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Lt. Colonel (Chaplain) Ron Leininger’s Testimony at the Travis Bishop court-martial

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 9, 2010 by James M. Branum

In celebration of Travis’ soon-to-be release (we expect by the end of the month), I wanted to share this extra special excerpt from the record of trial. This excerpt is the transcript of Chaplain Leininger’s testimony at Travis Bishop’s court-martial.

What is worth noting is towards the end, where in my cross-examination, I got Chaplain Leininger to say that civil law is God’s law, that is was “sad” that people break the law in civil disobedience to injustice and that those who broke the law during the civil rights era for the sake of justice “thought they were doing the right thing.”

LIEUTENANT COLONEL (CHAPLAIN) RON LEININGER, HHB, 69th ADA Brigade, U.S. Army, was called as a witness for the prosecution, was sworn, and testified as follows:

DIRECT EXAMINATION

Questions by the trial counsel:

Q. Sir, have you ever met the accused, Sergeant Bishop before?

A. Yes, I have.

Q. What the purpose of that meeting?

A. As part of his conscientious objector packet, per the regulation, he’s required to meet with a unit chaplain, an Army chaplain, for a conscientious objector interview by the chaplain, and that was the only time that I’ve met him.

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WAR RESISTER TRAVIS BISHOP GETS THREE MONTH REDUCTION IN SENTENCE

Posted in Uncategorized on February 10, 2010 by James M. Branum

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WAR RESISTER TRAVIS BISHOP GETS THREE MONTH REDUCTION IN SENTENCE
Hundreds of letters from supporters credited with large part in victory

February 10, 2010

FORT HOOD, Texas – Sergeant Travis Bishop received word this week that he was given a 3 month suspension, of the 12 month sentence he received last year for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan based on his Christian religious beliefs against war.

Lt. General Robert Cone, commanding general of Fort Hood approved the sentence reduction on February 4th after considering Sgt. Bishop’s clemency application.

Sgt. Bishop’s clemency application included a legal brief (alleging problems at trial, problems with the processing of Bishop’s conscientious objector claim, and mistreatment at the Fort Lewis brig), a hand-written letter from Sgt. Bishop, and 433 letters (signed by a total of 538 people from 21 different countries) from members of Amnesty International calling for Sgt. Bishop to be released.

Sgt. Bishop’s civilian attorney, James M. Branum, estimates that Sgt. Bishop will be released no later than March 31 based on the amount of good behavior credit Sgt. Bishop has earned.

In an emotional response, Sgt. Bishop asked his legal team to relay this message to the public, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you to everyone who wrote letters and supported me! This is amazing and unprecedented.”

Sgt. Bishop went on to say that his plans after release are to see his family and friends and then “to try to start this new life that I’ve been granted. I think it is safe to say my life has been completely changed by this. I won’t be going to what my life was like before. Lots of changes are in store for me.” Sgt. Bishop said he hopes to continue to speak out against war and will be returning to Texas to pursue a career as a country musician.

Sgt. Bishop also said he had no regrets and that he urges others who are feeling moral conflicts with war to follow their conscience, but to not wait as long as he did to get help.

According to Mr. Branum, there are many who had a role in securing Sgt. Bishop’s early release. These people include:

* Jeff Paterson, Sarah Lazare and everyone else at Courage to Resist
* Chuck Luther (fearless G.I. Advocate and head of Disposablewarriors.com),
* CPT Glendening with the US Army Trial Defense Services (trial co-counsel)
* Cynthia Thomas (director of the Under the Hood G.I. Coffee house in Killeen),
* Victor Agosto (fellow Afghanistan war resister)
* Michael Kern, and the rest of the Fort Hood chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War,
* the many Texans who traveled to Fort Hood to attend Travis’ trial and to protest in the weeks he was being held in the Bell County jail,
* Dahr Jamail and Eric Thompson (who provided compelling first-hand account reporting from the trial),
* Legrand Jones (post-trial co-counsel at Fort Lewis),
* the London office of Amnesty International,
* Seth Manzell (director of Coffee Strong, the GI coffee house at Fort Lewis),
* Gerry Condon, president of Greater Seattle Veterans For Peace, and all of the other local supporters of Travis in the Tacoma-Seattle area,
* the 538 people who wrote letters of support for Travis
* the many people who have written letters to Travis while he has been in the brig at Fort Lewis.”

