U.S. Army Recruiter Retained Following Administrative Separation Board.
U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Recruiter, with 17 years of service, was referred for administrative separation from military service. The Recruiter was alleged to have engaged in an inappropriate and unlawful relationship with a female recruit. The Recruiter’s Commander initiated an investigation into specific allegations the Recruiter unlawfully took the female recruit to parties; invited her to his home; spent time working out with her at a local civilian gym; and engaged in romantic relations together. Once the recruit shipped off to basic training, the Recruiter allegedly maintained contact with her; assisted her with going AWOL; and stating lies and falsified documents to conceal the alleged misconduct.
The Commander’s investigation yielded sufficient evidence, in the investigator’s opinion, to substantive charges against the Recruiter for fraternizing with the recruit, making false official statements, and falsifying a leave/pass form. The Recruiter was referred for Non-Judicial Punishment pursuant to Article 15, Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The Recruiter’s Brigade Commander served as the Article 15 Hearing Officer. After reviewing evidence presented by the government related to the charges, and “allegedly” reviewing exculpatory evidence submitted by the Recruiter in his behalf, the Article 15 Officer found the Recruiter guilty of all charges and specifications. Thereafter, the Commander relieved the Recruiter from his recruiting position and referred him for administrative separation from the U.S. Army with a recommendation that his military service be characterized as Other Than Honorable (OTH). The Recruiter demanded his right to an administrative separation board and hired Attorney John L. Calcagni III to represent him at this proceeding.
At the hearing, the government relied upon both the recruiter’s Article 15 convictions and related evidence to support the government’s request that the Recruiter be discharged from military service with an OTH. Attorney Calcagni delicately cross-examined each of three government witnesses, all whom testified that the Recruiter had committed inexcusable misconduct and therefore, should be separated from future military service. However, each witness conceded on cross-examination that their opinions and recommendations were based in whole on the Recruiter’s Article 15 convictions.
In the Recruiter’s defense, Attorney Calcagni and his military defense counsel counterpart, Captain Jason S. Ballard – with whom Calcagni has a longstanding working relationship and proven track record – called two character witnesses. Both witnesses, former members of the Recruiter’s chain of command, testified that the Recruiter was a flawless Non-Commissioned Officer, exceptional asset to the U.S. Army and recruiting community, and should be retained without question for future military service. One character witness further testified that decisions to refer the Recruiter for both an Article 15 and administrative separation may have been product of a biased command climate.
Attorney Calcagni presented further evidence that challenged the integrity of the Recruiter’s Article 15 hearing, as well as the reliability of government’s evidence relied upon by the Article 15 officer, especially when compared to overwhelming evidence that exculpated the Recruiter from any wrongdoing. Attorney Calcagni – in a bold and brave manner – also challenged the credibility and veracity of the Recruiter’s chain of command, many of whom had made prejudicial remarks to recruiter before and during the Article 15 hearing; testified inconsistently with the evidence presented; and apparently engaged in coercion or other inappropriate actions during the course of investigation leading up to and following the Article 15 hearing.
After sworn testimony from the Recruiter himself, and a passionate and compelling closing argument by Attorney Calcagni claiming that “perception is not realty,” “members in uniform are not impervious to human weaknesses of misrepresentation, bias, prejudice and self-interest,” and that the Recruiter was “entitled to a fair shake” both at the Article 15 hearing and at his separation hearing, the separation board members voted that the Recruiter did not engage in the thrust of the charged misconduct and should be retained for further military service in his recruiting capacity.