Lieutenant Meredith L. Patterson has not been convicted of any crime and is entitled to the presumption of innocence. All crimes mentioned in connection with Lt. Patterson are alleged. The government has not yet proven any offense. Any mention of criminal action herein is allegation, not definite fact.
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Q: Who are you?
A: Robert J. Hansen <email@example.com>.
Q: Are you a lawyer?
A: I am not a lawyer. I am not competent to give legal advice. I have a good layman’s knowledge of the law and the judicial system, but that’s all. This document is journalism, not legal advice!
Q: How do I know these answers are accurate?
A: You don’t. If you want to sanity check me, though, I encourage you to contact Lieutenant Charles J. Stone <firstname.lastname@example.org> and get your own independent confirmation.
Q: Isn’t this just the government's side of things?
A: Yes. I make no claims this faq is fair and impartial.
Q: Isn’t that horribly unfair?
A: I think as one-sided as this information is, it is better than the rumors flying about. I also think that it is ethical to present one side of a story as long as you do not misrepresent it as being fair and balanced.
Q: Is she guilty of any offense?
A: All Americans are entitled to the presumption of innocence. The government is claiming she has acted criminally, but those allegations are at this time unproven.
Q: Is Lt. Patterson facing a trial?
A: Yes. Lt. Stone began the conversation with, “I hear you have some information on my awol lieutenant.” Being awol is typically something which will get you in at least some kind of very hot water. Further, a bench warrant has been issued for her failure to appear before court. This seems to strongly indicate that yes, she is facing trial.
Q: Is Lt. Patterson facing trial for being awol?
A: It’s hard to say. Originally, yes, but Lt. Stone indicates that she has escalated this to flight from prosecution and desertion. He has expressed a reluctance to re-file enhanced charges.
Q: Is Lt. Patterson facing a court-martial or a state trial?
A: A court-martial. It will be held in a California state courthouse, heard by a California judge, applying the laws of the California Army National Guard.
Q: Is this alleged offense found in the ucmj, or the cmvc?
A: Both. The cmvc is the ucmj plus some additional parts. Her present alleged offense is found in the ucmj (Article 86), which means it’s also in the cmvc.
Q: I thought awol was just punishable by discharge from service. Where does the jail time come in?
A: Officer awol is different from enlisted awol. Enlisted awol is punishable by discharge; officer awol carries with it jail time.
Q: Is the Army pushing for any particular sentence?
A: I don’t believe so. Good lawyers win their cases before they start thinking about sentencing recommendations. When talking to Lt. Stone, he expressed a range of possible sentences; he did not show any desire to have any one particular sentence imposed.
Q: What punishment is she facing?
A: Unknown. Originally she was facing a maximum of one year in county jail. However, given her apparent flight from prosecution and the potential escalation from “awol” to “deserter,” it’s impossible for me to say.
Lt. Stone says the last officer awol he prosecuted received a 180-day county jail sentence, with 120 of those days suspended.
Q: You said county jail, not prison?
A: Correct. If convicted of being awol she would serve her time in a county jail, most likely in San Francisco County.
Q: How is county jail different from prison?
A: The living conditions are worse, but you get to spend it with a much nicer class of criminal — drunk drivers and small time marijuana possession.
County jails are smaller than prisons and are focused on short-term housing. They lack exercise facilities, prison libraries, rehabilitation programs, and other such things that prisons routinely have. There is less variety in food, although the food is probably of better quality: meals are contracted for as opposed to prepared by inmate labor.
The wardens are much more professional: deputy sheriffs are better trained, better disciplined, and subject to more oversight than prison correction officials.
Q: Do people get abused in county jails?
A: It’s possible, yes. However, county jails have a lot of civilians milling about at all times: lawyers come in frequently to speak to clients, local judges make random inspections of the facilities, and above all the deputy sheriffs have friends in the community to keep them honest. It’s much harder for abuse to be hushed up in a county jail than in a state prison.
Q: What independent safeguards are in place to prevent abuse?
A: Your lawyer can visit you in jail or prison. If you are kept from your lawyer, your lawyer can then go to court and file a habeas corpus petition demanding that you be made available. Even if you assume the court, the warden and every jailer is irreparably corrupt, your lawyer can go to the press. “The courts and the jail are both forbidding me from seeing my client” is the sort of story that earns the reporter a Pulitzer.
Q: How could Lt. Patterson have avoided this?
A: According to Lt. Stone, she needed to draft a letter of resignation and deliver it to her commanding officer. This could have been done in person or via trusted courier, such as another officer or the United States Postal Service.
Q: She didn’t file a resignation letter?
A: According to Lt. Stone, she did not.
Q: That’s all she needed to file?
A: According to Lt. Stone, had she filed a letter of resignation she would simply be facing discharge instead of time in county lock-up. From this I infer that any jail time she would have received would have been set aside as a suspended sentence.
Q: Who has been asked if she filed?
A: Lt. Stone indicates neither her co nor her company’s senior sergeant received a resignation letter, nor did they have any indication she wished to end her service.
