NAVY PROSECUTOR MISREPRESENTS
Petty Officer 1st Class Jim Praefke has enough to worry about in the wake of his walking away from a work detail at the Navy Brig in Bangor, Wash. without the nature of his "crimes" being deliberately misrepresented.
MilitaryCorruption.com has confirmed pejorative and misleading statements on the fugitive's "wanted" sheet - sent to all NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) agents and civilian law enforcement agencies - could needlessly and maliciously endanger Praefke's life.
We wonder what personal agenda super-aggressive Navy prosecutor LT Jodi Bell had in knowingly disseminating inaccurate and inflammatory statements which could lead to an unnecessarily violent confrontation should cops attempt to take Praefke into custody?
[MCC is appealing to Praefke to give himself up peacefully to famed defense attorney and former Navy CDR John "Bull Dog" Wells. The retired officer has asked NCIS not to harm the Navy petty officer as long as he contacts Wells ( telephone: 1-800-817-5123; e-mail: email@example.com ) and offers to return to custody. In our initial story (see "related stories" box below), we told NCIS what the "ground rules" were for Praefke's safe return to Navy control. Getting an escaped prisoner back without bloodshed should be the goal of everyone concerned.]
"Bell is guilty of violating the same laws she is sworn to uphold," said Linda James of North Port, Fla. Praefke's mom declared "false information deliberately included" on his "wanted" bulletin has endangered her son's life. "It's like open season," she said, "giving NCIS or civilian police a virtual license to shoot and kill Jim on sight."
A look at the initial NCIS wanted bulletin clearly shows the amount of "overkill," (no pun intended), used to describe a career Navy man, much-decorated, and recently returned from Afghanistan, who - on his former attorney's advice, pleaded "guilty" (despite his stated innocence) to bringing a small amount of ammunition and a dummy grenade into the country from his previous combat-zone assignment.
[Praefke faced three years in military prison when he walked away - no force used - last November from a work detail at the Navy brig. The petty officer, injured in Afghanistan fighting, told his mother by telephone the day after his escape, he had been denied medical attention while in confinement and "couldn't stand it any more."]
LANGUAGE MORE SUITED FOR JOHN DILLINGER INSTEAD OF JIM PRAEFKE
The language drafted by LT Bell was extreme and way over-the-top:
"Praefke is considered armed and dangerous and likely to resist arrest. He has been convicted of explosives possession, false official statements, child sex abuse and driving under the influence. Praefke has a history of domestic violence and is a user of firearms. He also has a history of weapons use, bomb making, and is pro-militia, anti-law enforcement, anti-government. Last seen wearing desert camouflage."
Let's dissect this screed, more akin to a "John Dillinger" wanted poster than the accurate description of a career sailor with a clean record and chest-full of decorations.
ARMED AND DANGEROUS: Praefke did not overpower a guard or steal a weapon. He simply "walked away" peacefully from a work detail, and "morphed" into the civilian population. There is no solid proof to declare that the petty officer is even carrying a weapon, much less is "dangerous."
LIKELY TO RESIST ARREST: What is Bell, a psychic? Is she certain Praefke will go down in a blaze of gunfire if faced with return to Naval custody? Or is she trying to prejudice the impression of him in any arresting officer's mind, unaware of the true background of the PO1 or his "up-until-now" excellent Navy record. This is extremely "dangerous," as it puts Praefke in harm's way as potential captors might be misled into believing they are hunting for a menacing fugitive, thus thinking "gunplay" would be the only way to subdue him.
CONVICTED OF . . . FALSE OFFICIAL STATEMENTS: Perhaps the lieutenant and JAG has a "separate standard" of behavior when it comes to obeying the law. It appears her false statements (see next paragraph) are just fine, but if Praefke is deemed to have lied or misled anyone, well, throw the book at him! What hypocrisy!
CONVICTED OF . . . CHILD SEX ABUSE: Bell knew this was a pejorative lie - Praefke was acquitted at court-martial of all "sex charges" thrown at him by his estranged wife - but the JAG added it to the laundry list anyway. "Child abusers" are at the bottom rung of the prison chain, much-hated and often beaten or murdered by fellow prisoners if they believe one to have harmed or violated a youngster. This was Bell's most arbitrary and capricious act yet. She had to know such a lie on his fugitive sheet could likely result in brutality to Praefke, even from so-called "law-enforcement" officers.
HAS A HISTORY OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Where is any record of Praefke's court convictions for said "violence?" Or is this the sum total of unproven and unfounded accusations by a bitter and vindictive wife, promulgated by sympathetic female JAG officer Jodi Bell?
