OF A FRAME-UP - HOW NAVY ALLOWED
© 2006 MilitaryCorruption.com
"Honey, I can't wait for you to get home," cooed Navy PO1 Jim Praefke's wife into the telephone as the veteran petty officer called Oak Harbor, Wash. from a refueling stop enroute back to the United States after seven hard months of duty in Afghanistan. "Here's the kids," she sweetly said, as they each took turns telling "Daddy" how much they looked forward to his return.
"And, Jim. I've got a big surprise waiting for you when you get here."
She sure did! "Sex abuse charges" and maxed-out credit cards, as well as wild accusations to the media that her husband was a dangerous "terrorist." Praefke was immediately taken into custody by salivating NCIS agents, eager to add another notch to their "politically-correct" arrest scoresheet.
The Navy had to know there were serious problems with the wife's accusations and her credibility, but since when did that stop the prosecution of an enlisted man with a clean record? "Let the games begin!" as Caligula used to shout in the Roman Colliseum
NAVY PROTECTS JAG WHO VIOLATES THE LAW
Hard-charging, super-aggressive JAG LT Jodi Bell tried her best to paint Praefke as an evil "child molester" at court-martial, but failed. The petty officer was acquited on all sex charges.
He did plead guilty - on advice of legal counsel - despite his stated innocence, to specious charges he "stole ammunition, illegally stored explosives (a dummy grenade)" and made "false official statements."
That was enough to destroy his military career, send him to the brig and make him ponder the irony of that old phony claim: "The Navy takes care of its own."
Strange how the Navy's turned a blind eye to LT Bell's "false official statement" she knowingly and maliciously inserted into the record, whereby PO1 Praefke's NCIS "wanted bulletin" contained false and extremely defamatory information that could have led to his death, if apprehended.
Be sure to read our story: AGGRESSIVE NAVY PROSECUTOR MISREPRESENTS BACKGROUND OF PO1 JIM PRAEFKE ON NCIS "WANTED" FUGITIVE SHEET . . .
Look on our home page or "click on" the "related stories box" at the end of this article.
It's "circle the wagons" time, as the Navy PAO refuses to even return MCC's phone calls. We've complained to the Pentagon and been assured we would at least be given the courtesy of a response, but apparently the tactic decided upon by "the powers that be" is to "stonewall" us and other media, hoping the scandal of a JAG breaking the law blows over without any damage to her "career."
We've got news for them. MilitaryCorruption.com calls for a formal investigation into LT Bell's misconduct and we'll be glad to provide the Navy with copies of her e-mails, which - in her own words - prove her intent to perpetuate a lie and a deliberate canard. "Political correctness" or gender favoritism should have nothing to do with whether or not a JAG officer is held to the same standard of the law as anyone else. If not, the whole system breaks down.
One has to wonder, if LT Bell would engage in such dishonest conduct as we reported in this space in our previous story, then, is it any stretch of the imagination to wonder if she might do other things illegal in her fervor to send PO1 Praefke to the slammer? Perhaps the entire court-martial was tainted by unfairness, which would put things in a very different light if the petty officer were to voluntarily return to Navy custody, as we have urged him to do.
[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: firstname.lastname@example.org ) 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.]
PLENTY OF MISTAKES IN THE ARTICLE 32 PROCEEDINGS
While the Navy has so far succeeded in keeping the Praefke court-martial transcripts away from the media, they didn't count on us getting hold of a copy of the paperwork on the Article 32 (preliminary hearing). There's enough in there to make one blanch at the decision to take this case any further. Was it the unsubstantiated "sex abuse charges" leveled at the petty officer by his "loving" wife that forced prosecution, regardless of the facts?
We have studied the documents closely, and with the help of former Navy LTCDR and Naval Academy graduate Walt Fitzpatrick, come up with many reasons to suspect Jim Praefke was railroaded and framed.
Take for example, the serious charge of smuggling a grenade - albeit an inert and "dummy" one - in from Afghanistan to the United States. When Praefke was questioned by Customs officials upon arrival back in this country he was specifically asked if he had any weapons or ammunition in his baggage. He said "no." That was because he didn't! So, how did it get there?
Well, first of all, if you read the sworn testimony of Carolyn Lockhart, the Customs and Border Protection Officer, Port of Anacortes, Wash., she says the grenade "was in a weird-looking box that was inside another box" in Praefke's marked bag.
But then, just five pages more into the transcript and you find Government witness Boatswains Mate First Class Matthew Broderson, from the EODMU 11 Detachment Northwest, Whidbey Island, testifying: " . . . the master-at-arms took me into the hanger bay and pointed to where there were a number of integrated storage containers holding the crew's gear and equipment. He pointed to an unzipped bag containing the hand grenade which I saw as plain as day. The grenade was in plain view. I took a picture of it, then unzipped the bag the rest of the way."
Hold on here! What happened to the "weird-looking box within a box?" You can't have it both ways. Or can you? Maybe you can, if you're the Navy and you want to convict somebody, never mind the facts. Does the thought occur to you, dear reader, that the grenade and scattered rounds of ammunition "found" in Praefke's bag might have been "planted" there? The bag was not locked. We know that from Broderson's testimony, that the top was "unzipped."
Were Praefke's fingerprints or DNA found anywhere on the grenade? The NCIS papers show there was a 3% chance it had Praefke's DNA. Let's see. Do the math. That means there's a 97% chance it wasn't him at all! Hey, gang, that's all we need. Get out the rope. He must be guilty!