Supporters of Sgt. Bishop are urged to continue to write him (instructions on how to do this can be found at http://www.couragetoresist.org) and also to donate to help cover his post-trial defense costs (you can do this at http://www.couragetoresist.org/travis/)

###

For more information or to schedule an interview about this subject, please contact James Branum (lead defense counsel for Mr. Bishop, 405-476-5620) or Cynthia Thomas (Director of the Under the Hood G.I. Coffee house, 254-768-8300). Fort Lewis Brig policies generally forbid inmates from doing interviews with the press, but you are welcome to see if an exception can be made by contacting the Fort Lewis Public affairs office at (253)967-0147 or (253)967-0152.

Travis Bishop’s Christmas Wish

Posted in Uncategorized on December 16, 2009 by James M. Branum

As you can imagine, imprisoned war resister Travis Bishop is pretty discouraged that it is almost Christmas and he is still in prison for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan. I get to talk to him fairly often on the phone but he is definitely discouraged. More than anything, Travis just wants to go home. The conditions and continual harassment at the Fort Lewis Brig have really worn him down, and it is really hard for him to keep his spirits up.

So, in our phone calls we’ve been brainstorming on if there is any other way we can lobby for Travis’ release from prison (the formal 1105 clemency application will likely not be heard for another month), and I think we’ve come to an idea that is worth doing.

We are asking that supporters of Travis send a Christmas card to Fort Hood Commander, Lt. General Robert W. Cone. (if anyone wrote the CG earlier as part of the Amnesty International letter drive, there has been a change in general since then)

In the card, please express your holiday greetings and then ask Lt. General Cone to release Travis Bishop from confinement. Please keep the notes on the card polite and preferably short. If you are a religious person, please feel free to remind the General that the Christmas holiday celebrates the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and that Travis in prison for following the teachings of Jesus.

Please send your cards to:

Lt. General Robert W. Cone
Commanding General
III Corps HQ
1001 761st Tank Battalion Ave.
Bldg. 1001, Room W105
Fort Hood, TX 76544-5005

After you do that, please send a Christmas card or letter to Travis. His address is:

David Travis Bishop
Box 339536
Fort Lewis, WA 98433

Note that the Army will likely reject your first letter, and maybe your second also. Please keep trying to send Travis mail as he really wants to hear from you. When your letter is rejected, sometimes Travis gets to see the envelope. If so, he is then able to add your name to his approved correspondence list.

Thanks & Happy Holidays!

Protest at Fort Lewis

Posted in Uncategorized on October 19, 2009 by James M. Branum

Press Release: Attorney reports human rights abuses of G.I. resisters in Fort Lewis Brig; Veterans’ groups call Tuesday, October 13 Press Conference in Seattle

Posted in Uncategorized on October 9, 2009 by James M. Branum

Download the original attachment
For immediate release: 10/9/09. CONTACT:

Seth Manzel
Executive Director, G.I. Voice
253-228-8912
sethmanz(at)hotmail.com

Andrew VanDenBergh
Staff member, Coffee Strong
760-799-5088
andrew10598(at)hotmail.com

James M. Branum
Civilian Defense Attorney for Travis Bishop & Leo Church
405-476-5620 or 866-933-2769
girightslawyer(at)gmail.com

Attorney reports human rights abuses of G.I. resisters in Fort Lewis Brig;

