Thoughts on a Courts Martial

Today I spent four hours watching a Courts Martial.  The Courts Martial was againt Capt Yundt, whom I had dealings with during the period he was accused of stealing Government property.  The last time I was on a Courts Martial, I was a member of the Court, or in civilian terms, on the jury.  Today, I was simply one of the handful of visitors just watching the proceedings.  I had an opportunity of witnessing a part of the trial I had not seen before, and to see what happens before they sit the jury.

Most of the time I was there was dedicated to working through the details on the pre-trial agreement.  Capt Yundt plead guilty to most, but not all, of the charges.  The Judge went down each and every charge that Capt Yundt plead guilty to with Capt Yundt, just to make sure that he really understood exactly what he was pleading to.

I was very impressed with the Judge.  He was a fatherly figure in the Court, and was willing to take as much time, and to explain every detail to make sure everything was understood.  He was much senior than the Captains who were the defense council or the prosecutors, and he helped mentor them along as well.

There are a few things I didn’t know that I learned.  If you plead guilty, the Judge has the right to reject the plea.  He must be convinced that the plea is accurate, complete, and that there was absolutely no misunderstanding or coercion in making the plea.  I also learned that in the military, you had a choice of having a trail by jury or only by the Judge.  So, assuming the remaining proceedings went the same as I left, the Judge would have found him guilty to what he pleaded to, and then turned over sentencing to the members of the Court (jury).  You also have a choice of who will do your sentencing, either the Court or the Judge… Capt Yundt chose to have it by the Court.

I had thought going into this that I had no emotional bone in this.  I had dealt with Capt Yundt, and I felt that he was slick, perhaps too slick.  He was overly kind, promising the world… there was nothing he couldn’t deliver.  I remember telling a co-worker that I felt compelled to buy a used car after talking to him.  At the same time I’m dealing with him, he was stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars of Government owned material.  I felt that something was wrong but at the time I could not put my finger on it, and I had put it down to a new Captain eager to do a good job.  I was wrong, and there was much more of this iceberg under the waterline.

Capt Yundt has some mental issues, and he admitted in Court that he has a hording compulsion.  It isn’t so bad that he could not tell the difference from right and wrong, but you could see him struggle with it during the proceedings.  When asked if he could have avoided taking the stuff, he struggled to say “yes”.  The Judge had to go through that question multiple times to get a clear answer, that yes, he could have avoided it, but that he felt that he had to have the stuff.  He didn’t sell any of the items that we know of, just horded them.  The OSI retrieved a lot more items than Capt Yundt pleaded guilty of stealing, and I don’t know if those are tied into the not guilty pleas, or if those aren’t included in this trial at all.  He claimed that some of that stuff was his, and as is his right, he doesn’t have to admit to stealing anything more than what he is willing to admit to.

What I wasn’t prepared to see was his wife.  It is clear that their marriage has been rocked hard by this, and I doubt that it will last much past the trial.  I understand that this is the first time that she’s gotten a clear reading of the charges against him, and the hundreds of items that he had stolen.  She was in shock for most of it, and thankfully she had her parents there with her giving her comfort.  I think she knew that he had a problem, but not that he was a criminal.  Having a closet filled with your stuff in the house is one thing, but having two storage lockers and a large trailer filled with Government property is another.

I feel for her, and I feel for everyone in his office that has gone through this investigation with a gag order unable to vent, having to spend countless hours trying to find everything ever purchased so they could tell what was stolen and what was not.  All of those man-hours, and now the multiple layers of bureaucracy now enforced to buy the smallest items… punishing the innocent.  Yes, the system broke down, but I cringed as one of the other visitors explained the new and “improved” buying procedures.

While I’m sorry for most people involved, including Capt Yundt, I don’t feel sorry that he was caught nor that he’s being held accountable.  I do hope that he’ll get the treatment he needs, but he does deserve time for this, and should not be allowed to wear the uniform ever again.  For me, I’ll use this as a teaching moment for our young officers.  Luckily, it is pretty rare for us to have a criminal in our mists like this, but when it does happen, it is a stark reminder that we are human too.  It is a good lesson to learn, and while I do believe that everyone should be given the benefit of the doubt, we all have a duty to look beyond our friendships, and to make the hard call if something just doesn’t feel right.  In this case, that happened, but it happened a year after the stealing began, and after one young Captain took a path that lead to his disgrace, dishonor, and destruction.

UPDATE

I understand that Capt Yundt was found guilty and was sentenced to four years of confinement.  I don’t know any other details.

2011-09-12T23:22:35+00:00