Closing statements made in Air Force lawyer's trial at Osan
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Lawyers made their closing statements here Tuesday in the case of an Air Force lawyer accused of bilking the government of $13,000 in housing allowances.
The defense argued the case was circumstantial and that the government had not proven intent to commit larceny, while prosecutors said Capt. Cho Cho Lassey, an Osan legal office lawyer, mislead the Air Force.
Presiding judge Lt. Col. Rodger Drew, adjourned the proceedings Tuesday and was expected to announce his verdict Wednesday.
On Monday, Lassey requested to be tried by military judge alone rather than by jury.
Lassey allegedly gave a Los Angeles address for her dependent spouse residing in France, according to prosecutors. That resulted in the Air Force paying her housing allowances at a Los Angeles rate — higher than what she had been entitled to.
According to prosecutors, Lassey failed to correct the information and rebuffed fellow Air Force lawyers at Osan who warned her that her housing allowance situation was improper.
Lassey pleaded innocent Monday to charges of filing a false official statement, dereliction of duty, larceny and conduct unbecoming an officer.
In the prosecution’s closing statement, Maj. Matt Jarreau countered the defense’s earlier portrayal of Lassey as one who had innocently run afoul of complex, confusing finance regulations, and who had acted without wrongful intent. “This is a case about lies and fraud, resulting in dereliction of duty,” said Jarreau.
“Why did the accused do this?” Jarreau asked. Lassey had a duty to check with Air Force finance authorities, Jarreau said, to ensure her housing allowances were in line with the rules.
“Was this accused some young, naïve airman” new to the ways of the Air Force? Jarreau asked.
“This was not an accused who was new to the military,” he said. “This accused was advised month after month after month that she was” receiving allowances at the Los Angeles rate.
“The picture that emerges is not of some young airman who was confused,” said Jarreau, but rather of a person with “intent to defraud.”
Following a recess, Lassey’s civilian defense attorney Frank J. Spinner, made his closing statement. “The standard of proof in a criminal proceeding is … beyond a reasonable doubt,” Spinner told the judge. “They do not have direct evidence of Capt. Lassey’s intent to deceive or to steal.”
“When it comes to understanding” regulations on housing and like entitlements, said Spinner, “there is tremendous confusion even among experienced judge advocates,” he said.
On Monday, Spinner had called much of the government’s case circumstantial, and said the conclusions prosecutors had drawn were incorrect. He brought that theme forward again during his closing. “Your honor,” he said, “is it possible that she could have misunderstood these things?
“It is possible that this young judge advocate … thought she was acting on correct information? We have,” said Spinner, “established a reasonable probability of innocence.”
Earlier in the day, the court heard testimony from a succession of witnesses, including an Air Force staff sergeant who testified for a second day on the intricacies of housing allowance regulations.
She was followed by six other witnesses who had worked with Lassey as Air Force lawyers in South Korea. Five of the six have since rotated to assignments outside Korea. Another has since left active duty.