Free Leo Church

Unjustly imprisoned by Fort Hood because he put his family first

Fort Lewis Protests

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Written by James M. Branum

October 19, 2009 at 12:28 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Seattle and National Press Coverage re: Abuse Allegations at Fort Lewis Brig

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Written by James M. Branum

October 14, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Case News

Press Release: Attorney reports human rights abuses of G.I. resisters in Fort Lewis Brig; Veterans’ groups call Tuesday, October 13 Press Conference in Seattle

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For immediate release: 10/9/09. CONTACT:

Seth Manzel
Executive Director, G.I. Voice
253-228-8912
sethmanz(at)hotmail.com

Andrew VanDenBergh
Staff member, Coffee Strong
760-799-5088
andrew10598(at)hotmail.com

James M. Branum
Civilian Defense Attorney for Travis Bishop & Leo Church
405-476-5620 or 866-933-2769
girightslawyer(at)gmail.com

Attorney reports human rights abuses of G.I. resisters in Fort Lewis Brig;

Veterans’ groups call Tuesday, October 13 Press Conference in Seattle Marriott
Fort Lewis, Washington, October 9, 2009 – Veterans’ groups are reacting with alarm to reports that two Army soldiers imprisoned in the Fort Lewis Regional Correctional Facility (RCF) have been subjected to human rights abuses. Travis Bishop (recognized by Amnesty International as a “Prisoner of Conscience”) resisted deployment to Afghanistan, and Leo Church left his unit to prevent his family from going homeless. Their civilian defense attorney James M. Branum reports that they have been strip-searched while being possibly filmed. Bishop and Church have also been watched by female guards during strip searches, while using the restroom and in the showers. The prisoners were denied one in-person visit by counsel and all phone calls with their attorneys have been illegally monitored by guards. G.I. Voice and other veteran-led groups are holding a press conference with Branum and other spokespeople, on Tuesday at 10:00 am in the East Room of the Marriott Renaissance Hotel Seattle (515 Madison).

Seth Manzel, a Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade veteran and executive director of G.I. Voice, commented, “These techniques of sexual humiliation are far too similar to those practiced on foreign prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Bagram in Afghanistan. Is the Army at Fort Lewis using enhanced interrogation techniques to break down American soldiers here at home?”

James M. Branum, the civilian defense attorney for Bishop and Church, says “The Fort Lewis Brig is violating the constitutional rights of my clients, namely their protections under the Eighth Amendment (the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment) and the Sixth Amendment (the right to counsel). This mistreatment must end.”

Other attorneys and military veteran bloggers have long commented on reports of human rights abuses in the RCF, including the use of female guards to sexually humiliate prisoners. The reports include the 2005 case of Michael Levitt, who plugged up his cell toilet in response to reported sexual humiliation by guards, and was then chained to a “stress-chair” (with metal frames but not seat) for 109 hours. Other war resisters, such as Sgt. Kevin Benderman and Spc. Suzanne Swift, have been held at the Fort Lewis RCF.

Sgt. Travis Bishop arrived at Fort Lewis one month ago to serve a 12-month sentence in the RCF, and was recognized by Amnesty International as a “Prisoner of Conscience.” Bishop refused orders to deploy to Afghanistan based on religious reasons, and applied for Conscientious Objector (CO) status. He went AWOL (Absent Without Leave) from Fort Hood, Texas, on the day of his deployment to give himself “time to prepare for my application process.” He was away from his unit for about a week, during which he drafted his CO application and sought legal advice. He returned voluntarily, and on his return to the unit he submitted his application, but was court martialed even as the Army was still reviewing it.

Travis Bishop is also an accomplished country musician. He opened for Toby Keith while serving in Baghdad with the 3rd Signal Brigade in 2007, as well as country stars Keith Anderson and Chely Wright (see links below). G.I. Voice is calling on country musicians and fans to come to the support of Travis Bishop.
Leo Church, another Fort Hood soldier, is also imprisoned in the Fort Lewis RCF. Church went AWOL to prevent his wife and children from becoming homeless. He tried to get help from his unit, but was denied, and received 8 months prison time. Church was eventually forced by this ordeal to give his son up for adoption. According to Church, “With everything that was going on, from me leaving, even though it was to care for my family, because I could find no support from the Army, Amanda and I had to place our son, Austin in a loving home through adoption. We did not want him enduring the strife that we had endured and for him to end up being fatherless, because I would be living in prison.”
Andrew VanDenBergh, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War and G.I. Voice staff member, said of Leo Church, “He joined the Army, found out his family was homeless, wasn’t allowed to keep his children from living on the streets, went to take care of his family, had to give a child up for adoption and is now locked in prison and being abused. Being abused for what? For taking care of his children?”

Fort Lewis continues to be a center of controversy, with the recent revelation that a civilian security employee has been spying on groups opposing the shipment of Strykers through local ports. Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq, was recently discharged from service after the Army dropped remaining charges against him. One year ago, G.I. Voice opened the “Coffee Strong” as a G.I. coffeehouse for servicemembers and their families around Fort Lewis to gather and share information, as well as a resource for those facing problems with service.
Also on Tuesday, October 13, Marjorie Cohn, President of the National Lawyers’ Guild (and national advisory board member for G.I. Voice) will be speaking at Coffee Strong about her new book The Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent. She is a leading voice demanding that members of the Bush Administration be prosecuted for war crimes. She also condemns both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as illegal under international law, not as self-defense of the United States. She will speak at 7:00 – 8:30 pm at Coffee Strong, located off I-5 Exit 122 (Berkeley St.), at 15109 Union Ave. SW (next to Subway) in Lakewood, WA. The event is free and open to the public. For information call (253) 581-1565, or go to G.I. Voice at http://www.givoice.org
BACKGROUND LINKS

