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Doctors determine fired Marine whistle-blower poses no security risk

Nov. 3, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Robert Hogue, left, and James Weirick
Robert Hogue, left, and James Weirick ()
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A high-profile Marine officer who was removed from his job for writing a confrontational email was deemed fit for full duty after undergoing a mental health evaluation at the urging of his command, his attorney told Marine Corps Times.

Maj. James Weirick, a military lawyer based in Quantico, Va., earlier this year filed a complaint with the Defense Department inspector general accusing Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and his legal advisers of interfering with the prosecution of several cases connected to a controversial war zone video showing four Marines urinating on dead insurgents. Weirick was ousted from his post in late September after sending a strongly worded email to Peter Delorier, one of the officials named in his complaint. He also was slapped with a restraining order, and asked to surrender his personal firearms and submit to a risk assessment at the base’s mental health clinic.

On the risk assessment’s scale of zero to 10, Weirick was rated “zero-to-three,” said his attorney Jane Siegel. She declined to provide a copy of the document, citing Weirick’s right to privacy, but said it shows he tested negative for post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, suicide risk, homicidal risk, and a history of violence or making threatening statements.

The results are particularly gratifying, Siegel said, given public comments made by Robert Hogue in response to Weirick’s firing. Hogue, the commandant’s top civilian attorney, also is named in Weirick’s inspector general complaint. He told Marine Corps Times then that Weirick’s email to Delorier raised suspicions in light of the Sept. 16 mass shooting at Washington’s Navy Yard, which left 13 dead, saying: “Like all members of the Navy-Marine Corps team, I am deeply moved and motivated by the recent tragedy at the Washington Navy Yard. Against the backdrop of that tragedy, I am very concerned for the safety of my clients and staff given the bizarre nature of the communications in this case.”

Siegel, a retired Marine colonel, said she emailed Hogue requesting a retraction. A civilian attorney and friend of Weirick’s, L. Lee Thweatt, contacted the Navy Department’s top civilian counsel demanding an apology and a retraction, calling Hogue’s reference to the Navy Yard shooting “absurd.”

“Mr. Hogue, despite his completely unjustified fear that he claims for his staff, no one else can corroborate that, and the risk assessment tells us that there is no sign of homicidal suicidal thoughts, and [Weirick’s] evaluation was extremely normal,” Siegel said.

Asked last week if he intends to retract his previous remarks, Hogue released a statement through a Marine public affairs officer saying his reference to the Navy Yard tragedy was taken out of context.

“Some have mischaracterized my statement by comparing Maj. Weirick to the Navy Yard shooter. The reference to the Navy Yard merely reflected that what we learn through such tragedies informs how we evaluate potential threats,” Hogue said. “Faced with a threat to my staff, I could not fail to act. I believe my reaction is best understood when considered against the entire email.”

In that email, Weirick refers to himself in the third person — a longtime habit, friends of his have said, dismissing the quirk as part of his “schtick” — and implores Delorier to “come to the side of the honest and truthful.”

“Delay, obfuscation, and intimidation are not working,” Weirick’s email says. “Those tactics will never work against Weirick. Do whatever you want. Hunker down with the dishonest and hope for the best. Best of luck. You will need it.”

A retired Marine lieutenant colonel, Delorier served as Hogue’s deputy in the commandant’s legal office, where his stature matched that of a general officer. However, he recently relocated to Camp Lejeune, N.C., into a job below his pay grade at the Pentagon, fueling speculation the move was involuntary, sources say.

Marine officials have disputed that. A spokesman for the commandant’s office said previously that Camp Lejeune is near his family’s home, from which he commuted to the Pentagon for about seven years.

Weirick targeted Delorier in his complaint because Delorier was involved in the controversial decision to classify investigative materials related to the urination cases, for which the Marine Corps ultimately took disciplinary action against eight Marines. Weirick’s complaint alleges Hogue and Delorier, among others, sought to classify evidence in an effort to “prevent or delay the disclosure of information before court-martial, to conceal violations of law, and prevent embarrassment to the United States Marine Corps” — all breaches of an executive order, signed by President Obama, defining what constitutes classified national security information and what does not.

Weirick’s email to Delorier was reviewed in its entirety by the licensed clinical social worker assigned to evaluate him, Siegel said, noting that a copy of it was sent anonymously to the office of Navy Capt. Thomas Craig, executive officer for Naval Health Clinic Quantico. The clinic also received an anonymous call inquiring whether Weirick had visited and when, Siegel said, but staff there told the caller they could not release that information for privacy reasons.

Marine Corps Times reviewed an email from Craig to Siegel confirming that Weirick’s email to Delorier was delivered to him anonymously via inter-office mail.

Weirick is scheduled to meet Nov. 15 with John Vernon, an investigator with the Defense Department inspector general’s office, Siegel said. Weirick filed a separate reprisal complaint with the IG in May. In it, he alleges Hogue along with the commandant’s top uniformed attorney, Maj. Gen. Vaughn Ary, lodged a professional misconduct complaint against Weirick’s former supervisor as punishment for not reining in Weirick when he addressed his concerns with members of Congress. .

Reprisal is banned by the federal Military Whistleblower Protection Act, which allows service members to make “lawful communications” with members of Congress, inspectors general, military auditors and law enforcement organizations. However, a 2011 internal investigation by the Defense Department found the Pentagon frequently failed to protect whistle-blowers from reprisal.

The IG’s office, Siegel said, is “very interested in the whole mental health investigation issue and the anonymous caller.”

A spokeswoman for the IG’s office, Bridget Serchak, said she couldn’t confirm the meeting was taking place as the office does not confirm investigations or investigative matters.

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