Final call for letters asking for an early release for Travis Bishop

Posted in Action Alerts with tags , , , , on December 5, 2009 by James M. Branum
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Hello friends and supporters of Travis Bishop,

The record of trial will soon be authenticated by the court-martial judge, which means that we will soon have the deadline approaching to submit post-trial matters 1105 matters.

In layman’s terms, this means that before the Lt. General Cone (commanding General of Fort Hood) approves the court-martial results and sentence, we get to present whatever documents and other materials to him in mitigation in hopes that he will reduce Travis’ sentence.

Travis has written a personal letter to the CG (which can be read here: page 1 and page 2). Along with that will be evidence of the mistreatment Travis has suffered at the Fort Lewis Brig, and HUNDREDS of letters from around the world from members of Amnety International (see Amnesty International’s statement declaring Travis Bishop a prisoner of conscience).

We have one problem though… we don’t have enough letters from Americans!

I know that is a funny thing to say, but I think we need some letters from people right here in the USA asking for Travis to be released early, and preferably some from veterans. We do have some letters from the USA, but not near enough.

So, I’m asking all supporters of Travis Bishop to sit down now and write a letter to Lt. General Cone asking for Travis Bishop to be released early. It doesn’t have to be long, but it should be respectful and heartfelt.

If you have time handwrite it or to at least sign it with a pen, that is ideal. If you can do that, please fax it to me at 1-866-757-8785 or scan your letter and then email it to me at girightslawyer(at)gmail(dot)com. (If you can’t email or fax it, then you can mail it to me but I would recommend against it as the deadline is so close. If you must mail it though, send it to: James M. Branum Attorney at Law, 3334 W. Main St. #412, Norman, OK 73072)

If you don’t have time to handwrite it, please don’t let that stop you from writing an email. Just write what you want to say in email form, addressing it Lt. General Cone and them email it to me at: girightslawyer(at)gmail(dot)com.

Time is of the essence. While we could ask for an extension on the 10 day deadline (the clock starts running once the judge authenticates the record, which I expect will happen on Monday), I don’t want to do that, because the sooner we submit the packet, the sooner the General can respond to it. And if a miracle happens, I would love to see Travis get out in time for Christmas!

So, to give myself enough time to compile the packet, I’m asking that all letters of support be sent by Monday, December 14th.

Lastly, I understand some local peace groups have circulated petitions calling for Travis’ release. Please send fax or scan/email those petitions to me by December 14th as well.

Thanks!
James M. Branum
Attorney for Travis Bishop

P.S. Courage to Resist is still supporting Travis for his post-trial case. If you would like to donate for Travis’ legal defense costs, please go to: Couragetoresist.org/travis

Jail House Blog – Time to Wake Up by Travis Bishop

Posted in Jailhouse blog posts on November 17, 2009 by James M. Branum

I’m posting a new blog entry, written by Travis Bishop while in jail at the Northwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility (NWJRCF, aka the Fort Lewis Brig).

 

In accordance with NWJRCF and Army policies, we must say that this blog entry is an expression of Travis’ own opinions and does not represent in any way the views of the U.S. Army (as if Travis would say anything the Army would be down with).

The blog entry itself is hand-written by Travis, so I decided to just scan the pages as PDF’s that you can download and read. I’m too busy with case work to type it up, but if someone could take the time to download the PDF’s and type up what Travis said, I would love to repost it here (just email me if any of y’all have time to type it up)

Protest at Fort Lewis

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

Seattle and National Press Coverage re: Abuse Allegations at Fort Lewis Brig

Posted in Press Releases with tags , , , on October 14, 2009 by James M. Branum

Quite a bit has happened over the last week on the case.

First, here are the press releases we have sent out:

Fort Lewis Soldiers abused in the brig (October 8, 2009)

Fort Lewis continues to deny prisoners right to counsel (October 13, 2009)

Here are the stories that have ran in the press:

Tacoma News-Tribune: Lawyer says rights violated in brig

KIRO: Attorney: 2 Soldiers Jail At Fort Lewis Mistreated

KPLU: Ft. Lewis Prison Complaints

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

PRESS RELEASE: Travis Bishop held incommunicado at Fort Lewis Brig, Attorneys ask why?

Posted in Press Releases on September 18, 2009 by James M. Branum

ARMY PRISONERS ISOLATED AT FORT LEWIS, DENIED RIGHT TO LEGAL COUNSEL

September 17th, 2009 – Fort Lewis, WA – War resistor Travis Bishop is being held incommunicado, in the Northwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Lewis, and is even being denied his legal right to counsel, a violation of the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution. Attorney Legrand Jones was denied access to Bishop, on the grounds that he is on an unnamed and unobtainable “watchlist,” which constitutes deprivation of counsel. Since his incarceration, Bishop’s condition is unclear due to being completely cut off from the public.

Fellow incarcerated soldier Leo Church has been able to reach his lawyer, but the call was monitored by a guard, violating his attorney-client privilege.

Both Bishop and Church have been prevented from adding any names to their respective “authorized contacts” lists (even for family members),which effectively cuts them off from almost all contact with the outside world. Mail and commissary funds sent by friends and supporters will likely be “returned to sender” due to this cruel and inhumane policy.

According to the lead attorney on the cases of Bishop and Church, James Branum, the actions of officials at Fort Lewis have violated his clients’ constitutional rights.

“Bishop and Church’s defense team and supporters are in the process of negotiating with Ft. Lewis officials to ensure transparency and that Bishop and Church’s legal rights are being met. The unusual circumstances of isolation of these soldiers is unquestionably illegal,” Branum said. “But if Fort Lewis doesn’t change its ways, we will be forced to go to court and demand justice.”

