One of my buddies is a witness for the government in my court-martial…should I talk to him and find out what he is going to say?
No. You should never speak to a potential witness in your court-martial, Article 15 proceeding, NJP proceeding, or even a potential witness in a criminal investigation. If you speak to that witness, you may put yourself at risk for being charged with another offense, “Obstructing Justice,” under Article 134 of the U.C.M.J. To be guilty of obstructing justice, the government must prove that you did something with the intent to influence, impede or obstruct the “due administration of justice” in any case where you had “reason to believe that there were or would be criminal proceedings pending.” Because it is an Article 134 charge, your action would also have to be “to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces” or be “of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.” You do not have to be trying to influence your case, to be guilty of this offense, you may still be obstructing justice if you try to cover up for someone else who may face criminal proceedings or try to influence someone else’s case in another way. Also, as I alluded to earlier in this blog, this offense can pertain to any criminal proceedings, not just court-martials. Criminal proceedings include Article 15 proceedings and NJP. Additionally, there is an identical offense in Article 134, U.C.M.J. that pertains to the interference with an “adverse administrative proceeding.” Therefore, if you try to wrongfully interfere with an administrative separation action, bar to reenlistment, loss of security clearance, administrative reduction, reclassification, or some other adverse administrative action, you may find yourself facing criminal charges. Interference with a criminal proceeding or adverse administrative proceeding is not limited to trying to influence witnesses. These offenses cover any action that is wrongful and intended to interfere with a criminal or adverse administrative proceeding. So, while I know it may be difficult not to protect a friend facing charges or talk to your buddy who is a witness about what he is going to say in your court-martial or another proceeding, you should not. That is one of the reasons you should obtain an attorney. An attorney can speak to a witness and find out the details of his or her testimony without you putting yourself at risk. Call me if you want an experienced attorney to assist you. I can help. To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.