YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Defense attorneys representing a U.S. Army major filed a motion last week claiming prosecutors improperly reopened a criminal case to prevent the officer from retiring with benefits.
The motion asks that the case against Maj. Derren M. Siglock, stationed with the 836th Transportation Battalion at Yokohama North Dock, be dismissed due to prosecutorial misconduct and vindictive prosecution. It asserts that the prosecution reopened the case by falsely claiming Siglock’s ex-wife and daughter had changed their minds and were willing to testify.
Siglock had originally been charged in May 2012 with a handful of charges to include sexual assault, being absent without leave for four days, testing positive for marijuana use and disrespecting a superior officer.
More than four months ago, the prosecution dropped all the charges against the officer after his ex-wife and daughter, who lived in the United States, declined to make the trip to Japan to testify against him.
The U.S. military has been grappling with the problem of sexual assault and harassment in its ranks and has been criticized by Congress and victims for not doing enough to stop it.
Camp Zama in Tokyo, the headquarters for U.S. Army Japan, became embroiled in the issue in June when Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison, the USARJ commander, was suspended for allegedly failing to report or properly investigate a sexual assault complaint. It was Harrison, however, who issued a written reprimand to Siglock the same day the charges were dropped against him in April.
A few days later, Siglock applied for assistance through the Warriors Transition Unit, which could be used as a pathway to a medical-related retirement from the Army. Siglock suffers from “Bipolar Spectrum Disorder and Severe PTSD,” according to an assessment by the WTU in the court file.
One of Siglock’s superiors at Camp Zama was apparently incensed to learn the major had begun processing through the WTU office, according to emails obtained by the defense during discovery.
“He is. Going to get out. Fast. With a tax-free medical retirement,” wrote Lt. Col. Erick Crews, the battalion commander, in an email to a judge advocate at Camp Zama on April 3.
In another email written the same day, Crews wrote, “Bottom line, this officer is highly likely to get a tax-free retirement because we have determined it’s too hard to do the right thing. Sorry Sir, venting a little bit. I am very frustrated/disappointed in our ability to proceed by the Army Values.”
On May 2, the charges against Siglock were re-preferred because, according to a memo submitted by the prosecution to the court, Mikell Siglock and her daughter were willing to travel to Japan to testify.
But in an affidavit signed May 28, Mikell Siglock stated that she had never changed her mind, further stating that she and her daughter did not want Siglock criminally prosecuted and that they “do not wish to have any further contact with any member” of the judge advocate’s office or anyone in the command chain in Japan.
“The facts support that Mrs. Siglock never had a ‘change of heart’ but instead the government made a decision to re-prefer charges against Maj. Siglock in retaliation for him exercising his right to be medically retired through the WTU and as a means from stopping the WTU process,” states the dismissal motion.
“What the government’s going to have to do is call their star witness a liar,” said Tim Bilecki, one of the attorneys representing Siglock.
The government dropped the most serious sexual assault charges on Aug. 5, but has pressed forward with a court-martial for the AWOL, drug-use and insubordination charges.
When asked for comment on the motion to dismiss, the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate responded: “Motions are scheduled for Sept. 10-12.”
The defense maintains that prosecuting the lesser charges through a general court-martial is vindictive because the Army hasn’t done so in similar previous cases.
The motion to dismiss is set to be heard in court on Monday.