G.I. Voice / Coffee Strong

http://www.givoice.org

http://www.coffeestrong.com
Coffee Strong: Listening to the G.I. Voice at Fort Lewis (Zoltan Grossman)

http://www.vvaw.org/veteran/article/?id=1252

Army Prisoners Isolated, Denied Right to Legal Counsel (Dahr Jamail)

http://dahrjamailiraq.com/army-prisoners-isolated-denied-right-to-legal-counsel
Free Leo Church (Legal Defense Fund)

https://freeleochurch.wordpress.com/about-leo-church

Free Travis Bishop (Legal Defense Fund)

http://freetravisbishop.wordpress.com/
Amnesty International declaration on Travis Bishop

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR51/093/2009/en/bb7a6bba-48c4-49ba-975f-af5bc0ff9c5e/amr510932009en.html

Sgt. Travis Bishop Says No to Afghanistan Occupation

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/08/13-3

http://adoptresistance.blogspot.com/2009/05/sgt-travis-bishop-another-ft-hood.html

New Country Star interview of Travis Bishop in Iraq

http://newcountrystar.com/travis_bishop.htm

Travis Bishop Music

http://www.myspace.com/travisbishopmusic


Veterans’ articles on human rights violations in Fort Lewis RCF

http://jack-dalton.blogspot.com/2005/12/he-dared-to-challenge-power-part-two.html

http://www.williambowles.info/gispecial/2006/0306/080306/gi_4C8_080306.html

Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent (Marjorie Cohn)

http://givoice.org/node/8121

http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/articles/2009/09/25/people

Letters from Fort Lewis Brig (Kevin Benderman)

http://www.globepequot.com/globepequot/index.cfm?fuseaction=customer.product&product_code=1-59228-933-9&category_code=

Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent
(Marjorie Cohn and Katheleen Gilberd)
http://p3books.com/rulesofdisengagement

Written by James M. Branum

October 8, 2009 at 7:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

PRESS RELEASE: Leo Church not allowed to speak to attorney privately at Fort Lewis Brig, Attorneys ask why?

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ARMY PRISONERS ISOLATED AT FORT LEWIS, DENIED RIGHT TO LEGAL COUNSEL

September 17th, 2009 – Fort Lewis, WA – War resistor Travis Bishop is being held incommunicado, in the Northwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Lewis, and is even being denied his legal right to counsel, a violation of the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution. Attorney Legrand Jones was denied access to Bishop, on the grounds that he is on an unnamed and unobtainable “watchlist,” which constitutes deprivation of counsel. Since his incarceration, Bishop’s condition is unclear due to being completely cut off from the public.

Fellow incarcerated soldier Leo Church has been able to reach his lawyer, but the call was monitored by a guard, violating his attorney-client privilege.

Leo Church on the eve of his trial

Leo Church on the eve of his trial

Both Bishop and Church have been prevented from adding any names to their respective “authorized contacts” lists (even for family members),which effectively cuts them off from almost all contact with the outside world. Mail and commissary funds sent by friends and supporters will likely be “returned to sender” due to this cruel and inhumane policy.

According to the lead attorney on the cases of Bishop and Church, James Branum, the actions of officials at Fort Lewis have violated his clients’ constitutional rights.

“Bishop and Church’s defense team and supporters are in the process of negotiating with Ft. Lewis officials to ensure transparency and that Bishop and Church’s legal rights are being met. The unusual circumstances of isolation of these soldiers is unquestionably illegal,” Branum said. “But if Fort Lewis doesn’t change its ways, we will be forced to go to court and demand justice.”

War resistor, and according to Amnesty International, prisoner of conscience, Travis Bishop arrived in Fort Lewis September 9th to serve a 12 month sentence in the Regional Correctional Facility. Bishop refused orders to Afghanistan based on religious reasons. He was stationed at Fort Hood, TX and was court marshaled by the Army for his beliefs.

He joined Leo Church, another Fort Hood soldier who went AWOL (Absent Without Leave) to prevent his wife and children from becoming homeless. Leo received 8 months jail time because he put the safety and welfare of his children over his obligation to the Army. Leo tried to get help from his unit, but was denied.

For additional information contact Seth Manzel at GI Voice or visit
http://freetravisbishop.wordpress.com/ or https://freeleochurch.wordpress.com/ (You can donate to their legal defense funds at these websites)

G.I. Voice is a place for service members and their families around Fort Lewis to gather and share information, as well as a resource for those facing problems with service. It is the parent organization for COFFEE STRONG, a GI coffee house located outside of Fort Lewis.

Contact:Seth Manzel, Executive Director
GI Voice
253-228-8912

James M. Branum
Civilian Defense Attorney for Travis Bishop and Leo Church
405-476-5620 or 866-933-2769
girightslawyer@gmail.com

Written by James M. Branum

September 17, 2009 at 11:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Public Campaign Launched to Free Leo Church

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Leo Church on the eve of his trial

Leo Church on the eve of his trial

This website was launched on behalf of Leo Church, an imprisoned soldier from Fort Hood, who was convicted of going AWOL and related offenses. Leo went AWOL because of his serious family hardship, yet instead of helping him, Fort Hood threw Leo in prison for 8 months, took away his rank, and took away 2/3 of the pay his family so desperately needs.

Leo Church and his family have asked me to take on his post-trial case, to seek to gain some degree of clemency for his actions (either a reduction in his sentence and/or restoration of his pa). They also want to speak about what has happend to their family and to warn others about how Fort Hood and the U.S. Army treats families in crisis.

You can read more about Leo’s case (including how to write him) at the links on the right-hand side of this page.

Written by James M. Branum

August 27, 2009 at 11:19 pm

Posted in Case News

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