Lawyer Wants to Hold Government in Contempt of Court in Marine's Case

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Capt. Jason C. Brezler, right, the team leader for 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment's civil affairs group, speaks with local elders in Now Zad, Afghanistan, Dec. 15, 2009. (Marine Corps Photo/Zachary Nola)
Capt. Jason C. Brezler, right, the team leader for 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment's civil affairs group, speaks with local elders in Now Zad, Afghanistan, Dec. 15, 2009. (Marine Corps Photo/Zachary Nola)

The attorney of a decorated Marine officer says he will move to hold the government in contempt after military officials failed to present the documents needed to move his client's case forward.

Michael Bowe, of Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, is calling on the Navy and Marine Corps to provide a host of documents related to the case of Reserve Maj. Jason Brezler by Tuesday. If the missing documents are not produced, Bowe wrote in a Tuesday letter to Leigh Wasserstrom, special assistant U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York, he will move to ask a federal judge to "hold the government in contempt, in addition to all other proper relief."

Brezler, who was recommended for separation from the Marine Corps in late 2013 for improperly sending a classified document to warn comrades about the threat of an insider attack in Afghanistan, had that punishment thrown out in December 2016. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco in New York ruled that Brezler deserved a new board of inquiry, which looks at claims of officer misconduct, because the military failed to provide him with adequate records to argue his case.

Now, some 20 months later, Bowe says the Navy Department and Headquarters Marine Corps still have not produced those documents. Brezler is currently in the Individual Ready Reserve.

"Despite numerous requests and ample opportunities to produce documents in compliance with the court's order, the government has utterly failed to do so," Bowe wrote.

Marine officials declined to comment on the letter due to the ongoing litigation. Bowe said his team believes "the government may not have preserved documents, communications and records" tied to Brezler's case.

"The government's sheer failure to meet its most rudimentary discovery obligations is beyond the pale and in square violation of Judge Bianco's December 6, 2016, order," Bowe wrote.

Brezler's case stems back to a 2012 warning he sent to Marines in Afghanistan about a local police chief, Sarwar Jan, who'd been accused of assaulting young boys and was believed to have ties to the Taliban. The major was accused of sending classified information he had from a previous deployment to the Marines using his personal email account. He also allegedly took classified materials back from Afghanistan for a book he planned to write.

When the Marine Corps ordered a board of inquiry in 2013 to determine whether Brezler should be separated, the major alleged the move was an act of whistleblower reprisal in response to his reaching out to a member of Congress for help in his case.

After a years-long legal battle, Bianco, the judge in New York, found that Brezler was never afforded access to documents needed to fairly argue his retaliation claims.

Bowe said his team has since requested 10 sets of documents relating to Brezler's case.

The government has produced none in response to the majority of the requests, he wrote. Others are irrelevant, almost entirely redacted or missing attachments, he said.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.

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