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Don’t Tell Mom

Hi, my name’s Sean Mangan. I’m a retired Army Lt Colonel and former military judge in the Army JAG corp. And today I’m an attorney with a Law Office of Jocelyn Stewart, helping individual service members and police officers with their legal matters. So when you’re a kid, perhaps you say, don’t tell mom cause you don’t want to get in trouble. But my advice today isn’t so much about getting in trouble with mom as much as is don’t want mom to get in trouble, or perhaps mom put her across purposes with you. So let’s talk about a common scenario I see with individual service members who are looking to get help or legal advice.

And to reminder every case is different. If you have a question about legal advice and you’re facing one of these situations or you find yourself in these circumstances, by all means please contact us for a free, confidential legal consultation. We can discuss your matter in detail confidentially. But generally speaking a lot of times where I see problems with individuals is when they talk to family and they tell their family part of what the story or accusation is, and it just winds up making trouble.

So let’s take a typical scenario. A young sailor has a sexual encounter on a date and it goes badly. And later that sexual partner feels that that incident amounted to a sexual assault and makes a report, and the young sailor disagrees and feels that it wasn’t. And so that young sailor gets told that they’re under investigation for sexual assault, which is pretty serious stuff. And that young sailor who talks to his parents regularly decides to reach out and talk to mom about what’s going on. And as you might imagine, a young sailor who is facing that kind of allegation may not want to tell mom every lurid detail of the sexual encounter, may want to make themselves look a little better and may simply just feel that mom doesn’t need to know those details. And so instead of saying, mom, I’m under investigation, I can’t talk about it, but I want you to know this is happening and leaving it at that, right?

They want to discuss the story and talk about how it felt to them, or maybe share part of that detail with mom or maybe tell mom a version of it that doesn’t, doesn’t make mom listen to all the details. And what happens is mom comes away with a different understanding of what happened. And here is the thing, mom may love you, but there is no privilege in your communications with your mom. There is no, like we have attorney client privilege. There is no service member and service member mom’s privilege. And I’ve seen plenty of cases where law enforcement, I’m talking military and law enforcement, NCIS in this case, calls up mom and says, have you talked to your son about what happened last weekend on this date?

And she thinks, because mom’s trying to help you out. Oh, it’s a huge misunderstanding. And then mom tells a version of that story to NCIS. And NCIS says to mom, well, mom, how did you hear this story? How, how do you know this? And she says, well, my son told me that’s exactly what happened. He told me the whole thing. Now here’s the problem. If later or at some point that sailor, that young sailor wants to cooperate with law enforcement and gives a version of that story, now we have two inconsistent stories coming out of that service member’s mouth, okay? And the problem is, is that now, you know, it’s easy to explain in this kind of individual setting where there’s no emotion involved and there’s no threat of jail involved. But when this is real life and there’s a criminal investigation pending, that kind of mixed signal can cast a shadow of doubt or suspicion on a service member who otherwise would not have anything to worry about and might be able to clear their own names simply by cooperating with law enforcement.

So for that reason, we say it’s incredibly important that while it’s good to be in communication with your parents or your loved ones, or your extended family, when you’re going through something like this, and it’s fine to let them know that you’re under investigation, do not dig into the details of the accusation or the events surrounding it.

Politely say, I love you. I really appreciate your support, but I cannot talk about this right now for legal reasons. I just wanted to let you know that I’m going through this right now and I’ll let you know developments as they happen.

Then what you need to do is get in contact with a legal expert who can help you. Now, you can go to your free services, where you’ve got the Defense Legal Service office, if you’re in the Navy or if you’re in the Air Force, the Area Defense Council or the Army Trial Defense Service and get some basic free advice. But if you’d also like some more tailored or advanced representation or expertise, you can also call around to law firms that specialize in that matter, like ours, who do free, free legal consultations. And if that’s the situation you’re in, I would encourage you to give us a call.

Sean Mangan is a UCMJ court-martial attorney who specializes in defense of allegations of sexual assault for all branches of the military worldwide. Contact the Law Office of Jocelyn C. Stewart at 253-212-958

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