Written by: Matt Witten; Watch Now: – Sorry, not available on Amazon
The SECNAV asked the JAG, Chegwidden (C), to get to the bottom of an accidental “confession” to a reporter of an Iraqi prisoner. Lance Corporal Pete Kelly told Ginny Serrano about shooting a prisoner in the head when she asked him the “million dollar question” (have you killed anybody) in a bar. Unfortunately, she didn’t accept his retraction after he found she was a reporter; and she dug up an identical incident which happened in the compound to Omar Billah. Also, unfortunately, in Serrano’s “yellow journalism” the only thing she needed to run the story is no-one telling her it couldn’t have happened. Kelly didn’t have an alibi for when the incident occurred, and of course she didn’t either ask or believe anyone in the military because they would just “lie.” Kelly told both Bud (B) and Mac (M) that he just made up the story because he was sick of people asking “the question.” Captain Rappaport confirmed there was an incident in the compound which held 200 – 400 EPWs. He also said that although Kelly’s whereabouts couldn’t be confirmed, the security was in chaos with all the influx of surrendering prisoners. One prisoner had been found to still have a gun, and Billah had to be handcuffed because he was trying to incite a riot two hours before he was killed.
The SECNAV then came to say he’d talked it over with the joint chiefs and they now no longer considered it a priority. He wanted no prosecution unless absolutely certain of the case, because they didn’t want to provide propaganda the enemy could use. Bud said “yes” to prosecution, M said “not sure” but prosecution went forward and C assigned B to prosecute and M to defend. Coates (Co) helped get information on Serrano but Billah was a complete blank. Rappaport said that Billah had “spit in Kelly’s face” before the incident; but, told M she would have to go “a lot higher up than me” if she wanted any info on Billah. She went to the SECNAV and asked what he was not telling her. He eventually agreed to “talk to the joint chiefs” about it. She told him to tell them that they would keep all the testimony secret, but that she “was not going to go away.” Rappaport testified that Billah was NOT a prisoner, but rather an Iraqi exile planted as in informant by the CIA and Marine Corps intelligence. Mac said “then there were 400 men in the compound with good reason to kill Billah if they found out who he was.”
Chegwidden took Harm (H) to Los Angeles for the international military law conference; but, the SECNAV opinioned that C was just going to go to the Navy-Marine Corps all-star baseball game. During the game, the MC coaches son, Lt. Dave Phelps, was hit in the head unconscious by a “brush back pitch.” The father, pressed charges against PO Crawford, the pitcher who, he claimed, deliberately threw at the back of Phelps’ head, so he would back into it. Chegwidden took it personally and went to talk to the father; but, couldn’t convince him that it could have been an accident. Chegwidden arranged to hold the hearing in his conference room and said that he would defend the pitcher. He left M in charge to decide who the opposing counsel would be. She was going to “dump it on Turner,” but H said he would do it because “the boss set it up so everyone else was busy and she would have to choose me.” She told him that “you just want to nail the admiral for keeping you out of the Navy for 3 months,” but told him he could. The Navy coach said that Crawford had been recruited by the Yankees and red sox and had a 95 mph fast ball with good control. He denied telling him to hit the batter because doing so might have put the winning run on base. Crawford said the ball just got away from him and he would “never throw a fast ball at another man’s head, even if he was a marine.” Seaman Johnson, the catcher, told C that he “didn’t know” and “didn’t recall” when asked about the sign he gave. Chegwidden threatened him with videotapes and Johnson said that their manager had given a direct order for a brush back pitch. When finding that out, the MC coach/father wanted to charge the navy coach and manager too. Phelps said “dad, you’re kidding!”
In the trials: Rappaport said that Kelly’s whereabouts were unaccounted for but he was first on the scene and had said “guess he won’t be killing any more American’s.” Serrano said his “confession” had to be true because it was “too disgusting to make up” and that she hadn’t talked to anyone in the military about it. She had also just been hired by the Times but denied that she would ever “print a story just to advance my career.” Coates discovered that the incident where a prisoner was found to have a gun was only 2 weeks after the Billah killing and was Khaled Fadani, who had been in Billah’s compound at the time. In spite of the fact witnesses saw the gun to be a 9mm Beretta and Billah was killed with a 9mm, the judge wouldn’t allow further discovery [?!!]. Mac asked Kelly, on the stand, if he’d killed anyone. He initially refused to answer then told about his run through “ambush alley” where his buddies were killed. The question, he said, makes you “feel creepy” and sometimes when asked, he just made things up to make “them feel creepy too.” He denied killing Billah because it would show disrespect to the memory of his fellow marines. The jury found him NOT guilty.
Phelps said that his first time at bat he had gotten a single to left field. Then, when the next batter hit a slow line drive to second, he had charged and cleated the shortstop in order to disable him for the double play. He saw Crawford stare at him and point for a long time so he “knew he would try something.” Chegwidden asked him if he thought that he should be court-martialed for spiking the shortstop. The coach said Crawford hadn’t given up a single walk, which H opined was “perfect control.” The coach blurted that “you can’t prove it,” and “anyway it’s part of baseball.” Crawford said he aimed in front of Phelps’ chest, as a brush-back, to set up the next pitch, a curve ball low and away. He didn’t hit Phelps on purpose. The previous game the manager had asked him to throw at the hitter, but he didn’t do it. Afterwards, he had been told to follow orders and that to be in the big leagues he had to be “tougher.” Harm closed with: “we can’t allow this kind of thuggery to go unpunished just because it’s done in the name of sports.” C said: “It’s different in baseball (from hockey and racing). You wear a helmet and even little leaguers know they might be hit, which is implied consent. Famous pitchers all used inside pitches. Don’t let lawyers kill baseball.” The judge concluded: “the line between criminal assault and unfortunate, though predictable, sports accidents, is too thin to be resolved in court-martial. No further action.”
Harm took three pizzas to Mattie, because he didn’t know what kind she liked. She told him to bring Pepperoni next time. He had set up a hearing in juvenile court, in three weeks, to try and make her his ward. He used the Batman and Robin analogy to explain the definition of ward. She asked him: “what do you get out of this?” He replied, “you.” — Phelps had to tell his dad that “enough was enough” and there would be no further appeals. — Bud told M that, based on her actions in court, she was probably asked the “million dollar question” a lot too. She replied: “yes, and I never tell the truth!”