February 26, 2010
Update: Army to transport in shackles jailed hip-hop soldier, SPC Marc Hall, from Savannah to Kuwait this evening.
FORT STEWART, GEORGIA - Jailed hip-hop soldier SPC Marc Hall unsuccessfully petitioned the Southern Georgia federal court and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals last week to stop the Army from sending him to Iraq for a secret court martial over his angry "Stop-loss" song. Marc had simply asked for a public Fort Stewart trial. The Army has scheduled SPC Hall to be ransported in shackles this evening from Savannah to Kuwaiti via Spain.
SPC Hall has been shuffled between three different county jails in Georgia since being incarcerated on December 12, 2009 for expressing that he was "uncomfortable" redeploying to Iraq. On numerous occasions SPC Hall, a 34-year-old native of New York City, sought out mental health assistance from Fort Stewart officials, including via a military chaplain. On about Dec. 8, 2009, one week before his incarceration, SPC Hall filed an official IG complaint against his command for inadequate mental health evaluation and treatment.
David Gespass, civilian attorney for SPC Hall explained, "Not just the Constitution, but the rules for courts-martial, prohibit prosecutors from holding a court-martial in a combat zone as a pretext for depriving an accused of a public trial, counsel of his choice and necessary witnesses. Whatever the Army may claim, that is exactly what the Army is doing to Marc." Mr. Gespass is the president of the National Lawyers Guild. He is based in Birmingham, Alabama.
"[SPC Hall] alleges violation of his Sixth Amendment right to a public trial, as well as the First Amendment right of the public and media to attend the trial and report on it. He has alleged violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of his choice and of the right to call witnesses in his favor." summarizes the brief filed in federal court.
"Among the numerous issues of significant public debate involved in SPC Hall's case include: The military's "Stop-loss" program, the limits on artistic expression by Soldiers, the treatment of Soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while on active duty, and opposition to the continuing Iraq occupation from within the military. We are concerned thatthe Army appears to be planning to conduct the court martial in virtual secrecy," declared Jeff Paterson in a supporting exhibit filed with the court. Mr. Paterson is the project director of Courage to Resist (couragetoresist.org), an Oakland, California-based organization dedicated to supporting military objectors. SPC Hall is also a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (ivaw.org), another organization working to provide legal, moral, and political support for SPC Hall and his family.
SPC Marc Hall produced and distributed an angry hip-hop song in July 2009 when he discovered that he would not be allowed to leave active duty due to the Army's "stop-loss" policy. SPC Hall continued to serve with his unit for the next four months. "I explained to [my first sergeant] that the hardcore rap song was a free expression of how people feel about the Army and its stop-loss policy. I explained that the song was neither a physical threat nor any threat whatsoever. I told him it was just hip-hop," explained SPC Hall.
On about Dec. 8, 2009, SPC Hall filed a formal "IG complaint" against his command for inadequate mental health evaluation and treatment. SPC Hall believes that from this point forward, his command sought to retaliate against him for taking this action.
When SPC Hall continued to express that he was "not comfortable with redeploying to Iraq," his unit used the hip-hop song as a pretext to incarcerate him on Dec. 12, 2009. The command likely believed SPC Hall would refuse to deploy anyway creating discomfort among other soldiers.
SPC Hall was charged Dec. 17, 2009, with five specifications in violation of Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Conduct, two of those for wrongfully communicating a threat based on song lyrics. Article 134 is the vague rule that outlaws anything "to the prejudice of good order and discipline."
On Feb. 1, 2010 SPC Hall underscored his non-violent outlook by formally applying for discharge from the Army as a conscientious objector. His application explains the transformation he went through during his year-long deployment to Iraq. The Army's attempts to now deploy him violate AR 600-8-105 (Military Orders) and the Army's Conscientious Objector regulations.
On Feb. 3, 2010 Fort Stewart, Georgia officials confirmed that the Army would transfer SPC Hall to Iraq for court martial "within a few days." The Army's press release stated, "The jurisdiction transfer ensures a full and fair trial for both SPC Hall and the United States." Nothing could be farther from the truth, at least for SPC Hall as detailed by yesterday's petition.
The Army continues to implement its stop-loss policy despite President Obama's promise to end the unfair practice that involuntarily extends the active duty service term of many soldiers. According to the Pentagon 120,000 soldiers have been affected by stop-loss since 2001 and 13,000 are currently serving under stop-loss orders.
Posted by Russell at 2:47 PM