The Case of Marine Major Mark Thompson: a Tragedy and a Travesty

Mark Thompson was a Marine’s Marine. Prior enlisted, his officer assignments included posting at the U.S. Naval Academy for which he, like all assigned to the “Boat School” required intense screening for character and competence. That all came crashing down when two women who were midshipmen, i.e. students, accused him of fraternization, indecent acts, and rape.

Ultimately, Major Thompson was found not guilty of the rape but guilty of lesser offenses and received two months’ confinement. A subsequent proceeding to kick him out of the Marine Corps resulted in an extremely rare finding that he did not commit the misconduct to which he had been found guilty by the court-martial, and he was retained in the Marine Corps, even after a Marine Corps general attempted to get the panel of officers at the subsequent proceeding to reconsider their recommendation for retention. Nonetheless, a Marine officer’s sterling career and reputation was scuttled, if not quite destroyed. Read more here.

The story reads as a great tragedy, including one fatal error in decision by Major Thompson in his efforts to vindicate himself. There are many good attorneys mentioned in the article, including two whom I greatly admire; Phil Cave and Marine Major Joseph ‘Josey’ Grimm. But the story gives ample support for the advice I give to all my clients: NEVER, EVER talk to investigators. NEVER. They are not interested in the truth; they are interested in gathering information to support a predetermined conclusion.

Lying never helps. That is another reason to keep your mouth shut. And even if you intend to be utterly truthful, your statements can STILL be distorted to mean things you never intended.

‘Victims’ lie. That is the norm, not the exception. And in the Salem witch trial ecology that is the military in the 2010s, no one will point this out. No one.

Get an attorney right away. To quote my new favorite fictional attorney, Saul Goodman, “Hiring an attorney does not make you look guilty. Wearing handcuffs makes you look guilty.” And, without the help of an attorney, your incompetent efforts to be your own advocate usually do a good job to making the day you wear handcuffs possible.

Finally, if you are an instructor, or any sort of leader in the military, do NOT text or communicate with your students or subordinates in a way that is remotely sexual. Why would you do that? To cite the apocryphal quote attributed to the late, great, fake Marine, John Wayne, “Life is tough, but it is tougher if you are stupid.”

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