Almost three years ago, Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart found himself inside a U.S. military courtroom in Germany. The Green Beret whose life story is chronicled in my book, “Three Days In August,” was facing court-martial proceedings.
Recalling the trial that took place during three days in August 2009, Stewart would tell me later that he was not expecting the charges against him — which included rape and kidnapping — to go far, because he knew they were not true.
In his mind, the court-martial began as something of a formality — albeit a humiliating one — that he would simply have to endure before going back to work as a sniper and survival skills instructor for NATO soldiers at the International Special Training Center in Pfullendorf, Germany. It did not end that way.
Despite seeing no physical evidence and hearing no testimony to corroborate Stewart’s accuser’s claims, members of the court-martial panel delivered an unexpected outcome: Stewart was found guilty of multiple offenses against a then-28-year-old German woman and sentenced, among other things, to eight years behind bars at the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.
A post-trial hearing was held in Germany nine months later. As a result of damning new testimony presented during that hearing, Stewart’s sentence was reduced by the convening authority, Brig. Gen. Steven L. Salazar.
Most notably, General Salazarl reduced Stewart’s prison term from eight to three years, making him immediately eligible for early release. What the general did not do, however, was make it possible for Stewart to shed the “sex offender” status that came with his convictions.
Seven months after becoming immediately eligible for early release and 19 months after beginning his term behind bars, Stewart was released on probation March 31, 2011, and headed to the East Coast where an uncle had offered him a job and a place to stay. During the 15 months since his release, he has lived in a 31-foot trailer on his uncle’s property and worked five days a week — and sometimes more.
Stewart’s never complains about his new lifestyle, though it’s far below the level to which he had grown accustomed during the non-combat portions of his 15-year military career. Instead, he focuses on earning as much money as possible to cover his daily living expenses and on trying to pay off the enormous legal bills that have drained him and his immediate family members of nearly everything they had in savings.
In addition to waiting for the end of his probation, Stewart has waited almost 90 days (so far) for a decision from the Army Court of Criminal Appeals which heard his case April 19.
While the ACCA’s three judges could grant Stewart a new trial, they could also modify his sentence, drop a charge, dismiss a charge or do nothing at all.
If the court does nothing at all, Stewart will be forced to embrace a strange new brand of freedom that revolves around a complex web of municipality- and state-specific regulations that restrict where a man convicted as a sex offender can live and work for the rest of his life. At the same time, he’ll be forced to wait for the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces — his final level of appeal in the military justice system — to consider his appeal. Beyond that, his only hope will lie in the U.S. Supreme Court or a presidential pardon.
Here’s where the concept of help, as mentioned in the headline above, enters the picture.
Imagine yourself among the world’s most-highly-trained tactical thinkers, full of technical knowledge and language and people skills, but facing an uncertain future under the cloud of a wrongful felony conviction and, worse yet, the “sex offender” label.
Further, imagine yourself going from being a man in whom the nation’s leaders had placed so much trust and spent nearly a million dollars to train to being one whose future employment prospects are bleak at best.
Such is the position in which Stewart, a highly-decorated combat veteran, finds himself today.
Forty days from now, Stewart expects to be able to walk away from his supervised probation status as a former federal prison inmate. If his expectations pan out, he’s going to need help in the form of someone offering him gainful employment commensurate with his knowledge, skills and abilities in medicine, mechanics, language and more.
If you are that someone and would like to offer employment to this wrongfully-convicted soldier with many talents, please email me at bobmccartywrites (at) gmail (dot) com. In turn, I will forward your information to him so that contact can begin.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’re still uncertain about the idea of hiring Stewart, read the book before making up your mind. I’m willing to send a FREE COPY of “Three Days In August” to anyone who expresses legitimate interest in offering Stewart a job. I do, however, have a few terms: I’m the sole decision-making authority when it comes to determining “legitimacy” of your offer; and I reserve the right to not send a copy of the book to someone based solely on my gut instinct.
Thanks in advance for your consideration!