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PFC James Burmeister's Court Martial was held yesterday at the Pike Hall (the Legal Offices) building #1310 court room in Fort Knox, Kentucky. This was my first time to attend a Court Martial and now I understand why Court Martial's are seldom covered by the press. If you're a member of the press you have to be escorted to the court sight and and off of the military post, when the trial is over, by Government Personnel. No cameras, camcorders, cell phones, audio recording devices, etc. were allowed in the court room. Our government escorts were very nice with the exception of one and I will assume, this time, that she was just having a bad day. To tell the truth I felt like I was in another country where freedom of speech and transparency were not very high on the agenda.
The court room was very small with 3 rows of church like pews. The first row had three 6 ft. pews reserved for witness's. The second row had two 6ft. pews for the public and press and the third row had one 6 ft. pew for the public and press. We were told when the few seats available were full no one else would be allowed in the court room and if we left the court room our seats could not be guaranteed when we returned. Members of the press attending the court martial were, WHAS TV, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Hardin County News Enterprise and yours truly James Pence a video blogger. If you do the math and add up the available seats, it's easy to conclude that the government didn't want many folks at this Court Martial.
PFC James Burmeister pleaded guilty to AWOL and stated his reason for going AWOL while on R&R in Germany. He said could no longer participate in the "Bait and Kill" and "Small Kill Teams". PFC James Burmeister's defense said James had reported the "Bait and Kill" and "Small Kill Teams" to his chain of command and he was told to keep it quite and it was then that James decided to go AWOL and expose the "Bait and Kill" and "Small Kill Teams" to the press and when James found out through and email, of which he has a screen shot of, in late February, 2008 from a soldier in his Company that the "Bait and Kill" and "Small Kill Teams" practices had been stopped he turned himself in to the Military in early March, 2008, because his mission had been accomplished. PFC James Burmeister also agreed to allow the Military Judge hear the case and render the sentence.
The prosecution called several witness one of them brought up this PBS transcript. The prosecution also brought up the web site Courage To Resist.
PFC James Burmeister's parents testified on PFC James Burmeister's behalf and their testimony was very moving.
The judge listened to all the evidence and left the court room to to make his decision. The judge retuned about 45 min. later with a verdict of 6 months confinement with 21 days of pre trial confinement to be considered as time served and a Bad Conduct Discharge. When the sentence was announced James' didn't flinch, but his father fell to his knees in disbelief and shock! PFC James Burmeister and his parents were allowed a few minutes together after the Court Martial and they will be going back to Oregon to await their son's release.
I've wrote this article to the best of my ability with my notes and my memory and I suggest if the US Government doesn't agree with my account of the events they should have allowed the Court Martial to have been video taped!!!
I took a few photos outside, prior and after the Court Martial, click here to view them.
The video below is PFC James Burmeister's father directly after the Court Martial verdict.