Veterans’ groups call Tuesday, October 13 Press Conference in Seattle Marriott
Fort Lewis, Washington, October 9, 2009 – Veterans’ groups are reacting with alarm to reports that two Army soldiers imprisoned in the Fort Lewis Regional Correctional Facility (RCF) have been subjected to human rights abuses. Travis Bishop (recognized by Amnesty International as a “Prisoner of Conscience”) resisted deployment to Afghanistan, and Leo Church left his unit to prevent his family from going homeless. Their civilian defense attorney James M. Branum reports that they have been strip-searched while being possibly filmed. Bishop and Church have also been watched by female guards during strip searches, while using the restroom and in the showers. The prisoners were denied one in-person visit by counsel and all phone calls with their attorneys have been illegally monitored by guards. G.I. Voice and other veteran-led groups are holding a press conference with Branum and other spokespeople, on Tuesday at 10:00 am in the East Room of the Marriott Renaissance Hotel Seattle (515 Madison).

Seth Manzel, a Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade veteran and executive director of G.I. Voice, commented, “These techniques of sexual humiliation are far too similar to those practiced on foreign prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Bagram in Afghanistan. Is the Army at Fort Lewis using enhanced interrogation techniques to break down American soldiers here at home?”

James M. Branum, the civilian defense attorney for Bishop and Church, says “The Fort Lewis Brig is violating the constitutional rights of my clients, namely their protections under the Eighth Amendment (the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment) and the Sixth Amendment (the right to counsel). This mistreatment must end.”

Other attorneys and military veteran bloggers have long commented on reports of human rights abuses in the RCF, including the use of female guards to sexually humiliate prisoners. The reports include the 2005 case of Michael Levitt, who plugged up his cell toilet in response to reported sexual humiliation by guards, and was then chained to a “stress-chair” (with metal frames but not seat) for 109 hours. Other war resisters, such as Sgt. Kevin Benderman and Spc. Suzanne Swift, have been held at the Fort Lewis RCF.

Sgt. Travis Bishop arrived at Fort Lewis one month ago to serve a 12-month sentence in the RCF, and was recognized by Amnesty International as a “Prisoner of Conscience.” Bishop refused orders to deploy to Afghanistan based on religious reasons, and applied for Conscientious Objector (CO) status. He went AWOL (Absent Without Leave) from Fort Hood, Texas, on the day of his deployment to give himself “time to prepare for my application process.” He was away from his unit for about a week, during which he drafted his CO application and sought legal advice. He returned voluntarily, and on his return to the unit he submitted his application, but was court martialed even as the Army was still reviewing it.

Travis Bishop is also an accomplished country musician. He opened for Toby Keith while serving in Baghdad with the 3rd Signal Brigade in 2007, as well as country stars Keith Anderson and Chely Wright (see links below). G.I. Voice is calling on country musicians and fans to come to the support of Travis Bishop.
Leo Church, another Fort Hood soldier, is also imprisoned in the Fort Lewis RCF. Church went AWOL to prevent his wife and children from becoming homeless. He tried to get help from his unit, but was denied, and received 8 months prison time. Church was eventually forced by this ordeal to give his son up for adoption. According to Church, “With everything that was going on, from me leaving, even though it was to care for my family, because I could find no support from the Army, Amanda and I had to place our son, Austin in a loving home through adoption. We did not want him enduring the strife that we had endured and for him to end up being fatherless, because I would be living in prison.”
Andrew VanDenBergh, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War and G.I. Voice staff member, said of Leo Church, “He joined the Army, found out his family was homeless, wasn’t allowed to keep his children from living on the streets, went to take care of his family, had to give a child up for adoption and is now locked in prison and being abused. Being abused for what? For taking care of his children?”

