How a murderer used Stolen Valor to spring himself from jail
Last month, Charles Chavous pleaded guilty to the 1975 murder of Bronzi Leon Peppers. He was one of three men implicated in the murder and the last to be sentenced. One of the three died in a automobile accident before he could be brought to answer for the crime. Of course, Chavous told his lawyer, Scott Connell, and the court that it was his time in Vietnam that made him crazy. His lawyer told the court that Chavous was one of the most decorated Marines from that war.
From the Augusta Chronicle:
The guilt of not telling what he knew about a homicide was worse than war, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and POW escapee told a judge Thursday.
For the man who had saved so many lives during his tours of duty, Charles Chavous was tortured because he did not try to save Bronzi Leon Peppers on Feb. 3, 1975, said Chavous’ attorney, Scott Connell.
Chavous served in the Marines as a “tunnel rat,” one of the men who went alone into extensive systems of tunnels dug by the Viet Cong. He was wounded five times, Connell said. He was captured and held captive, but escaped and carried another prisoner out, too, his attorney said.
Chavous is one of the highest-decorated veterans of the Vietnam War, Connell told the court. His medals include two Bronze Stars and the Navy Cross, Connell said.
The night Peppers was killed, Chavous froze, Connell said. He has been overwhelmed with guilt ever since.
Jonn and I immediately contacted everyone we could, including his attorney. This is what I wrote to the attorney:
I assume by now you've figured out your client is lying about his Marine Corps record. Hoofah. Most of his claims don't even make sense. And the Marine Corps would laugh if you tried to ask about that biography.
As an attorney (IN Bar), I appreciate you representing someone. But as an actual combat veteran of Afghanistan, I would encourage you to verify that weak sauce story. I literally cannot properly convey how ludicrous his story is.
Esquire Connell was less than pleased with me for that email:
While I greatly appreciate your service to our Country, I do not appreciate your assumption that I failed to "verify" this story. I have reviewed a number of documents which property to be from official government sources. This includes a vast array of VA records and a DD214. The documents certainly appear to be authentic in their appearance. Given that his story/history was also verified to me by a number of family members and long time friends (many of which are veterans themselves) and others in a position to know at the VA, I simply had no reason to doubt the veracity of his story. My job is not to embark upon a mission to disprove my client'sstory especially in the face of such evidence.
Now, before you all go hating on the attorney, I agree with him. He's exactly right. His job as an attorney is to do everything ethical in his power to get his client the best possible conclusion under the law. You can tell from his response that he believed his client. No doubting that.
Either way, we get an update today:
WASHINGTON — Former Marine Charles Allen Chavous was facing prison for his role in a decades-old murder. His attorney portrayed him as a Vietnam War hero who deserved leniency, telling the court he was a POW who escaped captivity and was awarded numerous combat valor medals, including the prestigious Navy Cross.
When the judge handed down his sentence, Chavous, 63, walked away a free man.
But in a case of stolen valor, none of the claims turned out to be true.
The proceedings in Augusta, Ga., were first reported by The Augusta Chronicle. After Chronicle readers expressed skepticism about the alleged war record, Stars and Stripes tried to verify attorney Scott Connell’s unchallenged claims.
You should go read the whole thing when you can (CLICK THE TITLE OF THE ARTICLE ABOVE), but this is the paragraph that got me:
Stars and Stripes contacted the Marine Corps’ records department in Quantico, Va., and an official there who pulled Chavous’ service record confirmed that the DD-214 given to Connell is phony in many respects. The former Marine was never awarded the Navy Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Joint Service Commendation, Presidential Unit Citation, or Meritorious Unit Citation. He never completed Reconnaissance School, Jump School or Jungle Survival School. He never received a battlefield commission to 1st Lt., nor did he retire at the rank of Sgt., as the doctored DD-214 states. (He was discharged as a Lance Cpl.) According to the Marine Corps, Chavous did serve in Vietnam as a rifleman, but he only served one tour. The Marine Corps has no record of him being missing in action or a prisoner of war.
You don't say.....