Posse Comitatus – 190

Written by: Paul Levine; Watch Now: – Sorry, not available on Amazon

[A bit of an unrealistic premise and plot line. Not as strong an episode as customary JAG standards.]

Sheriff Brad Driskell and deputy’s, of Yuma Arizona, were pinned down behind their squad cars, next to a barn where bachelor farmer Barclay Cale was shooting at them with an automatic rifle and armor piercing ammunition. A deputy was mortally wounded on the ground and another was tied up as hostage in the loft with Cale. Driskell had called for “backup” but was still hunkering behind the cars when a “super cobra” appeared and hovered just outside the barn. Cale fired again and Maj Tuney “took him out” causing beams to collapse crushing Linda Foyo, the deputy. Driskell flew into a tantrum and Tuney was eventually charged with violating the “Posse Comitatus” act which precludes military from participating in civilian law enforcement (except in very specific cases). JAG officers Harm (H) and Mac (M) went to investigate. Lt. Col Pittman said Tuney had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was their best trainer. He said that Tuney had noticed the sheriff’s action, a wounded officer on the ground and thought he could “medivac” the wounded. He called for permission to engage but was told to “hold his position” for further orders. When Cale “fired on him” he thought a shell might bring him down on the people below so he “shot back.” To Ms incredulity, he responded that he “would never order a pilot to ‘hold his fire’ when he was being fired upon.”

Cale was being arrested for property tax evasion, having lost his farm to the bank. Tuney said he had seen Cale training his gun on the deputy and another on the ground bleeding; so, when he was shot at with armor piercing rounds, and with his co-pilots agreement, he shot “a microburst at a steep angle, so as not to hit the deputy.” He had tried to contact the sheriff, but was told by the dispatcher that she had been ordered “not to put me through.” The sheriff was a pissy know-it-all with a chip on his shoulder who claimed that he “didn’t need or want help,” he was “still negotiating,” and “didn’t need another trigger happy yahoo to deal with.” Mac found that Tuney had a similar incident two years previously at another command. He “helped” the San Diego police who were chasing a felon up the wrong lane of a freeway. Tuney had brought his helicopter down in front of the criminal, but instead of stopping he drove off the freeway and into someone’s back yard. “I took actions to save lives,” Tuney told them, “if that’s illegal, lock me up.”

Harriet (Ht) was asked to help produce the Christmas USO show in Bagdad with Garth Brooks. Bud (B) was appointed Hearing Officer for Lt. Cdr Justin Bentley, a doctor whose training had been paid for by the Navy and who now, that his unit was being called up to Iraq, wanted out on “contentious objector” status. Bud saw a whole wall full of military photos on the wall of Bentley’s private practice office full of the latest technology. Bentley claimed that he had “been overwhelmed with guilt” all during the last 6 years (the navy had been paying for) but joined the Quakers when he married this last year. He told B the photos were “for his patients” (who were mostly military and dependents) so B asked if he would take down the photos after he was discharged and he replied “yes.” Turner (T) was assigned to defend, went to Bentley’s church meeting then asked Chegwidden (C) for reassignment. Chegwidden’s disbelief was met with “when I look at my father (50 year navy chaplain) I see his faith, but I don’t see that in Bentley.” Chegwidden asked if Ts father knew he was turning his back on religion and T said he would defend Bentley but didn’t respect him, then left. Turner called and asked his father for help. Chegwidden stopped in to “say hello” and asked the chaplain if he had any “words of wisdom for me.” The Chaplain said “Absolutely. Treat my son well and you’ll be rewarded in heaven.” He asked C if he needed help to straighten T out. C said “I think he is straight enough.” Turner jokingly asked if he should leave “so you can talk about me,” and C pondered and said down his nose “if you don’t mind.”

Turner called his father as a witness at the hearing and the chaplain said that he was convinced of Bentley’s sincerity. Turner asked about “finding God,” and his fathers answer was subtly directed at T. Bud, as hearing officer, asked about the chaplains 50 year service despite disagreement with war. The chaplain said that he “found honor in providing solace to those who fought and comfort to the wounded and dying.” Bud told Bentley that he was not impressed that he’d done anything to convince anyone that he was a pacifist and asked why he couldn’t serve in a non-combat situation. Bentley said he didn’t want to be connected in any way with the military and “wanted to serve God, nothing else matters.” At a restaurant, T told his dad that “people have a way of letting you down.” His dad asked if it was about congresswoman Latham and T said that was ancient history. He claimed that it “was in my nature to do my best… but my friends, coworkers…” then told him of his pending charges. He said that even though he had joined the navy when “we were called colored” and tolerated bigotry, he was accused of racial bias against Koreans. His dad asked “is it true?” and T answered “I don’t know.” “Then it’s about you not your friends.” Turner said that “I am so far away from what I wanted to be in my life that I don’t even recognize myself.” His dad told him that he needed to recognize he was imperfect and “move on. You’ve got to learn how to bend before you break.”

Harm and M were hotly discussing the posse comitatus act, when M said “you love this. I know why you came back. You need JAG as much as JAG needs you.” Harm asked, “what about you? Are you glad to have me back?” The phone rang before M had to answer. The Tuney case went to hearing and the sheriff acted his arrogant self claiming that he didn’t ask or want help. He had been a marine for four years. No mention about what part his arrogance or stonewalling had played in the incident was made. The deputy claimed that she knew Cale from childhood and once the helicopter had shown up had been able to talk him into dropping his weapon. Harm got her to admit that no one else knew about it and Tuney had reason to believe otherwise.

The conclusions: Bud decided that he “wasn’t sure he was right but couldn’t prove that Bentley was wrong.” So he said he was recommending to let him out; but added that “since you want complete separation” he would take away his “participating provider” status from navy medicine. Bentley then started arguing that it would bankrupt him, he would loose his practice etc. Turner saw the benefit of Bs decision and told Bentley “it seems consistent with your beliefs.” Bud offered that “sometimes faith carries a high price.” After Bentley left, B told T that “for awhile there I thought he might be for real.” Turner replied, “never put your faith in people, you will always be disappointed.” The judge told Tuney that it was “becoming difficult to distinguish between an act of terrorism worthy of military response and a criminal act better suited for police jurisdiction.” He was recommending no action. But, when Tuney was telling H thanks, his CO informed him that the wing commander had transferred him out of the squad pending a FENAB to evaluate his flying status. Mac asked him if it was worth it. Tuney replied “yes, I’d do it again.”

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