April 17, 2010 Update: Army surrenders. Marc Hall free. Discharge pending. Supporters donated over $9,000 that covered Marc’s defense, including his upcoming discharge upgrade appeal. To the hundreds who wrote letters and donated to his defense, Marc shared via phone from Kuwait, “Thank you, thank you for all of your love and support!”

Courage to Resist. March 25, 2010

US Army Specialist Marc A. Hall sits in a military brig at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, facing an imminent court martial for challenging the US military’s Stop-Loss policy in a song — his pre-trial hearing was held last week on March 17. Yet it was not the hip-hop song he wrote criticizing the Stop-Loss policy that landed him in trouble. What put the 34-year-old New York City native in the brig were his persistent assertions of inadequate mental health care that culminated in a Dec. 7 complaint to the Army Investigator General. Just five days later Hall was charged with violating “good order and discipline” at Fort Stewart, Georgia, and was shipped out of the country.

Hall’s court martial is likely to occur late April or early May.

The jailing occurred a full five months after Hall wrote a rap song protesting the Stop-Loss order that halted his discharge after he served his country for 14 months of combat in Iraq. Hall was charged with 11 counts of “communicating threats” related to the song and has since been charged with violating Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Conduct. All the alleged violations occurred between last July and December, yet not one warranted warning, counseling, or non-judicial punishment at the time.

On Feb. 20 Hall wrote, “A charge that was not a threat before, but all of a sudden became a threat now. I communicated a need for mental evaluation—not a threat.”

As if that were not enough the military took the nearly unprecedented step of moving Hall overseas for court martial, instead of putting him on trial in Georgia where the alleged threats occurred. On Feb. 26 Hall was put on plane to Iraq and transferred to Kuwait for pre-trial confinement. This put him out of reach of his civilian legal defense team, friends, and family. It will also make it extremely hard for defense witnesses to appear at trial on his behalf.

“Not just the Constitution, but the rules for courts-martial, prohibit prosecutors from holding a court martial in a combat zone as pretext for depriving an accused of a public trial, counsel of his choice and necessary witnesses,” said Hall’s attorney David Gespass, President of the National Lawyers Guild. “Whatever the Army may claim, that is exactly what the Army is doing to Marc.”

Due to Hall’s move to Kuwait, Alabama-based lawyer David Gespass may be unable to continue pro-bono representation. This would leave Hall with an Army-appointed judge advocate (JAG), unless friends and family are able to raise at least $15,000 for a civilian lawyer to travel to Kuwait. Nor will Hall have access to an independent mental health evaluation, unless supporters are able to raise thousands more to find and fund an expert witness willing and able to travel to Kuwait.

“We are concerned that the Army appears to be planning to conduct the court martial in virtual secrecy,” declared Jeff Paterson, project director of Oakland-based Courage to Resist, in a court exhibit opposing Hall’s transfer to the war zone. “Marc is facing years in prison on trumped up charges based on vague threats. We’re trying to make sure Marc gets a fair and public trial, but I’m not sure how that’s possible with the Army stacking the deck against him,” added Paterson.

Yesterday the pre-trial hearing judge eliminated five of the 11 charges, and recommended against the more serious General Court Martial and opted instead for a lesser Special Court Martial.

As Hall’s song explains, “If I do drugs, I get kicked out. If my time is up, I can’t get out!”