On August 15, 2022, the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals (NMCCA) overturned the trial judge’s original dismissal of Chief Eric Gilmet’s case and reinstated all charges that had previously been dismissed with prejudice on February 9, 2022.
The defense team must now decide if they will ask for en banc reconsideration from NMCCA or appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF).
Chief Gilmet, Gunnery Sergeant Danny Draher, and Gunnery Sergeant Josh Negron were charged with crimes stemming from an incident that took place in Erbil, Kurdistan (Northern Iraq) on New Year’s Eve, 2018 in which they were assaulted by an American civilian contractor.
United American Patriots (UAP) has supported the MARSOC 3 during their lengthy legal battle by funding their civilian legal representation and generating awareness to members of Congress and to the public about the facts of the case.
The original decision for Chief Gilmet’s charges to be dismissed with prejudice came on the heels of an incident where Colonel Christopher Shaw (USMC) made several inappropriate and threatening statements aimed at Gilmet’s then-defense counsel, Captain Matthew Thomas (USMC), during a Judge Advocate Division meeting.
As a result, Chief Gilmet was forced to decide between moving forward with a compromised defense counsel, or to part ways with the defense team that he had built cohesion with for several years to avoid the effects of Unlawful Command Influence (UCI).
Chief Gilmet chose to let go of the military defense counsels that he had built a relationship with for years, leaning solely on Colby Vokey, the civilian attorney funded by UAP.
After several attempts by the government prosecutors to argue that the issue had been remedied by temporarily suspending Colonel Shaw, the trial judge strongly disagreed with each of their assertions and dismissed all charges with prejudice in the initial ruling.
However, today’s NMCCA opinion asserts that “any conflict of interest was purely subjective” on the part of Chief Gilmet and his defense team. Although the government openly admitted that Colonel Shaw’s threatening statements were “misguided and ignorant” and “disturbing”, NMCCA’s opinion was that it did not constitute UCI.
The opinion stated, “We expect that “an objective, disinterested observer” will likely find Col [Shaw]’s comments to Capt [Thomas] highly disturbing. They were as shocking as they were incorrect. But it is that very demonstrable (and demonstrated) in-correctness that saves these proceedings from the appearance of UCI.”
Despite the government’s own admission that Colonel Shaw’s comments were highly disturbing, he has not been charged with anything. Colonel Shaw was simply moved from his original position and placed in a new role within the same command where it can be argued he has just as much influence as before.
Under the direction of Major General Bligh – who is the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps – Colonel Peter Houtz was appointed as the investigating officer into the matter. Since Colonel Houtz is one of the sitting judges on the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals (NMCCA) and a former staff officer with the Marine Corps Judge Advocate Division (JAD), the resulting investigation was a whitewash. Colonel Shaw, who committed the UCI, was working directly for Major General Bligh.
The senior NMCCA judge stated, “The Government alleges the military judge abused his discretion in dismissing all charges with prejudice. More specifically, Appellant asserts three assignments of error (AOEs): (1) the military judge erred when he considered counsel’s asserted conflicts of interest before shifting the burden to the United States and found Appellee was prejudiced by the voluntary release of counsel; (2) the military judge erred in finding actual unlawful command influence [UCI] when the government provided evidence proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Colonel [Col] Sierra’s2 comments would have no effect on the court-martial; and (3) the military judge erred in conducting an apparent UCI analysis and in finding apparent UCI.”
After more than three years of waiting for a conclusion to this legal saga, justice continues to elude Chief Gilmet, Gunnery Sergeant Draher, and Gunnery Sergeant Negron.
UAP supports Warriors like Chief Gilmet by generating Presidential, Congressional, and public awareness and funding the legal representation used to fight their legal battles. Your financial support is critical to our success, and most importantly, the success of our Warriors!
TO DONATE IN SUPPORT OF CHIEF GILMET AND THE MARSOC 3