Monday, March 28, 2011

The Army settles, and I get the records of US v. Martinez

Today I settled my lawsuit with the Army after it agreed to release an un-redacted version of the court transcript from the court-martial of Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez and withdrew its answer to my suit denying that my husband was murdered.

This is a resounding victory on the two-year-old question of whether I have the right to review the Army's court-martial and acquittal of my husband's killer. As soon as it had a Federal District Court Judge to answer to, the Army determined that my desire for transparency and accountability trumped its desire to bury this case.

And thus now begins the work of systematically reviewing these records in search of errors that demand action. I will not quit—I will not relent—until every substantive error of justice surrounding the murder of my husband Phillip is addressed.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Army FOIA Lawsuit Coverage in the Army Times

Today Army Times reporter Joe Gould covered my lawsuit against the US Army for its refusal to provide records from the court martial and acquittal of Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez, my late husband's murderer.

My key quote is below:
"I will not be deterred in my pursuit of justice on behalf of our daughter, my husband's memory and myself," she said. "My husband's murder demands transparency and accountability, and I shall not rest until I have it."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

CNN: Army disciplines nine for not flagging Fort Hood suspect

CNN reports that the secretary of the U.S. Army has disciplined nine officers for failing to warn of problems with Maj. Nidal Hasan -- accused of committing the 2009 Fort Hood, Texas, shootings -- before he was assigned to Fort Hood.

Secretary John McHugh's move comes after the service reviewed the circumstances leading up to the Fort Hood shootings, in which 13 people were killed and 43 others were wounded.

McHugh "initiated adverse administrative action against nine officers for administrative and leadership failures relating to the career" of Hasan, according to an Army statement released Thursday.

The officers were not identified. The Army statement said the severity of the discipline varied depending on the actions of each officer.

The Army report found no single factor ultimately led to the shooting but "certain officers clearly failed to meet the high standards expected of their profession."

I seek commensurate accountability and discipline for those responsible for failing to warn of problems with Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez, to include the hundreds of threats he made against my late husband's life. I wonder precisely why there is such a disconnect between the Army's actions with the Ft. Hood tragedy and the tragedy of my late husband's murder. I mean, quite seriously, what is the secret here?

More Army FOIA Lawsuit Coverage in The Journal News

Today Journal News reporter Hema Easley covered my lawsuit against the US Army for its refusal to provide records from the court martial and acquittal of Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez, my late husband's murderer [link here].

My key quote is below:

"The Army is essentially rewriting the facts in order to hide from the galling truth that my husband's death was needless and preventable," said Esposito, describing the Army's response as dishonest and insulting.

"I'm frustrated and angry that I have to argue with the Army that Phillip was actually murdered," she said.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Army’s Answer: Phillip’s Murder Denied

On Friday, I received the Army’s answer to my complaint arguing that the Army is illegally denying my demand for records from the court-martial and acquittal of my late husband’s killer. In its answer, the Army not only denied that it is acting against the law in refusing my demand, which was expected, but it also did something that was completely unexpected. In its answer, the Army had the gall to deny that my late husband was the victim of murder.

In my complaint filed with the court, I listed the nature of my dispute with the Army. In a paragraph intended merely to lay out my identity and my interest in the case, I stated that I am:

“[t]he widow of Captain Phillip T. Esposito, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point who was murdered on June 7, 2005 by means of a Claymore mine placed on his office window while he was serving on active duty as a Company Commander with the New York Army National Guard at Forward Operating Base (“FOB”) Danger, in Tikrit, Iraq.”
In a civil trial, such as the one that I am now engaged, a defendant is required to “answer” a plaintiff’s complaint by either admitting the plaintiff’s allegations or statements, denying them, or stating that they do not possess sufficient knowledge to answer. From these answers, the court determines the nature of the dispute between the parties so that it may properly adjudicate the matter.

In a normal course of events, one would have expected the Army to quickly admit my statement of identity as the widow of a murdered Army officer and move on to the more concrete and fundamental legal issues surrounding my demand for documents from the court-martial. Yet in its answer to my complaint, the Army conceded only that I am “Solbhan [sic] M. Esposito, widow of Captain Phillip T. Esposito, a graduate of the United States Military Academy, who died while in his office and on active military duty in Tikrit, Iraq” [emphasis added].

The implications of the Army’s answer above are astounding. In the space of a few words, the Army just denied that my late husband was murdered.

Of course, the Army’s claim that Phillip merely “died while in his office” is absurd on its face, offensive to Phillip’s memory, and disrespectful to my grief and the grief of Phillip’s family. Phillip did not merely die in his office as if from a cold, a slip, or a spoiled MRE. After exhaustive investigation, military investigators determined that Phillip died horrifically when a Claymore anti-personal mine was placed in the window of Phillip’s office and intentionally detonated by a soldier believed by Army prosecutors to be Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez.

Thus, I reject the Army’s flippant denial of the manner of my husband’s death for I have no reason to accept it. On the contrary: I have every reason to believe, based upon the volumes of evidence collected by investigators and presented at trial by the Army’s own prosecutors, that my husband was murdered “by means of a Claymore mine placed on his office window” as I state in my complaint.

The Army’s euphemistic whitewashing of the manner of my husband’s death speaks to the desperate need for full transparency. Since Phillip’s death in 2005, the Army’s actions have repeatedly failed to deliver justice and engender trust in government, or reflect wise public policy. From the lack of discipline and accountability that contributed to Phillip’s murder, to the botched investigation of his killer, to his killer’s acquittal by military court-martial, the Army has only managed to take a horrific tragedy and make it worse.

I seek to correct these errors in order to lessen the likelihood that any American family will be made to suffer as mine has. And thus the American public and I shall require the full and complete record of my husband’s death and the court-martial of the soldier acquitted of killing him, for justice demands no less.