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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Full Statement to ABC News Regarding Former Air Force Academy Cadet Jamil Cooks at Alcorn State


Since publishing the original blog post below (which details the full statement I made to ABC News regarding the Cooks case and the alleged involvement of an informant in the case) the first level of appeal has concluded in U.S. v. Cooks.  

In an opinion dissenting from the majority, an Air Force Appellate Court Judge stated the following regarding the conviction on one specification of sexual assault:

 “After thoroughly weighing all of the evidence in the record of trial, particularly the testimony of Cadet AF [the complainant], Cadet SL, and Cadet KD, and making allowances for not having personally observed the witnesses, I am left with three varying versions of the happenings inside Cadet AF’s dorm room on the date in question. Because I cannot reconcile these three versions, I am not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the appellant is guilty of this charge and specification.

I am particularly troubled by the fact that Cadet AF’s roommate and close friend testified regarding statements of Cadet AF that were completely contrary to her trial testimony…

…Additional inconsistencies were found in Cadet AF’s rendition of the events to Cadet KD…

…The inconsistent testimony of Cadet AF’s confidants and her own testimony as detailed in the majority opinion leave me unconvinced that the elements of the criminal offense of abusive sexual contact have been established by proof beyond a reasonable doubt as required to sustain a conviction. Therefore, I would reverse the finding of guilty as to the charge and specification of abusive sexual contact.”

This makes one wonder what the outcome of the trial would have been in a military justice system free from the constant pressure of ill-informed and misguided politicians, advocacy groups, and military leaders who push to ensure military trials result in convictions - instead of military trials being a fair opportunity for a military accused to present his case?


Given that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is commenting on this Air Force court-martial case, and it is about to be discussed on ABC World News Tonight and Nightline 
(, here is the full text of the statement I made to ABC News about former Air Force Academy Cadet Jamil Cooks, who now plays football at Alcorn State:

"To date, the reporting about Jamil's case has not only been inaccurate, it has been, in my opinion, irresponsible journalism.  Instead of relying on concrete sources of information, such as the transcript of Jamil's case (through a FOIA request), stories are being published based on the word of a former Cadet informant who was apparently dis-enrolled from the Air Force Academy under adverse circumstances.

Jamil's case has not yet been heard on appeal, so he is not in a position to make any statement about an on-going legal case.  In a nutshell, what we argued at trial regarding the three litigated sexual assault allegations in the Cooks case is that these allegations were all made by a former romantic/sexual female "friend" (for lack of a more accurate term) of Jamil's who was upset and angry that he didn't want a more serious, committed, and public relationship with her.  We based this trial argument not only on witness testimony, but on excerpts from the accuser's diary.  Jamil was acquitted of two of these three litigated allegations.  The one litigated allegation he was convicted of is being appealed.

The larger issue raised by Jamil's trial is that actions taken, and outcomes, in the current military justice environment are being increasingly driven by a misinformed narrative that the military justice system is "broken" so there needs to be a much higher percentage of convictions and harsh sentences or politicians will further encroach on the system with their misguided views.  It is getting more and more difficult to ensure fair trials in the military, since politicians, government officials, and military officials who have little to no experience in an actual military courtroom are continuously trying to make the military justice system more about pre-determined and politically palatable outcomes than about a search for the truth or actual justice.  This is not a story that many in the press are interested in, however.

In any event, during the period in which the Cooks case was being investigated, there were multiple Air Force Academy cadets who were in trouble and/or facing dis-enrollment from the Academy who were making claims, as informants, against other cadets in the hope that this information would result in the informants saving their careers and remaining at the Academy.  There is a reason that an informant's testimony is viewed with skepticism in courts.  Information is "currency" for informants to cash in and receive a benefit that is otherwise unavailable to them...often regardless of the truth of that information.

The first time I ever heard of Eric Thomas' alleged involvement in the court-martial trial case of United States v. Cadet Jamil Cooks was when it was pointed out to me in the Colorado Springs Gazette article on informants at the Academy - long after the Cooks trial was over.  I literally said "Who is Eric Thomas?"  Eric Thomas was not a witness in the trial of U.S. v. Cooks.  He appears nowhere in the report of investigation for the trial of U.S. v. Cooks.  He has never been mentioned in association with this trial by any Air Force prosecutor, investigator, or witness.  There was no evidence in the trial of U.S. v. Cooks associated with Eric Thomas.  So, when I keep reading that Eric Thomas was somehow responsible for the outcome of the trial in U.S. v. Cooks I am at a loss.  Not too long ago, this was repeated in a New York Times Article.  I don't know how this passes for responsible journalism.

I won't comment on my speculation about how Eric Thomas' alleged involvement in the U.S. v. Cooks trial has come to be accepted as a "fact," I will simply state that the name Eric Thomas was in no way associated with the actual trial of United States v. Cadet Jamil Cooks."

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