Yesterday I promised part II of Uncle Chuck’s JAG stories and other Navy shenanigans, very appropriate for April-time tomfoolery. So, here we go! Uncle Chuck says, “Remember, a sea story always starts: ‘No shit, this is the truth!'”
One of my collateral duties in Pensacola was to be the legal officer for the Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team. While I did that work, there was only one incident that I had to handle “professionally.” One of the aircraft that flies to all Blue Angel shows is “Fat Albert”, a C-130 transport that carries spare parts, tools and the support and maintenance crews for the demonstration aircraft. One afternoon I received a call at my office to please come out to the squadron HQ right away as there was a problem. When I arrived, I learned that the Blues had done an air show outside the country and Fat Albert came back with too many cases of liquid adult refreshment on board to pass the Customs inspection. I used my negotiating skills (and my contacts as the senior navy prosecutor) to smooth things over. But there was a large alcoholic puddle in the grass near Fat Albert that afternoon.
Another tidbit relates to the TV show “JAG”. One of my best friends in the Navy was, in part, a model for the JAG character “Harm”. Rick was a former naval aviator, graduate of the Naval Academy and a fellow student with me at the Naval Justice School. We both were assigned to NLSO Pensacola following Justice School so we made it a point to get to know each other. Rick was a former A-4 pilot who had two tours on carriers in the Atlantic and had to eject from his aircraft at least two times. He preceded me as the senior prosecutor at Pensacola so as the Senior Defense Counsel I was often was assigned to defend cases he was prosecuting. Because we traveled two or three weeks out of five around our 3.5 state trial district, we spent a lot of time together. On one trip, we drove together to New Orleans to try a senior enlisted marine for burglary of the enlisted mess. He was alleged to have conspired with another marine to do the burglary. The other marine confessed and implicated my defendant. However, there was no independent evidence other than the co-conspirator to corroborate the allegation that my marine was involved. We had a Marine jury hear the case. The jury deliberated about 15 minutes and found my Marine not guilty because there was no independent corroborating evidence. The drive from New Orleans back to Pensacola was about 4 hours. Rick was so pissed at the jury that he wouldn’t talk to me the whole trip. He went on to become the Judge Advocate General of the Navy. I didn’t.
Following my release from active duty, I moved to Indiana to practice law. One case I had was a situation where a father kidnapped his son in Virginia after mom got a custody order and dad ended up in Indiana. Mom hired a private detective who tracked down dad in Indiana. She hired me to help get the son returned. That required a hearing in Indiana. Mom and the private detective come to Indiana, we meet for dinner to prepare for the hearing, conduct the hearing and they return to Virginia. About two weeks later, I woke up to a TV news show with the private detective’s face on the screen with the lead news item on national tv. The private detective was John Walker, a retired navy chief who had served on nuclear submarines, who was along with his son and brother arrested and subsequently convicted for being a Russian spy. At the time, my friend Rick was the Director of the Naval Investigative Service (now known as NCIS–you know–another tv show). Knowing that Rick would be fully briefed on Walker’s contacts, I immediately called him to fill him in on my innocent involvement.
Huge thank you to Uncle Chuck for sharing his adventures in the Navy! And thank you for your service to our country. I’ve really loved hearing these stories.
If you missed Part I, be sure to check it out.