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Fired Marine whistle-blower claims he was warned of possible blowback

Oct. 6, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Maj. James Weirick claims his former supervisor warned him months ago that he could face professional consequences once his whistle-blower protection expires.
Maj. James Weirick claims his former supervisor warned him months ago that he could face professional consequences once his whistle-blower protection expires. ()
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Maj. James Weirick, the Marine attorney and whistle-blower who was fired last month after writing an email his superiors deemed threatening, claims a former supervisor warned him months ago that he could face professional consequences once his whistle-blower protection expires.

Weirick became a whistle-blower in March, when he filed a complaint with the Defense Department inspector general alleging Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and members of his legal staff manipulated the military justice process in an attempt to ensure harsh punishments for several Marines implicated in a embarrassing war-zone video. On Sept. 23, Weirick was removed from his job as the deputy staff judge advocate for Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va., after sending a strongly worded email to one of the men named in his IG complaint.

That email is addressed to Peter Delorier, a former civilian attorney for Amos. In it, Weirick pleads with Delorier to “come clean” about his role in the alleged miscarriage of justice by Amos’ office. Weirick referred to himself in the third person throughout, and at one point told Delorier that while his superiors might have promised to shelter him from professional repercussions, no one can “offer you protection from Weirick.”

Now Weirick is pointing to another email, one he sent July 16 to the command’s then-chief of staff, Col. Jesse Gruter. In that message, Weirick alleges that his boss at the time, Col. Donald Riley, called Weirick into his office for a discussion about emails he had written intending to distance himself and Gruter from what he saw as efforts to hide key information from attorneys defending Marines connected to the video.

Riley replaced Gruter as Weirick’s boss this summer, when officials at Marine Corps headquarters canceled Gruter’s next duty assignment and moved him out of his job as staff judge advocate for Marine Corps Combat Development Command. The command’s top general at the time, Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, opted to retain Gruter as his chief of staff.

“The most troubling part of the conversation was a warning Col. Riley issued to me,” Weirick wrote to Gruter. “He stated that there were some that were contemplating actions against me, but would likely not be [pursuing] actions because I had whistle-blower protection. But, I should not press the issue and I should be careful. He did not elaborate on who was contemplating action against me, nor did he specify what I have allegedly done wrong.”

Weirick’s attorney, Jane Siegel, provided a copy of the July 16 email to Marine Corps Times. Asked to recall what Riley said during their conversation, Weirick, responding through Siegel, said “There are people who want to take action against you. But because you are a whistle-blower, they probably won’t. But that whistle-blower protection will not last forever, so don’t press it.”

Weirick noted that this quote was not an exact transcript but very close.

A spokesman for Riley, Col. Sean Gibson, declined to discuss Weirick’s claim, saying “statements of that nature may be addressed at a later time in the proper forum, but not via the press.” He did, however, counter allegations Weirick’s removal was an act of reprisal.

The current commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Commaned, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck, “has taken legitimate and appropriate steps as the result of Major Weirick’s email” to Delorier, Gibson said. “The command is well aware of obligations to service members who have made protected communication to the inspector general. The command has and will continue to meet these obligations.”

In his July 16 email to Gruter, Weirick contends he was warned by Riley to stop sending emails altogether. Two days prior, Weirick had emailed more than a dozen members of the military legal community, including the commandant’s legal advisers named in his IG complaint, after the Marine Corps disclosed that in early 2012 Amos quietly stripped Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser of his authority to prosecute the Marines implicated in the video, which shows four scout snipers urinating on dead insurgents in Afghanistan. In a signed declaration, Waldhauser later claimed he was pulled off the case after he refused to promise Amos that the snipers would be kicked out of the Corps.

Weirck disavowed further involvement in the case, saying he and Gruter had been used by the Marine Corps to deny the accused scout snipers their legal rights. He was upset that key evidence in the case — called discovery, in legal terminology — had not been shared with defense attorneys.

“As you know,” Weirick’s message to Gruter says, “the purpose of the emails was to distance myself, and you, from the improper withholding of discovery in the [scout sniper] cases.”

Following his relief last month, Weirick also was issued a military restraining order and asked to have a mental-health exam and surrender his personal firearms, according to his attorney, Siegel.

Siegel said the Corps seized Weirick’s work computer and barred him from accessing his former office. But Gibson, the command’s spokesman, disputed this claim.

“Contrary to press reports, Major Weirick’s computer and his computer files have not been seized,” Gibson said. “Major Weirick has not been prevented from making arrangements to return to his office to retrieve personal belongings, but he will require an escort just as any other visitor to the building.”

Gibson added that Glueck ordered Weirick removed from his job, and that the commander of Quantico’s Headquarters and Service Battalion, Col. Robin Gallant, issued the restraining order. Gallant “is currently looking into Major Weirick’s actions and determining the way forward,” Gibson said. “These commanders continue to make their own independent and unfettered decisions based on their own assessments of the facts.”

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