Marine father found guilty of disobeying orders
Wednesday, June 6, 2007


Staff Sgt. Chris Cassese, who left his position as a Marine recruiter in Clifton to come to the aid of his son who had threatened suicide, was found guilty of disobeying a superior on Tuesday afternoon during a court-martial hearing.

The former recruiter was to be sentenced today. In civilian terms, the guilty verdict is equivalent to being found guilty of a federal felony. Cassese could face up to a year in military prison.

His wife, Janine, broke down after the military court's three-member panel delivered the ruling around 5 p.m.

"It's absolutely ridiculous," said Janine Cassese, 33, during a telephone interview on Tuesday evening. "The other side didn't have anything on him. Their witnesses kept crumbling."

Cassese, 35, was charged with disobeying an order to return to duty on Oct. 19. That day, Janine called her husband to come home after their son Cameron, then 10, threatened to kill himself. Cameron had shown signs of depression after Cassese began working grueling hours to make recruiting quotas.

Cassese, originally from Bergenfield, said he regularly put in 14-hour days and weekends to keep up with expanding demands at the office.

Cassese's superiors argued that he did not make them aware of his family problems until after he signed off on paperwork acknowledging guilt. The Casseses, who live in Lake Hopatcong, deny that.

Janine and several Marines, including a former boss, testified on Cassese's behalf on Tuesday. But in the end, the panel ruled that Cassese had disobeyed an order no matter the circumstances, Janine said.

Cassese's lawyer could not be reached for comment Wednesday night. Maj. Gabrielle Chapin, a Marine spokeswoman in Parris Island, S.C., where the trial took place, also did not return a call.

Cassese's witnesses were slated to testify again on his behalf during a sentencing hearing this morning. His punishment could range from a loss of rank and two-thirds military pay to a dishonorable discharge and jail time in a military brig.

Cassese's supporters were shocked that the military would punish a 12-year Marine for supporting his family in a time of crisis.

"They teach you honor, courage and commitment in the Marines," Janine said. "He was doing that as a father. It took courage to say he would stand up for his family."

Reach Heather Haddon at 973-569-7121 or Reach Heather Haddon at 973-569-7121 or