Trial for officer accused of wrongfully wearing medals recessed until Friday
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  1. #1

    Cool Trial for officer accused of wrongfully wearing medals recessed until Friday

    July 28, 2004

    Trial for officer accused of wrongfully wearing medals recessed until Friday

    By Bryant Jordan
    Times staff writer

    The court-martial of a Navy Medical Service Corps officer charged with unlawfully wearing the Silver Star, Purple Hearts and other medals and decorations got underway at Quantico, Va., yesterday — only to be recessed until Friday after the defense filed a motion to dismiss the case against him.
    But before they even got to that point, the trial got off to a rocky start when the defendant, Navy Capt. Roger Edwards, showed up wearing the wrong uniform.

    Navy Capt. Henry Lazzaro, the judge hearing the case, ordered the recess after Edwards turned up for the morning court-martial dressed in his khaki uniform. He had been instructed to wear his summer whites.

    Edwards also was not wearing decorations on his khakis when he arrived, according to Quantico spokesman Capt. Jeff Landis.

    When the court reconvened at 1 p.m., Edwards was wearing his summer whites with a black service sweater over his blouse.

    Landis said medals need not be worn beneath a sweater.

    By wearing the sweater, Edwards avoided a public display of the awards that the Marine Corps alleges the career naval officer has been wearing illegally. Witnesses first became suspicious of his awards during an Oct. 31, 2002, ceremony, during which Edwards was made an “Honorary Marine.”

    One of those witnesses is FBI Special Agent Tom Cottone, who, ironically, stood on the same stage next to Edwards and was also made an “Honorary Marine” for his record of sniffing out phony war heroes.

    Another witness, B.G. “Jug” Burkett, is the author of “Stolen Valor,” which debunks many of the negative stereotypes about Vietnam veterans while exposing various phony vets.

    Neither man was called to testify before the case was recessed. Burkett, who headed to Boston after the proceedings, said he was not sure he would be able to make the Friday court date, though Cottone and a third witness, Katherine Bradbury, are expected to be back in court.

    Although Edwards was charged last August with more than two dozen counts of wearing unauthorized medals, decorations and qualification badges, officials said the Corps and the defense had agreed that Edwards would plead guilty to about a dozen of the most serious charges. These reportedly will include unauthorized wearing of the Silver Star, the nation's third-highest award for valor.

    But whatever arrangement was supposedly made was stalled yesterday after the defense asked for a dismissal of the charges. As Edwards — who also is an ordained Episcopal priest — sat at the defense table and his wife sat in the public seating fingered a set of rosary beads, civilian attorney Charles Gittens rose to offer his motion to dismiss.

    Among the reasons: Edwards was not turned over to his parent service, the Navy, for prosecution. The move forced the judge to recess the trial for several days while Gittens puts his motion in writing.

    After setting the new date and time, a seemingly frustrated Lazzaro rose from the bench and moved quickly for the door, which he threw open to leave.


  2. #2
    Medals of dishonor
    By DALE EISMAN, The Virginian-Pilot
    © July 31, 2004
    Last updated: 11:53 PM

    Navy Capt. Roger Dean Edwards. VP file photo.

    Related: Medals for sale
    QUANTICO —- When Navy Capt. Roger Dean Edwards stepped forward to accept one of the Marine Corps’ highest tributes – the title of “honorary Marine” – it was impossible not to be impressed.

    The distinctive “Eagle, Globe and Anchor” pin Gen. James L. Jones, then the Corps’ commandant, attached to Edwards’ uniform in an elaborate ceremony joined a chestful of ribbons, including the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal.

    “There was just a ton of stuff,” recalled Thomas A. Cottone Jr., an FBI agent who also was made an honorary Marine that day in October 2002.

    He and Edwards met for the first time at that event, and the Navy officer instantly stood out among the hundreds whose paths he had crossed since the mid-1990s, Cottone said. Edwards’ collection of awards was among the most distinguished he had ever seen.

    Too distinguished, it turned out.

    While Edwards, executive assistant to the Marine Corps medical officer, was recognized that day for lifesaving work in assignments with the Corps, Cottone was cited for his success in sniffing out hundreds of military imposters – civilians and servicemembers who wear awards they did not earn.

    And within months, the agent had added Edwards to his list of too-good-to-be-true military heroes.

    Edwards, 54, effectively ended a 36-year military career on Friday with a guilty plea to charges he fraudulently wore 12 medals, nearly half the total on his uniform at the ceremony. Among them was the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest award for valor under fire, and the Purple Heart, given for wounds suffered in combat.