More problems arise from the testimony of NCIS Agent Mark Young who swore under oath that he "received a call [on 2 February 2005] . . . indicating a grenade had been identified in Hanger 12." But the Evidence Custody Document, obtained by MCC, records the grenade was recovered on 2 February from Hanger 5 at 12:20 p.m. Which is it? What hanger, and was it in a box within a box, or out in the open? Serious questions that demand answers.
According to PO1 Broderson, "Grenades are tracked from the time they're made, to the time they're expended." But we found no evidence that any attempt was made by investigators to trace the grenade's point of origin. Why not? Because it might have come from local stock and therefore could not have been smuggled in from Afghanistan? Whoops! There goes the main charge against Praefke. So what to do now? Ah, how about dispose of the evidence! Yeah, that's the ticket!
In a stunning development, MilitaryCorruption.com has learned from an active duty Navy member [name withheld to save him from retaliation], that: "Hell, EOD (Emergency Ordnance Disposal) blew up that grenade the day after they found it. I know, because I saw them do it."
As for PO1 Praefke, he was arrested upon arrival at Whidbey Island on 1 February, so he was in lockup all day and could not have been in either Hanger 5, Hanger 12 or anywhere else. He denied from the very beginning any knowledge of having such a grenade and we believe him. But the Navy, who couldn't even get it's own story straight, decided to take Praefke to court-martial anyway!
Later on in this report, we'll explain how and why that material might have gotten there, but first, let's ponder the two widely divergent accounts of how the grenade and ammo were "discovered" in Praefke's bag. It made the much-decorated Navy veteran a "criminal" and destroyed 19 years of unblemished military service.
FOR A "SET UP," YOU NEED A MOTIVE
Why would someone want to "set up" Praefke?
MilitaryCorruption.com has been told by an active duty member that the petty officer's wife needed him "out of the way." Allegedly, Praefke's "frau" was seeing another sailor while hubby was off fighting in Afghanistan. It wouldn't be the first time that sort of thing happened.
Our investigators questioned former Navy buddies of the petty officer in Maine who told us that the wife (with the "big surprise") had cheated on her first husband, also a sailor, when he was at the Brunswick Naval Air Station back in the 1990's. She "latched onto" Praefke, we are told, with four kids in tow from the first marriage. "He should have known if she'd do that to her first husband, it could happen to him," said our source. "But, he didn't want to think that, and look what happened."
Since the wife - we don't reveal her name for legal reasons which should be obvious - made charges that were the linchpin of the Navy's case against PO1 Praefke, one would think her veracity and conduct would be carefully investigated. If it was, it was ignored.
For example, NCIS gleefully taunted the petty officer by telling him they had found "sex toys" (a vibrator") that had "DNA on it" in his home. Yeah, from the wife, two children, and a man! What the liars and cheats at NCIS didn't tell Praefke was that the DNA was from an "unidentified male" and did NOT match his!
This means that wifey may well have had a "boyfriend" while husband was gone. Somehow the vibrator was used on wife, kids and the unidentified male. Another sailor, perhaps? Gee, that sounds like a good reason to accuse Jim Praefke of "molesting" his step-kids. Why, he is Superman! He did it all the way from Afghanistan!
WIFE GOES THROUGH MONEY LIKE - "A DRUNKEN SAILOR"
While Praefke was cooling his heels in the brig for months on end before his court-martial began in 2005, he discovered his wife had "maxed out" his credit cards, lost $6,000 gambling, and run up bills of as much as $800 a month for telephone calls.
He obtained copies of the bills, and with the help of friends, painstakingly traced where the calls went to. Someone using wifey's phone made a lot of calls to EOD at the Whidbey Island Naval Base. Wonder why that was? What reason would his loyal wife - or her possible boyfriend - have to talk to them? Maybe to find out how to get hold of a grenade and some ammo to plant in Praefke's baggage? Hmmmm. It was known ahead of time when the petty officer's plane would be landing.
Retired CW2 Glen Banks, USMC, tells MilitaryCorruption.com he sent his friend Jim Praefke a check for $500 "to help him out while in the brig." But Banks mailed it to the petty officer's home, thinking it would be automatically forwarded. It wasn't. As he found out when he got a telephone call from the bank saying Praefke's wife had tried to cash the check! "I've got her signature right on the back. I can send you a photocopy," the mad Marine said.
Between the "sex charges" and weapons "violations" it'd be a good bet that the 6' 3" tall, 220-pound husband would be safely "out of the way" so his estranged wife could "get on" with her life. Or so she may have thought.
We don't know for sure if Praefke's wife tried to "frame" him or not. But she had to know that folks like NCIS, CID and OSI just chomp at the bit for a chance to go after anyone accused of "sex crimes" with all the subtlety of a pack of wild dogs chasing a bleeding deer across an open field.
While we have not named Praefke's wife in this account, and thereby cannot be accused of slander, in the spirit of fairness upon which this web site was founded, we are going the extra mile to offer this woman an opportunity to have her say on these pages. That's right, if she disputes anything we have reported, we'll be happy to retract it publicly upon presented proof of error.
But, let her know, that if she comes forward to give her account, we will avail ourselves of the opportunity to investigate every word she says, and, if she is caught lying, that will be duly reported on these pages as well as passed on to the appropriate authorities.
As of the moment, the estranged wife has, shall we say, "gone to ground" and cannot be located by us or other media organizations. Maybe she's still "frightened" of her "terrorist" husband. We doubt if he's stalking her. He's probably too intent on avoiding capture right now, after walking away from the Navy Brig at Bangor, Wash. Not that he might be more than a little "upset" at what his wife did to him. And the United States Navy.