Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Solorio legacy

The Solorio Court
Hard on the heels of a U.S. Marine Corps general court-martial in Hawai'i that seems to have no connection to the service beyond the accused's active duty status come two U.S. Air Force cases that one would have expected to be prosecuted by local authorities. One involves a junior officer, Second Lieutenant Benjamin Sears, accused of indecent exposure at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. The other, currently in the Article 32 phase in Warner Robins, Georgia, is more serious and involves Airman 1st Class Charlie Amos Wilson III. As reported in Stars & Stripes:

Wilson was arrested Sept. 3, 2013, on charges of murder and feticide after an investigation by the GBI [Georgia Bureau of Investigation] and Terrell County Sheriff’s Office.
The case was turned over to the U.S. Air Force at its request.
Pete Donaldson, Wilson’s Albany attorney, said Wilson is expected to plead not guilty. Donaldson said Wilson and Ferguson were “romantically involved,” and the unborn child was his. A base spokesman said Wilson and Ferguson were engaged.
Wilson is facing a multitude of military charges, including premedi[t]ated murder, death of an unborn child and obstruction of justice in the death of Ferguson and their unborn child, Robins [Air Force Base] spokesman David Donato stated in an email.
Wilson also faces charges of felony murder, aggravated arson and burning with intent to defraud in an unrelated suspicious fire, he said.
Authorities suspect Wilson asked Demetrius Hardy to set fire to Wilson’s rental home in late 2010 to collect insurance money, but something went wrong, and Hardy died from injuries sustained in the fire. The fire got a fresh look after the slaying.
Wilson is also facing charges of assault, intentional discharge of a firearm and communicating a threat in an incident involving a female Air Force servicemember in July 2012, Donato said.
Never mind the 2012 charges -- let's assume those offenses occurred on base -- but why are the off-base murder, feticide, arson and insurance fraud being prosecuted in a court-martial? Yes, of course, the Supreme Court's decision in Solorio v. United States, 483 U.S. 435 (1987), permits it, but someone -- either the local prosecutor or the Air Force -- ought to explain just why A1C Wilson is being denied the full panoply of constitutional rights he would have in a civilian trial. At the moment, this is all we know (thanks to 41NBC/WMGT):
He was arrested on August 31, 2013, by the Tift County Sheriff's Office. The U.S. Air Force requested the State of Georgia waive jurisdiction over the charges, according to the RAFB [Robins Air Force Base] spokesperson.
“So, that action could proceed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” said Donato.
No suggestion here that the Air Force didn't need the state to "waive jurisdiction" in order to conduct a court-martial. The hearing is being held at the Houston County Courthouse. A1C Wilson is temporarily housed at the county jail for the duration of the hearing.

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