Fort Lewis continues to be a center of controversy, with the recent revelation that a civilian security employee has been spying on groups opposing the shipment of Strykers through local ports. Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq, was recently discharged from service after the Army dropped remaining charges against him. One year ago, G.I. Voice opened the “Coffee Strong” as a G.I. coffeehouse for servicemembers and their families around Fort Lewis to gather and share information, as well as a resource for those facing problems with service.
Also on Tuesday, October 13, Marjorie Cohn, President of the National Lawyers’ Guild (and national advisory board member for G.I. Voice) will be speaking at Coffee Strong about her new book The Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent. She is a leading voice demanding that members of the Bush Administration be prosecuted for war crimes. She also condemns both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as illegal under international law, not as self-defense of the United States. She will speak at 7:00 – 8:30 pm at Coffee Strong, located off I-5 Exit 122 (Berkeley St.), at 15109 Union Ave. SW (next to Subway) in Lakewood, WA. The event is free and open to the public. For information call (253) 581-1565, or go to G.I. Voice at http://www.givoice.org
BACKGROUND LINKS

G.I. Voice / Coffee Strong

http://www.givoice.org

http://www.coffeestrong.com
Coffee Strong: Listening to the G.I. Voice at Fort Lewis (Zoltan Grossman)

http://www.vvaw.org/veteran/article/?id=1252

Army Prisoners Isolated, Denied Right to Legal Counsel (Dahr Jamail)

http://dahrjamailiraq.com/army-prisoners-isolated-denied-right-to-legal-counsel
Free Leo Church (Legal Defense Fund)

http://freeleochurch.wordpress.com/about-leo-church

Free Travis Bishop (Legal Defense Fund)

https://freetravisbishop.wordpress.com/
Amnesty International declaration on Travis Bishop

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR51/093/2009/en/bb7a6bba-48c4-49ba-975f-af5bc0ff9c5e/amr510932009en.html

Sgt. Travis Bishop Says No to Afghanistan Occupation

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/08/13-3

http://adoptresistance.blogspot.com/2009/05/sgt-travis-bishop-another-ft-hood.html

New Country Star interview of Travis Bishop in Iraq

http://newcountrystar.com/travis_bishop.htm

Travis Bishop Music

http://www.myspace.com/travisbishopmusic


Veterans’ articles on human rights violations in Fort Lewis RCF

http://jack-dalton.blogspot.com/2005/12/he-dared-to-challenge-power-part-two.html

http://www.williambowles.info/gispecial/2006/0306/080306/gi_4C8_080306.html

Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent (Marjorie Cohn)

http://givoice.org/node/8121

http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/articles/2009/09/25/people

Letters from Fort Lewis Brig (Kevin Benderman)

http://www.globepequot.com/globepequot/index.cfm?fuseaction=customer.product&product_code=1-59228-933-9&category_code=

Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent
(Marjorie Cohn and Katheleen Gilberd)
http://p3books.com/rulesofdisengagement

Travis Bishop’s rebuttal of the denial of his C.O. claim

Posted in Uncategorized on August 31, 2009 by James M. Branum

* DONATE NOW: Travis Bishop Legal Defense Fund at CouragetoResist.org


This post was updated at 4:50 p.m.

We just submitted the rebuttal of the denial of Travis Bishop’s C.O. claim by the hearing investigating officer. (this rebuttal and the IO’s recommendation will now proceed to the convening authority at Fort Hood, and then to the US Army Conscientious Objector Review board)

Travis has asked me to post his rebuttal in its entirety online.

Part 1 of Travis Bishop Rebuttal (PDF download – 28 pages)

Part 2 of Travis Bishop Rebuttal (PDF download) – handwritten personal statement by Travis

Part 3 of Travis Bishop Rebuttal (PDF download) – this part was the Amnesty International statement on Travis Bishop

Correction of Travis Bishop Rebuttal (PDF download) – a correction memo to add an all important missing word

I also need to give some credit where credit is due…

1. Thanks to members of the MLTF and the GI Rights Network for sending me sample rebuttals from past cases to review, as well as their advice and suggestions.

2. Huge thanks go to Thad Crouch and Larry Egly for gathering the supporting letters.

3. Thanks to Rena for last minute typo editing.

4. And thanks to all who posted encouraging notes to facebook while I was writing this.

We will later post the documents provided by the other side in this case, but first must redact all of the SSN’s and other information. (these documents are in the public record, but I still want to protect the privacy of those who wrote statements)

Video: COL Ann Wright speaks out about the Travis Bishop case

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 30, 2009 by James M. Branum