    He had worn the decorations many times, always knowing they were unauthorized, Edwards told Capt. Henry Lazzaro, the military judge hearing his case.

    “I was wrong,” he said.

    Late Friday, Lazzaro sentenced Edwards to 115 days in jail and fined him $7,500. The judge also ordered that a formal reprimand be placed in Edwards’ personnel file.

    Edwards was virtually certain to be forced from the service, could be defrocked as an Episcopal priest and faced at least a suspension of his Virginia pharmacy license. Edwards had been free pending trial but was to be taken to the brig Friday night, a Marine spokesman said.

    A s a condition of accepting his guilty plea, the Marine general who ordered the court-martial insisted that Edwards return the Eagle, Globe and Anchor pin and forever renounce any claim to the title of Honorary Marine.

    “I stand before you a broken man,” Edwards told the court. “I can hardly put into words how this has affected me.”

    His voice wavering but never breaking, Edwards apologized to his family, the Navy and the Marine Corps. His nearly two-year struggle with the charges has wrecked his wife’s health and devastated his children, he said.

    “I feel helpless to comfort them,” he said. “What pains me most is that my oldest child, who is a naval officer, has to live with what I have done and the disgrace I have brought my family.”

    Edwards’ wife, who took notes and clutched a rosary through the hearing, dabbed at her eyes as he spoke.

    The pain the case has caused her family is unimaginable, she had said earlier. “Do you know what it’s like for a family to fight the best fighting force in the world?”

    Despite Edwards’ obvious remorse, the day long trial and sentencing hearing offered little more than hints as to why an accomplished officer would commit crimes that prosecutors said strike at the heart of military tradition and how he was able to do so for years before being detected.

    Edwards, who lives in the Washington area, himself was silent on both those counts. A psychiatrist testifying for the defense suggested the officer “did this whole thing to stave off a distorted sense of being an empty shell, a worthless person.”

    Dr. Derald Donovan, a Navy lieutenant commander and forensic psychiatrist, said Edwards suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder, dating from his service as an Army medic during the Vietnam War.

    Edwards also suffers from severe depression, a “narcissistic personality disorder” that causes him to inflate his accomplishments to make him feel better about himself, and “chronic suicidal thoughts,” Donovan said.

    Though Charles Gittins, his civilian attorney, argued that Edwards had committed a “victimless crime” and caused “no manifest injury” to the Marines, Edwards acknowledged that frauds like the one he perpetrated are an embarrassment to the military.

    “In my heart, I knew it was wrong,” he told Lazzaro.

    Also unclear was how Edwards could continue to function – affidavits from two flag officers credited him with pushing lifesaving medical technologies into the field in time for Operation Iraqi Freedom – as his deception was uncovered and he struggled to save his career and his reputation.

    In an interview this week, Cottone said one of the mysteries of his work is why people like Edwards, who have been successful and often legitimately heroic, decide to embellish their achievements.

    “For some reason, enough just isn’t enough,” he said. “They just want more.”

    Based in West Patterson, N.J., Cottone normally investigates bank robberies and other violent federal crimes. But in 1995, his bosses dispatched him to pursue a complaint that the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, was for sale at a gun show just down the street from the bureau’s West Paterson office.

    Cottone went to the show and bought two Medals of Honor, then charged the sellers under a federal law that makes trafficking in the Medal of Honor a felony punishable by as much as one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

    “I had no idea this was a problem,” he said.

    He soon learned, becoming an informal point man for a national campaign to expose and punish military imposters. He takes crimes like those Edwards committed personally, he told Lazzaro.

    The offenses “are an insult to anyone who has ever earned these medals,” Cottone said.

    News stories about Cottone’s work and that of Mitchell Paige, a former Leatherneck who chased Medal of Honor fakers for four decades until his death this year, have motivated legions of veterans and servicemembers to review the heroism claims of hundreds of civilians, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

    Also fueling the effort is a book, “Stolen Valor,” by Texas businessman B.G. Burkett, that painstakingly documents dozens of military frauds.

    Burkett, who said he had suspicions of his own about Edwards, contacted Cottone about the case soon after the honorary Marine ceremony and researched Edwards’ medals.

    He was in the Quantico courtroom on Friday to see the result of their labors.

    Similar efforts have humiliated an assortment of Americans, from Tim Johnson, forced out in 1999 as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays after it was discovered that he had lied about a tour of duty in Vietnam, to Illinois Judge Michael F. O’Brien, who resigned from the bench to avoid prosecution in 1995 for falsely claiming to be a two-time Medal of Honor recipient.