War resistor, and according to Amnesty International, prisoner of conscience, Travis Bishop arrived in Fort Lewis September 9th to serve a 12 month sentence in the Regional Correctional Facility. Bishop refused orders to Afghanistan based on religious reasons. He was stationed at Fort Hood, TX and was court marshaled by the Army for his beliefs.

He joined Leo Church, another Fort Hood soldier who went AWOL (Absent Without Leave) to prevent his wife and children from becoming homeless. Leo received 8 months jail time because he put the safety and welfare of his children over his obligation to the Army. Leo tried to get help from his unit, but was denied.

For additional information contact Seth Manzel at GI Voice or visit
https://freetravisbishop.wordpress.com/ or http://freeleochurch.wordpress.com/ (You can donate to Travis Bishop’s defense fund at: http://tr.im/donate2travis)

G.I. Voice is a place for service members and their families around Fort Lewis to gather and share information, as well as a resource for those facing problems with service. It is the parent organization for COFFEE STRONG, a GI coffee house located outside of Fort Lewis.

Contact:Seth Manzel, Executive Director
GI Voice
253-228-8912

James M. Branum
Civilian Defense Attorney for Travis Bishop and Leo Church
405-476-5620 or 866-933-2769
girightslawyer@gmail.com

Travis’ Jailhouse blog – “On Meeting Dahr Jamail”

Posted in Jailhouse blog posts with tags , , , , , , , on September 15, 2009 by James M. Branum

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

On Meeting Dahr Jamail

Written by Travis Bishop

Early September 2009, while sitting in the Bell County Jail, Belton, TX

When I started this journey that I’m on now, and i was asked if I wanted to “go public,” I said sure, not knowing how public it would get. Not that I’m not grateful. I’m wonderfully grateful. The support I’ve gotten has been enormous and I am truly grateful for it.

But then names start to get thrown at me. Different people from various blogs and newspapers were interested in interviewing me, and I tried my best to talk to them as much as i could. At that point, I was not familiar with Dahr Jamil, or his body of work. I had never read his articles or books. Some hollered blasphemy! (Jokingly, of course), and they made sure that I read his articles and least started his book.

I did both. What I discovered was a man who was passionate about his craft and who approached that craft with boldness and tenacity. Actually, I thought there was even a hit of swagger in his book! If you’re not familiar with Dahr Jamail, visit his website (Dahr’s website URL goes here), and see what I mean. Here is a man who risked his career, and even his well-being, in the pursuit of that elusive creature called “Truth in Journalism.” So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered this man had an interested in my story!

The interview was birthed through email correspondence, graduated to a few text messages, and when the time finally came for the phone call, I was nervous. Ten seconds after I answered the phone, however, I realized there was no need to be nervous.

The voice on the other end of the line was not what I expect of of a journalist. Previous interviews had been dry and sometimes accrid. Purely fact-finding, strictly question-and-answer based. They had the same stale quality of an archaelogical dig. When I heard the voice the other end say “Hey Travis, what’s up man?,” I knew this interview would be a litle different.

It was a pleasant interview. Not too long or too short. Definitely not dry, not like some other interviews I had. And when it was over, I realized that it been a pleasant conversation as well. All in all I came from that interview feeling like my message would be lost at all. It felt good. I thought that would be the end of it.

Far from it. The day before the trial I met the man himself.

His demeanor was pleasant. His words always seemed to be carefully chosen. His voice had an air of confidence behind it. Here was a man who strived to tell the truth even ift it meant occasionally sticking it to the The Man, which he was totally capable of doing. Just like I thought . . . pure swagger.

It was our last gathering at Under the Hood Cafe. All the usual suspects were there, along with two guests of honor: Dahr Jamail and his longtime friend and photographer, Eric Thompson. Needless to stay the coffeehouse was a frenzy. Here were two men who battled everyday for the truth, and how to bring that truth to the public, and they were gracing us with their presence!

To me it brought back memories of kindergarten and first grade, when you met cops and firefighters for the first time. When you are that young,it feels almost as if you’re meeting mythical figures, Goliaths, who battled for Truth, Justice and the American Way. All you have are questions upon questions, and open ears listen to stories from far away places and you know in your heart that you have no stories to tell that can even remotely compare to theirs.

But I quickly realized that these Goliaths failed to realize their mythic stature. Or if they did, they did a very good job of finding it.

You could tell right away that they were about as normal and down to earth as you could get. We all ordered pizza, we shot the shit, Eric and Dahr ribbed each other about inside jokes we all wished were privy to.

And when the topic finally came to my upcoming trial the next day, they seemed genuinely concerned and interested. When I heard them the statement I planned to make, they listened intently and afterwards told me that they loved it. What really threw me for a loop was when the two Goliaths told me they applauded and appreciated me. I was never expecting that.

The talking and B.S.’ing carried on into the night and the next day. Trial day. Nothing prepared me for looking behind me in that courtroom and seeing Dahr, Eric, and many friends, new and old, sitting in silent support. The image is forever burned in my mind.

After I was found guilty, there was a final gathering outside the court building, before my sentencing. It was a magnificent thing. A gathering of my friends, showering me with support. I will never forget that moment. Ever.

Eric said that was the start of something huge. Dahr said that his is just us teeing up the ball for something much bigger. And they’re both right. This is just the begining. And now I’m truly a part of it. I know that my friends will be right there with me, every step of the way, and now I know that the two Goliaths will be too, ready to again fright for Truth, Justice, and The American Way.

Dahr Jamail. Eric Thompson.I am truly truly humbled and honored. Proud to call you my heroes and my friends.

Up, up and away . . .

– Travis