Q: If she attempted to file but was refused, what then?
A: That could be either an affirmative defense or a mitigating circumstance for sentencing. Either way, the proper venue for it would be a trial.
Q: If she attempted to file but was given a ton of paperwork and not told what it was, what then?
A: She could have, should have, taken the paperwork to her jag representatives and asked them to explain it. When a soldier is confronted with an impenetrable legal bureaucracy, jag does their best to cut through it.
Q: How do you sleep at night?
A: Quite well, thank you.
Q: Did you give the Army any actionable intelligence?
A: I did not. Any information I could have provided, the Army already possessed. I have not contributed one iota to the Army's case against her, nor to the Army's pursuit of her.
Q: So the Army is pursuing her?
A: It is inconceivable to me that the government would be in the business of allowing fugitives to escape justice.
Q: Would you have helped, had you any actionable intelligence?
A: In our society we resolve questions of guilt and innocence via the courts. By fleeing from the courts, she has made it clear she does not consider herself bound by the Rule of Law.
With respect to the awol charge, I would not cooperate with Lt. Stone without first being served with a subpoena. I have no duty to Lt. Stone to make his life easy.
With respect to the apparent flight from justice, my duty is to the Rule of Law. That duty demands I assist in the apprehension of a fugitive from justice. Lt. Stone and I have identical goals with respect to Lt. Patterson returning to face justice, but we are not allies, I am not acting as his hound dog, and I certainly do not work for him.
Q: But you hate the law!
A: Adam Smith, the Father of Capitalism, loved capitalism but despised capitalists. I love the Rule of Law but I generally despise lawyers. Lt. Patterson is not fleeing a lawyer, but it strongly appears she is fleeing the Rule of Law. I will not support this.
I personally don't think you should, either.
Q: Have you been served with a subpoena?
Q: So what's the best possible outcome?
A: Voluntary return to the United States to face trial before a court-martial, and offer a guilty plea to the awol in exchange for taking everything else off the table.
Q: Is that an offer from Lt. Stone?
A: No. It is only my own educated guess as to the best possible outcome.
Q: Is that “best possible outcome” best for you, best for the government, or best for Lt. Patterson?
A: I have no horse in this race. I believe this is in the best outcome Lt. Patterson can hope for. The government can do considerably better, especially now.
Q: What about a statute of limitations?
A: Once an arrest warrant is issued, the clock stops.
Q: What if she's able to successfully persuade Governor Schwarzenegger to release her from service?
A: A military deserter, in a time of the highest military mobilization since World War Two, who is a wanted fugitive, who by all reports is engaged in international flight to avoid prosecution, asking a Republican governor to intercede on her behalf? I don’t mean to sound dismissive, but that's not a strategy. That's a fantasy.
Q: What about seeking alternate citizenship?
A: The first question any nation will ask her is whether she has any warrants out for her arrest. It is in my opinion very unlikely that any Western nation would grant citizenship to someone who is engaged in flight from prosecution, as Lt. Patterson strongly appears to be.
Q: I don’t trust you.
A: Good. You shouldn’t. I encourage you to hear Lt. Patterson’s side of things. Then contact the government prosecutor, Lieutenant Charles J. Stone <email@example.com>, and ask him for the government’s side of things. Make up your own mind as to what the truth is.
Q: I’ve been contacted by them — am I in legal hot water?
A: That's a legal question; ask a lawyer. I am not a lawyer. I am especially not your lawyer. Do not contact me with legal questions.
Q: Lt. Stone is contacting me, but I don’t want to talk to him. How can I make him go away while not running afoul of the law? I don’t want to be Martha Stewarted!
A: Tell him, “I will speak to you once I’ve retained the assistance of counsel.” Then go get a lawyer.
Q: I’ve been contacted by Lt. Patterson or Mr. Sassaman and I want to come forward. Who should I talk to?
A: Lieutenant Charles J. Stone <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Q: Where can I get copies of the official paperwork?
A: Lt. Rodriguez, in the Public Affairs Office of the Joint Forces Headquarters, Army National Guard. You can phone him at (916) 854-3304 and have him fax you the:
No other documents are publicly available at this time. No foia request needs to be made; just call him and ask him to fax them to you. Lt. Rodriguez has already been contacted by Lt. Stone and been told to make this information publicly available.
Please be nice to Lt. Rodriguez. Remember to say “please” and “thank you.”
As of 4:00pm Pacific time on February 4, 2009, Lt. Rodriguez had not yet pulled the necessary files. Please give him a little time to get it together on his desk before you start calling.
State of California
Army National Guard
General Court Martial
People of the State of California
vs. Meredith Leigh Patterson
The People of the State of California
To: any peace officer of this State
[personally identifying information elided]
Dated 17 Jan 09
California National Guard
9800 Goethe Road,
Sacramento, CA 95826
This document is copyright © 2009, Robert J. Hansen. All rights are reserved, but licensing is available.
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