Saturday, January 05, 2008

Air Force lawyer reportedly investigated for telling potential witness not to initiate contact with defense counsel

Here's the lead of this article from today's Fayette Observer headlined, "Report: Ex-Pope prosecutor may have withheld evidence":

Jan. 5--A military lawyer formerly assigned to Pope Air Force Base is under investigation after allegations that he withheld evidence from defense attorneys in a 2007 rape case.

Lt. Col. Philip Wold is accused of telling Capt. Michel Edwards, Pope's sexual assault response coordinator, not to talk with defense lawyers for Airman 1st Class Cassandra Hernandez, according to the Air Force Times.

Here's a link to the Erik Holmes' Air Force Times piece discussing the case.


Phil Cave said...

The Captain's opinion that H had been raped would not be admissible, but certainly her description of H's demeanor and emotional state would have been, had the rape charges been prosecuted. Thus that was discoverable information, in a case where H is being prosecuted for a false rape allegation. I suppose in defending H., the defense counsel have to show that there was a rape or a good faith or reasonable basis on the part of H that she was raped. On that basis, evidence tending to rebut a prosecution claim that no rape occurred would be favorable information.

What about the Trial Counsel's role here? Assuming they also knew this information, aren't they in fact the ones more potentially deficient than the SJA? Aren't they the ones under the RCM, military caselaw, and Supreme Court caselaw, required to make a disclosure.

Hopefully the effect of this issue will also be to focus TC's on their responsibility.

CDR Wayne L. Johnson, JAGC, Navy (Retired) said...

Submitted to CAAFlog by CDR Wayne L. Johnson (Retired)

The Air Force Times web site,, reports that LTC Wold has been cleared by the Air Force of his alleged ethics violation.

Here is what the Air Force Times article said:

By Erik Holmes - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Feb 27, 2008

A senior Air Force judge advocate was cleared in early February of allegations that he violated professional ethics rules last year by attempting to withhold evidence in a sexual assault case involving four airmen at Pope Air Force Base, N.C.

The allegations against Lt. Col. Philip Wold, then the staff judge advocate at Pope, were investigated and determined to be without merit, Maj. Linell Letendre, a spokeswoman for the Judge Advocate General Corps, said Wednesday.

An investigating officer working under the authority of Maj. Gen. Jack Rives, Judge Advocate General of the Air Force, conducted the investigation, she said. Under Air Force rules, Rives makes the final determination on whether a JAG violated ethics rules.

Letendre would not go into further detail on why the ethics complaint was unsubstantiated, citing Privacy Act concerns. The case is now closed, she said.

Air Force Times first reported the complaint against Wold in December.

The complaint accused Wold of telling a witness potentially favorable to the defense not to come forward to the lawyers defending Airman 1st Class Cassandra Hernandez, who was charged with indecent acts and underage drinking related to a May 2006 sexual encounter in a base dorm room.

Hernandez claimed she was gang-raped by three men after a party at Pope, but she was charged with committing indecent acts after declining to testify against one of her alleged assailants. Rape charges against one of the men were dropped. He and the two other men took punishment under Article 15 for indecent acts.

She told Air Force Times in August that she decided not to testify because she was under stress and felt intimidated by the accused’s lawyer, because her victim’s advocate was improperly barred from the proceeding, and, ultimately, she wanted to put the incident behind her. A court-martial was scheduled for late September, but the Air Force dropped all charges against her about two weeks before it was to begin.

Hernandez was not involved in the complaint against Wold, who is now serving as legal counsel to the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

END OF Holmes article.

As a side note by CDR Johnson - the filing of these allegations show how far some sexual assault victims advocates will go to seek revenge when they do not get their way. I am sure it was LTC Wold they blame for Airman First Class Hernandez - initially an alleged rape victim - being taken to Article 15 for the same indecent acts her alleged attackers also went to Article 15 for.

Anonymous said...

You missed the point. If you actually took time to read the situation perhaps you would have seen what really happened. The Lawyer, "cleared" or not, still gave advise that seems to contradict the Air Force Rules of Professional Conduct. I too have seen Air Force Lawyers, in particular that appear to run things like they are "God" with no beholding to justice. I am proud to not be Air Force as the other branches usually try to adhere to the letter of the law and give the acused a true chance to prove innocence.
MY main question would be is why does the AIr Force continue to act in a manner that seems contradictory or out of phase with its sister branchs? I am aware that not EVERY lawyer acts this way, in case you wish to make that statement, but with over 20 years of dealing with the military I have seen it more than enough..... and I state this with confidence. I publish Anonymous in case the Air Force chooses to come after me.. truly a sad note.

CDR Wayne L. Johnson said...

Regarding Anonymous Comments of Oct 18, 2008

Anonymous claims I missed the point in my comment. Anonymous asserts that even though LTC Wold was cleared by the Air Force, he "still gave advise that seems to contradict the Air Force Rules of Professional Conduct."

How does Anonymous know that. The Air Force Times article said the allegations against Lt. Col. Philip Wold were investigated and determined to be without merit according to an official Air Force spokeswoman for the Judge Advocate General Corps.

The comment "without merit" could mean a finding that what LTC Wold was accused of saying never happened. It could also mean something else. If Anonymous has some evidence that "without merit" means something other than it did not happen, I challenge him or her to produce this evidence.