A federal judge in Central Islip on Friday postponed ruling on whether the Marine Corps should be blocked from kicking out a major who sent a confidential document over an unsecured line in what the officer said was an attempt to save the lives of fellow Marines.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco instead gave the government 10 days to produce evidence that the Marine board of inquiry that recommended that Major Jason Brezler be expelled was properly instituted and followed Marine Corps regulations.
Brezler, a graduate of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, serves in the Marine Corps Reserve and also is a New York City firefighter with an elite unit, Rescue 2 in Brooklyn.
On Friday, the courtroom was packed with 150 city firefighters in dress uniforms in support of Brezler — many from the city’s elite rescue units or former Marines themselves.
Attorneys for Brezler — Michael Bowe and Kevin Carroll — have argued that an investigation into the officer’s actions had not recommended dismissal, but included various lesser punishments.
But the attorneys said that the Marines hastily and improperly convened the inquiry board in 2013 in retaliation against Brezler after Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) began inquiries into the treatment of the officer.
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Leigh Wasserstrom, representing the Marine Corps and the Navy, argued that the Marines had followed the required procedures.
The case had gone through four levels of review by higher authorities, Wasserstrom said, in addition to an investigation by the independent inspector general of the U.S. Department of Defense.
It is highly unusual, as Bianco noted, for a civilian judge to overrule the decisions by the military.
But at Friday’s court appearance, the judge questioned whether it was proper for the inquiry board to be set up as Wasserstrom had described — with only an oral recommendation by an officer, and not a written recommendation.
Also on Friday, Wasserstrom noted that an investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service found that Brezler’s personal computer contained not only the confidential document that Brezler sent on the unsecured line, but also another 100 additional confidential documents and 750 confidential PowerPoint presentations, as well as a manuscript he was writing about his experiences.
Bowe said after court that the other documents were really in a single file containing his service records and other related materials.
The classified email Brezler sent from a graduate course in Oklahoma back to Afghanistan involved an Afghan police official’s return to a Marine base. Brezler had been key in the removal of the local official from the base in 2010 because of corruption and the official’s practice of keeping teenage boys as sex slaves, according to court papers.
Brezler’s attorneys have maintained that if the Marines had acted on the background information in the email, it might have prevented the 2012 murder of three Marines, including Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr. of Oceanside, by one of the teens the police official brought with him to the base.
After Friday’s hearing, Rep. King said by telephone: “Jason Brezler’s quest to attain justice is closer to being realized.”