Attorneys will testify at chief master sergeant's trial
August 6, 2003
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Two former attorneys for a chief master sergeant accused of indecent sex acts with subordinate airmen will be compelled to testify during his upcoming trial.
Military Judge Col. David Brash on Tuesday waived attorney-client privileges between Winfred B. Harrison Jr. and his former attorneys, Capts. Michael Carrasco and Stacy Vetter.
Harrison, a member of Yokota’s 374th Civil Engineer Squadron, is charged with being absent without leave, obstructing justice and two counts each of cruelty and maltreatment, assault and indecent acts.
Brash rendered his decision after reviewing the attorneys’ videotaped testimony overnight Monday.
The review followed Monday’s pretrial motion from prosecutors seeking to question the attorneys in relation to charges of being absent without leave and obstructing justice.
The attorneys will be compelled to testify on communications with their client as they relate to leave documents prosecutors allege were forged by Harrison.
Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys would comment on the case or charges.
But charging documents released Tuesday by the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate allege Harrison committed indecent sex acts and maltreated and assaulted two subordinate airmen during separate tours at Yokota, Kwang Ju Air Base, South Korea, and while deployed last summer to Camp Justice, Oman.
On Tuesday morning, the judge also was considering a pretrial motion from the defense to remove attorney Capt. Matthew Jarreau from the case due to alleged prosecutorial misconduct.
The judge was expected to make a decision on the defense motion by Tuesday afternoon.
Because of the pretrial motions, Harrison was not expected to be arraigned until Wednesday.
Brash ordered Carrasco and Vetter to submit videotaped testimony Monday to him regarding leave orders Harrison said were approved.
Carrasco and Vetter were directed to answer several questions on the source of leave papers for last Aug. 8-19, what statements their client made about the documents and what Harrison asked them to do with the papers.
Maj. Richard Pakola, formerly the assistant staff judge advocate at Yokota and the government’s representative during Harrison’s February Article 32 investigation, testified Monday that Vetter handed the papers to him at the close of the first day of the Article 32, commenting that “her client had these in his personal papers.”
Article 32 is the military equivalent of a pretrial hearing.
Lt. Col. Ronald Ratton, Yokota’s staff judge advocate, further testified Vetter told him, “You can see how something like this could have happened, commanders sign lots of things.”
Pakola said before the second day of the Article 32 hearing, he spoke with the two commanders who purportedly signed the leave papers — former 374th Civil Engineer Squadron commander Lt. Col. Judith Bittick and airlift wing Chief of Staff Lt. Col. Bo Dickey.
Bittick and Dickey testified Monday that they did not recall approving leave for Harrison.
“It looks like my signature, but it’s not,” Bittick said.
The commanders’ assertions that they did not sign the leave documents are the basis for the obstructing justice and absent without leave charges.
Prosecutors Capt. John Harwood and Jarreau contend Harrison, through his former attorneys, forged documents to get the absent without leave charge dropped.
Although they believe Vetter and Carrasco were unaware of the alleged forgery, they argued Monday the action warrants waiving attorney-client privileges.
The defense counsel said prosecutors do not have enough evidence.
“At best, what you have is mass confusion as to what was said and what was not said,” one counselor argued.