In a Military.com article published Aug. 13, military defense lawyer Michael Waddington estimated that 90 percent of the sexual assault cases taken to court-martial would be thrown out of civilian courts due to lack of evidence. Unfortunately, the attorney’s estimate offers little solace to Kelly A. Stewart, a highly-decorated Army Green Beret and combat veteran who faces the burden of living the rest of his life as a convicted sex offender if military justice continues to elude him.
Waddington’s words stand as one of several excerpts particularly relevant to the case of Stewart, a man whose life and wrongful conviction are chronicled in my book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice.
Unfortunately for Stewart, his case was not thrown out. In fact, as described below, quite the opposite happened:
An elite Green Beret, U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Kelly A. Stewart admitted in court to having a one-night stand with a 28-year-old German woman. His accuser did, too. But that’s where the similarities end in their accounts of what transpired inside his Stuttgart hotel room.
One year later, the highly-decorated combat veteran found himself on trial, facing a slew of charges — including rape and kidnapping — that could send him to prison for life. His court-martial had begun.
During the first two days of the trial, prosecutors presented no physical evidence and/or eyewitnesses to the alleged crimes. Instead, their case was based almost entirely on the testimony of the accuser, a one-time mental patient who, with the backing of the German government, refused to allow her medical records to be entered as evidence.
At 15 minutes before midnight on the trial’s second day, Stewart was found guilty on several counts and the court was adjourned. The following morning, he was sentenced to eight years behind bars at Fort Leavenworth and branded a “sex offender” for life.
Ten months into his sentence, Stewart was flown back to Germany for a post-trial hearing during which the new witnesses revealed that Stewart’s accuser had lied several times during the trial. While their words were largely ignored by the military judge, they were not entirely ignored by the one-star general with authority over the case.
Three months later, the general took five years off of Stewart’s sentence and, among other things, made him eligible for parole immediately. In Army terms, “immediately” meant he was released March 31, 2011.
Stewart spent the next 18 months working in a family member’s business on the East Coast and fighting unsuccessfully for a new trial. Then, on Aug. 20, 2012, his sentence ended and, technically, he became free.
To date, Stewart’s further attempts to get a new trial or some other form of clemency from the military justice system have failed, leaving him with only one level of appeal — the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces — remaining. If justice continues to elude him, he’ll carry the “sex offender” label forever.
Based on extensive interviews and never-before-published details taken from the actual Record of Trial, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight for Military Justice paints a portrait of military justice gone awry that’s certain to make your blood boil.
Read it, and you won’t believe this kind of justice can happen to someone who, prior to being accused of crimes by a former mental patient, had an unblemished record and stood among the best of the best as one of the world’s most-elite warriors.
To contribute to his legal defense fund, visit http://SaveThisSoldier.com.
CORRECTION 9/19/2012 at 8:38 a.m. Central: I mistakenly attributed comments from the Military.com article in the first two paragraphs above to Philip Cave. It has been corrected.