    “I think it’s always been there. … we’re just finding out about more of them,” said Randy Everette of Virginia Beach, a former Navy SEAL who has tracked SEAL imposters across the country.

    This spring, a tip to Cottone led to the conviction of former Marine Sgt. Dallas Ricker, a longtime friend of Gen. Jones who served with the future commandant in the 1970s at the Marines’ fabled “8th and I” barracks a few blocks from the Capitol.

    As chairman of the Marine Honors Society, Ricker organized a Washington dinner last August in honor of Jones, by then commander of U.S. forces in Europe, and fellow Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    James Roy, a former Marine from Massachusetts, acted as liaison to Medal of Honor winners invited to the Jones dinner. Something about Ricker struck him as not quite right, he said, particularly after he noticed that Ricker wore the Navy Cross, the Navy’s highest decoration, with a small “Combat V” pin attached.

    The V pin typically is added to medals won for actions in combat. But the Navy Cross is awarded solely for valor in combat, so a V added to it is redundant, Roy said.

    Alerted by Roy and others, Cottone did a preliminary investigation, then turned the case over to agents in Alabama, where Ricker lived and had been seen wearing the Cross; Ricker pleaded guilty in April to wearing an unauthorized medal and was sentenced to six months’ probation.

    He also was ordered to send a written apology to Leatherneck magazine and the Marine Corps Gazette, magazines read by thousands of Marines and Marine retirees.

    For most medal offenders, “to be publicly exposed is the number one penalty. Number two is to be exposed and prosecuted,” Cottone said.

    Reach Dale Eisman at (703) 913-9872 or

    © 2004


  3. #3
    August 03, 2004

    Officer convicted of illegally wearing medals

    By Bryant Jordan
    Times staff writer

    A Navy officer who held the title “Honorary Marine” pleaded guilty Friday to illegally wearing 11 medals, including the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross and is in the brig at Quantico, Va. In courts-martial proceedings at Quantico, Capt. Roger D. Edwards, 54, told the judge, Navy Capt. Henry Lazzaro, that he was “a broken man” who had brought disgrace on himself and his family.
    But just how broken Edwards is remains to be seen.

    He was sentenced to 115 days confinement, forfeiture of $2,500 per month for three months and a letter of reprimand, but Edwards was dismissed from the service and may still leave with some of his retirement.

    It’s up to the Bureau of Naval Personnel to decide what rank Edwards last served in honorably and base any retirement pay on that grade, Lazzaro told Edwards.

    Edwards pleaded guilty under a plea agreement to 12 counts of wearing unauthorized awards, decorations and badges — down from about 25 counts in the original charge against him. An additional specification was dropped the day of the court-martial after Edwards produced documentation showing he was authorized to wear the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.

    Had Edwards fought the charges and lost he could have received as much as six months’ confinement, forfeiture of all pay and allowances for six months and dismissal from the service.

    Edwards’ actions have not only put an end to a 34-year military career, but may have destroyed his future as a priest of the Episcopal Church and as a licensed pharmacist in Virginia.

    Edwards was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 2002 and became the rector of St. Andrew the Fisherman in Mayo, Md. He told the court July 30 that he has been suspended from his priestly duties pending the outcome of the court-martial. The guilty verdict also could mean loss of his pharmacist license in Virginia, he said.

    Edwards’ masquerade began unraveling, coincidentally, in October 2002, when he was given the rare honor of being made an Honorary Marine. Edwards was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., where he served as executive assistant to Rear Adm. Robert D. Hufstader Jr., the Corps’ top medical officer.

    The high-profile Honorary Marine ceremony included three other recipients, among them FBI Special Agent Thomas Cottone, whose duties included investigating military medal frauds. Cottone became suspicious of Edwards after reviewing the brief biography published in the ceremony’s program. It didn’t appear that Edwards could possibly have garnered all the training and experiences he claimed in support of his medals, ribbons and badges, according to Cottone.

    Edwards joined the Navy in 1977 after serving three years in the Army — 1968 to 1971 — including a tour in Vietnam.

    He then served in the Army National Guard as a warrant officer, followed by three years — 1975 to 1978 — in the Coast Guard Reserve, according to records from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

    His Army awards do show he received the Army Commendation Medal with “V’ device for valor, but not the Silver Star or Purple Hearts.


  4. #4
    jesus what a dude, I hope he looses everything. Guys like him just make me sick....

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