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General denies conflict of interest motion in Brezler case

Dec. 3, 2013 - 08:13PM   |  
Enduring Freedom
Then-Capt. Jason C. Brezler, a reservist with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, meets with Afghan leaders in Now Zad, Afghanistan, in December 2009. The reservist faces a board of inquiry for transmitting classified information over an unsecured network and having classified documents on his personal computer. (Cpl. Albert F. Hunt / Marine Corps)
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The commanding general of Marine Forces Reserve has found that his own actions regarding a high-profile Marine officer’s legal proceedings do not constitute a conflict of interest and do not require him to recuse himself as convening authority in the case.

Lt. Gen. Richard Mills denied a 22-page defense motion in the case of Maj. Jason Brezler that requested Mills be removed as convening authority because of emails he sent to other general officers regarding the case. A reserve officer and New York City firefighter, Brezler is accused of sharing classified information through improper channels after he emailed a file to Marine colleagues about a corrupt Afghan policeman with ties to the Taliban and a history of pedophilia. Soon after, one of the thug cop’s child victims grabbed a rifle and killed three Marines. Brezler is also accused of taking some 100 classified documents back from deployment with him on a personal hard drive.

The conflict of interest motion, filed by Brezler’s defense attorney, Kevin Carroll, alleged Mills tried to discourage another general officer from writing a letter in support of Brezler by telling the general “no one is getting pilloried ... (Brezler) could have been court-martialed.” Mills also wrote four other generals, including commandant Gen. Jim Amos, saying that Brezler “could possibly have been sent to a court-martial as he would have been on orders at the time he took and transported the classified material out of theater.”

In a Dec. 2 letter to Carroll, Mills formally denied the request regarding his own alleged actions.

“I have ... given the request proper consideration in light of the nature of the allegations, all the facts and circumstances surrounding this Board of Inquiry, and the requirements outlined in the reference,” he wrote. “I find no legal basis to support the request. Therefore, I am denying the request for removal of the convening authority.”

Marine Corps Times also reviewed a Nov. 26 document from Maj. Chip Hodge, senior trial counsel for reserve matters, recommending that the conflict of interest request be denied.

According to MARFORRES spokesman Col. Fran Piccoli, the decision Mills made is within his purview as convening authority on the case.

“The general officer that is designated as a show cause authority is empowered to make all decisions regarding the initiation and conduct of boards of inquiry consistent with the regulation,” Piccoli said via email. “Any issues regarding the initiation and conduct of the board of inquiry may be addressed to the Secretary of the Navy post-board as part of the review process.”

But Carroll, a reserve Army officer who is representing Brezler pro bono for the firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan in Washington, D.C., said Brezler has been singled out for punishment.

“It is unfortunate that without explanation, General Mills refuses to recuse himself as the convening authority for Major Brezler’s Board of Inquiry, despite his unethical statements and conflict of interest,” he said in an emailed statement. “If General Mills was not the convening authority for this case, he would likely be a witness.”

Carroll said he has received Marine Corps data showing there have been 125 reported spillages of classified information, of the sort Brezler is accused of, since his July 2012 email.

“None of these spillages, to our knowledge, resulted in preliminary inquiries, boards of inquiry or courts-martial — except for Brezler’s,” he said.

The fate of Brezler’s career will be decided at an administrative board of inquiry hearing later this month at MARFORRES headquarters in New Orleans. Three MARFORRES officers have been tapped to preside over the hearing, Carroll said: Col. James Iulo; Col. Bart Pester; and Lt. Col. Todd Manyx.

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