A USER OF FIREARMS , , , HAS A HISTORY OF WEAPONS USE: How ludicrous! Of course Praefke would be a "user of firearms" and familiar with their operation. After all, he needed those weapons and that know how to stay alive during his tour of duty in Afghanistan!
PRO-MILITIA, ANTI-LAW ENFORCEMENT, ANTI-GOVERNMENT: - These are the "buzz words" that get the pulse racing of any FBI agent or military cop hot on the trail of a escaped fugitive. Where is written proof that Praefke is "pro-militia," and even if he is, is that a violation of his Constitutional right to free speech and thought? Calling him "anti law-enforcement" certainly helps any arresting officer to feel better about "shooting first and asking questions later." And "anti-government?" PO1 Praefke was so "anti-government" he honorably served his country in peace and war for nearly 19 years with an unblemished record.
LAST SEEN WEARING DESERT CAMOUFLAGE: It's doubtful that Praefke is walking around in "cammies" now. So why include that bit of hyperbole? Because the "image" of the "psycho nut" Bell is trying to promote, works better when the "bad guy" is dressed in "combat fatigues."
E-MAIL PROOF LT BELL KNEW SHE'D ISSUED A FALSE DOCUMENT
Only twice before, in the history of MilitaryCorruption.com, have we ever taken the extraordinary step of publishing private e-mail traffic between two individuals. But, since Linda James has given us her copies of such communications, we are going to use it to prove Lt. Bell acted with malice and deliberately tried to create an atmosphere where PO1 Praefke's life would be put at great risk.
The e-mail is between Bell and former defense attorney Greg McCormack. We reproduce it verbatim. It speaks for itself. LT Bell's commanding officer is invited to read this carefully, as well.
November 27, 2005 5:55 P.M. EST (McCormack to Bell)
November 28, 2005 8:06 P.M. PST (Bell to McCormack)
November 28, 2005 8:18 P.M. EST (McCormack to Bell)
November 28, 2005 7:17 P.M. PST (Bell to McCormack)
November 28, 2005 7:55 P.M. EST (McCormack to Bell)
[The above e-mail exchange shows how some people operate when they think their actions are concealed by shadows. Incredibly, the NCIS "wanted bulletin" was not finally corrected - deleting the prejudicial false statements - until January 16, 2006, some 63 days after the initial inaccurate document was issued.]
AN EDITORIAL: RELIEVE LT BELL OF DUTY
MilitaryCorruption.com telephoned LT Bell to provide her a chance to explain her actions or make any statement she wished for inclusion in this article. After insolently referring to our editor-in-chief, MAJ Glenn MacDonald (a decorated, multi-tour, combat veteran and retired field-grade officer, rated 100% disabled [combat-related] by the VA) as "Mr. McDonald," Bell said she would have "no comment" and referred us to the Navy public affairs office. Phone calls from MCC to the PAO were not returned.
When someone clearly abuses their office for whatever personal agenda, they should be fired. Especially someone in such a high-profile position as a JAG officer. The Air Force is still reeling from the bad publicity that ensued in the wake of the forced retirement of former Maj. Gen. Thomas Fiscus. He was the married chief JAG officer who had numerous affairs during his time in office.
We don't know why LT Bell has exhibited such hostility towards PO1 Praefke. We do know the petty officer's mother has told us of how she would cry at night, remembering "the way that evil woman looked over at us - at the court martial - smirking as if she was enjoying what she was doing to my son." But it is up to Bell's commanding officer to investigate the lieutenant's actions and demand an explanation.
The evidence is there. Bell knowingly - despite repeated protests by defense counsel - inserted pejorative information in an official document (wanted bulletin) that was an outright lie and could have resulted in the death or injury of not only PO1 Praefke but a law-enforcement member as well.
This type of behavior is unacceptable. In our view, LT Bell should face charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and issuing a false official statement. That's for starters. It is up to the Navy to "police" it's own. Let's see if they try and sweep this ugly incident under the rug. If they do, we will make sure they never hear the end of it.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: MilitaryCorruption.com has been told an unofficial, unwritten "ban" is in place on all Navy installations discouraging, and in some cases electronically preventing service members from accessing this web site. We have fought and defeated other attempts by other branches of the armed forces to "censor" us before. Be advised we are prepared to go into Federal Court and fight for our First Amendment rights again, if necessary. We hope the well-respected new chief of naval operations - whom we have been most complimentary to here on MCC - will step in and correct this embarrassing situation right away.]