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AWOL 14 Years Away Before Returning To Military Control
AWOL Case Study #3
AWOL, Returning to Military Control after an Extended Absence of 14 Years
This case involved the safe and successful return of our Client to military control from an AWOL status, and his subsequent administrative (vice court-martial) discharge from the service.
Our client went AWOL from Ft. Hood, Texas in 2002 when he was 21 years old. He listened to a barracks lawyer at some point before he left who told him that if he returned in less than 30 days he would be ok. He returned to post after 28 days believing his unit would simply discharge him administratively at that time. They didn't. Instead, he was assigned extra duties, and life became extremely challenging. After about 10 days of what the client felt was unjustified and abusive treatment, he again went AWOL, returned home, and began looking over his shoulder figuratively — and sometimes literally — for the next fourteen years.
He married, went to school and graduated with honors in accounting, and began the process of obtaining his CPA license. Additionally, he was a non-citizen, green card holder. He knew that U.S. citizenship and professional licensure were likely out of the question so long as his AWOL status remained unresolved. But, he was afraid that if he returned to military control he would be prosecuted, convicted and likely jailed, and that everything he had worked for and accomplished in the fourteen years since he left Ft. Hood that second time would be lost. He also worried about the possibility of deportation. Finally, his wife, realizing that something had to be done, urged him to face reality and take care of his business.
He called our office and I spoke with him at length about what needed to be done. I also helped him understand what the process would likely entail, what the various outcomes could be, and how long things would take to resolve.
After extensive coordination with the client, his family and with the client's parent unit and that unit's servicing Judge Advocates, together with a careful plan to address each step of the return process, and with some realistic and high-minded help from various sources, we were able to avoid a court-martial and near certain felony conviction for this client.
While the client's command chain recommended a court-martial, the General Officer convening authority — on the advice and counsel of his SJA, and that SJA's senior Trial Counsel — ordered our Client discharged administratively.
Seeing a deserving, intelligent but very nervous man courageously face the consequences of his long ago actions, and in the process successfully become free and clear of his, "unfinished business" with the Army.
Finally, I have to credit the major installation Senior Trail Counsel, her Staff Judge Advocate (SJA) and his boss, the acting Commanding General (CG) who made the final decision not to prosecute my client under the UCMJ for his long ago transgressions, over and against chain-of-command recommendations to the contrary. That decision will resonate with my client, his family and their fortunes for the rest of their lives. Many thanks, therefore, are due to everyone involved in this one. I am extremely grateful indeed.
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I contacted Col. Meili as a fellow practitioner to gain some context and perspective on a pretty complex set of issues. Because I practice in a different field of law, Col. Meili's extensive expertise was invaluable and he was more than generous with his time. A skilled and dedicated professional who cares deeply about obtaining the best possible outcome for his clients, Bill's a leader in this field.
- Steffen Chapin
After an exhaustive search of military attorneys, I came across the name of Bill Meili. From my first email exchange and telephone call, I knew that Bill was the right person to handle my case. I had discussed my unique circumstance with a handful of other attorneys who felt it may be too difficult to achieve the outcome that I was seeking - but Bill was interested in me and my case, and wholeheartedly believed that we had the ball in our court. I could tell that Bill cared about me as a person and soldier, not just viewing me as a paycheck.
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