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.

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