case. If you’re really in this situation, call a military lawyer as soon as possible. Start with your branch’s trial defense service.)

  • Staying gone for, say, 7 or 8 years, is a bad thing.
  • Making statements about the absence will not help.
  • Videotaping those statements really will not help.
  • Making up a story about multiple combat deployments and self-sacrifice when you served for only a few months (and all but a few days of it was in basic/initial training) and having a local news outlet put it on video constitutes thermonuclear self-destruction.

Knowing this, let’s see what’s up over at The News Tribune out of Tacoma, Washington.

A one-time Fort Lewis soldier who trumped up his military experience in a TV interview last year is facing time in prison on charges that he deserted his unit and falsely claimed to be a combat veteran.

Kevin Shakely of Sacramento, Calif., allegedly evaded law enforcement agencies for seven years, once reportedly slipping through their grasp at SeaTac Airport.

When Army police started raising pressure on him in August, Shakely, 28, contacted Sacramento’s KTXL Fox 40 News and claimed he was an honorably discharged Iraq and Afghanistan veteran being harassed by the Army.

“This is not how you treat somebody that went through what I had to go through and made the sacrifices I had to make,” he told KTXL.

If the military is harassing a combat veteran who was honorably discharged, that’s a bad thing. Let’s read a bit further.

Shakely in fact spent less than six months in uniform before deserting. Army records show he completed his initial training and spent just six days at his first duty station – Fort Lewis, before its reorganization as Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Well, that’s not helpful. Neither is the video. (You must click on the link because I can’t get it to embed here.)

This individual’s court-martial is already scheduled. From what the article implies, he agreed to plead guilty to some or all of the charges in exchange for a limit on the sentence.

Why am I talking about this story? Well, a while back, I talked about the fact that veterans are pretty good at naming and shaming those who tout false military service. The veterans over at This Ain’t Hell were all over this case, with posts here and here. If you click around, you’ll see that they use service record requests to debunk claims made by questionable individuals. Just one example of what happens when determined and capable veterans can do to self-police those who claim something they are not. Particularly illuminating is their stolen valor page.

 

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