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COURT-MARTIAL COLONEL HIETT NOW!

THE PENTAGON WANTS TO EASE HIM OUT THE BACK DOOR WITH HIS PENSION INTACT

Nothing is more destructive to morale in the military than a "double-standard" of justice.

The troops call it "different spanks for different ranks." That's when the brass hats are able to avoid punishment that others, especially enlisted members, cannot escape.

Such "soft-treatment" has been afforded COL James Hiett, Clinton "Drug Czar" Barry McCaffrey's hand-picked choice to head-up the so-called "War on Drugs" in Columbia.

You remember Hiett, don't you? The Pentagon and Clinton Administration would prefer you forgot.

He was the colonel whose drug-abusing wife Laurie, smuggled $700,000 worth of cocaine into the United States. Of course Hiett knew nothing about it. At least that's what he told agents from the Criminal Investigation Division just before the CID "cleared" him of any wrong-doing.

The CID ignored documentation Hiett's wife had been treated for drug addiction at an Army hospital in the mid-1990's. Obviously the colonel would have known about that. Lots of things were "obvious," but the Army wasn't eager to charge such a high profile, well-connected colonel. Better to do a WHITEWASH and conclude that Hiett, and we quote: "had no prior knowledge of his wife's activities." Yeah, sure.

In her "60 Minutes" television appearance, Laurie Hiett boasted of "snorting" a line of cocaine in front of her husband. She acted disappointed all he did was "walk out of the room."

How convenient it was for the CID "super sleuths" to give advance notice to the top U.S. officer in Columbia his quarters would be searched. That gave Hiett enough time to transfer cash to the U. S. Embassy safe in Bogota - at least $50,000 in drug proceeds his wife brought back from trips to New York.

Strange, isn't it, how CID "goons" can "pile on" when they're ordered to "get" somebody? Then, the U.S. Constitution and right to "due process" be damned! But this colonel was "special." He was "Barry's boy" and we mustn't have any embarrassing news leak out that might jeopardize all those billions of dollars for the next "Vietnam!"

Nothing like a good war in Columbia to generate profits for big business. The generals (and admirals), some of whom are quick to genuflect before their draft-dodger "commander-in-chief," can pin medals on each other and, like McCaffrey, cry crocodile tears for the TV cameras about "beautiful young (DEAD) soldiers."

THE COVER-UP FAILS

If it wasn't for the U.S. Customs Service, Hiett might be plotting his accession to general about now. They insisted on continuing an investigation that led to the conviction of Laurie Hiett. The 37 year-old "ditzy druggie," who giggled through much of a bizarre television interview on 60 Minutes, got five years at the federal pen in Fort Worth, Texas.

And customs agents were able to gather enough evidence, that COL Hiett had to confess he concealed his wife's drug activities and helped launder her drug money.

The official spin is: "How noble of him to risk his career for the woman he loves," blah, blah, ad nauseum. Hiett is even made out to be a "victim," blinded by his adoration for his impulsive young wife. Why, the "poor colonel" suffered a "temporary lapse of judgement." Now he won't be a general like his mentor, McCaffrey. How sad! Wah-wah, boo-hoo! The cell blocks at Leavonworth must be in mourning.

The reality is, the commanding officer of the U.S. Army's "anti-drug" forces in Columbia lied to investigators about his knowledge of his wife's drug smuggling. On top of that, he was a willing accomplice in "laundering" the money.

Was he so "clueless" he didn't realize his wife, with a history of drug-addiction, was back on cocaine? And what about all the "cash" she brought back to Bogota from those trips to New York? The hard, inescapable fact is Hiett was an active participant in a criminal conspiracy.

He admits it in his own words: "I took steps to dissipate the cash by paying as many bills as possible in cash and depositing the rest in several bank accounts."

Let's analyze the above. "Dissipate" is a lawyer's term. It sounds so much better than "launder." And putting money in different bank accounts is a willful attempt to circumvent financial disclosure documents.

Hiett's actions weren't those of a love-struck husband deep in denial. He deliberately tried to deceive investigators and conceal evidence.

At his sentencing before Judge Edward Korman at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, N.Y., COL Hiett insisted he was guilty only of poor judgement.

"The only thing I did - that I consciously did - was try to protect my wife after the fact."

What a bald-faced lie! It is the height of hypocrisy for the colonel to ignore his active role in "dissipating" the drug money to say nothing of "paying off bills" with the ill-gotten gains.

And to make matters worse, Hiett's "brass hat buddies" at the Pentagon recommended to Judge Korman the colonel get nothing more than PROBATION!

Incredible! Do you think for a moment an enlisted man, NCO or junior officer would have received such "kid-glove" treatment? If it had been anyone else, they could have looked forward to a long stretch in federal prison with loss of pension and all benefits.

Never once in the court proceedings did COL Hiett utter two simple words: "I'm sorry." The only regret he had was that he got caught! He was "sorry" about that, all right! All criminals are.

A SLAP ON THE WRIST

But Hiett had to feel "lucky" that he dodged what could have been a three-year jail term and a $250,000 fine.

Instead, the colonel received a "slap on the wrist." Judge Korman sentenced him to only five months imprisonment and five months of "home detention." And Hiett doesn't have to start his "sentence" until next January. Hiett's retirement date is November, and not a word about "court martial" has come from the Pentagon. And it won't.

They want to "run out the clock" and let Hiett collect his fat pension despite pleading guilty to a felony. A final insult to the American taxpayer!

In their supreme arrogance, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Henry Shelton, Army Secretary Louis Caldera and Defense Secretary William Cohen figure they can get away with this double standard of justice.

Think again, gentlemen, because we have plans to hold your feet to the fire and make you do your duty. As they say in broadcasting, "stay tuned."

A GRIEVING MOTHER

Perhaps the person most deserving of compassion and sympathy in that federal courtroom in July was Janie Shafer. The grieving mother of the late CPT Jennifer Odom, killed in a helicopter crash in Columbia, (Odom's father is a retired Army lieutenant colonel), Shafer begged Judge Korman for the opportunity to speak.

And when she rose to her feet, clutching a color photograph of her dead West Point graduate daughter to her chest, in a wavering but defiant voice, she declared her belief the true cause of Jennifer's death has been covered-up by the Army.

Mrs. Shafer accused the Army of calling the crash an "accident" when they knew differently. The mother said she is convinced her daughter, an excellent pilot and flying in good conditions, did not fly straight into a mountain but was "shot down" by members of a Columbian drug cartel. "Why won't the Army admit it?" Shafer feels it has something to do with politics and the Clinton Administration not wanting to admit a female pilot was killed in combat.

Leveling her gaze in COL Hiett's direction, the anguished mom said she suspects her daughter's death was caused, in part, by Hiett sharing information about the Army's operations with drug traffickers.

She acknowledged she had no "proof" of her allegations. But she said she wanted "answers."

Chances are, she will not get them.


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