U.S. Army Private First Class Cole James Bridges Provided Tactical Guidance in Attempt to Help ISIS to Attack U.S. Forces in the Middle East

Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, John C. Demers, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), Dermot Shea, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), and Roy T. Cochran, Director, U.S. Army Counterintelligence Coordinating Authority, announced today the arrest of COLE JAMES BRIDGES, a/k/a “Cole Gonzales,” a Private First Class in the U.S. Army, on federal terrorism charges based on BRIDGES’s alleged efforts to assist ISIS to attack and kill U.S. soldiers in the Middle East.  BRIDGES was charged by Complaint with attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, and attempting to murder U.S. military service members.  The FBI and Army Counterintelligence arrested BRIDGES today, and he will be presented on Thursday, January 21, 2021, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “As alleged, Cole Bridges betrayed the oath he swore to defend the United States by attempting to provide ISIS with tactical military advice to ambush and kill his fellow service members.  Our troops risk their lives for our country, but they should never face such peril at the hands of one of their own.  Today, thanks to the efforts of the agents and detectives of the JTTF, and our partners in the Department of Defense, Bridges is in custody and facing federal terrorism charges for his alleged crimes.”

Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said:  “Bridges is charged with giving military advice and guidance on how to kill fellow soldiers to individuals he thought were part of ISIS.  This alleged personal and professional betrayal of comrades and country is terrible to contemplate, but fortunately, the FBI was able to identify the threat posed by Bridges, and today’s charges are the first step in holding him accountable for his crimes.  ISIS ideology continues to infect those who would threaten the nation’s security from within and without, and we will continue to fight this threat.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “As we allege today, Bridges, a private in the U.S. Army, betrayed our country and his unit when he plotted with someone he believed was an ISIS sympathizer to help ISIS attack and kill U.S. soldiers in the Middle East.  Fortunately, the person with whom he communicated was an FBI employee, and we were able to prevent his evil desires from coming to fruition.  Bridges could have chosen a life of honorable service, but instead he traded it for the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence.  This case should serve as a reminder that the FBI’s New York JTTF will never quit in its commitment to protect our Nation from all those who seek to do it harm.”

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said:  “As alleged in this federal complaint, Cole Bridges violated his oath and used his position of privilege against his fellow citizens.  This arrest, and the work of the FBI’s New York JTTF and all of our law enforcement partners, will ensure that this individual faces justice.”

Army Counterintelligence Coordinating Authority Director Roy T. Cochran said:  “Army Counterintelligence’s top priority is protecting the force so it can remain committed to fighting and winning our Nation’s wars.  The results of this investigation show the efforts of Army Counterintelligence agents working alongside our partners in the FBI.  We are dedicated to protecting our Soldiers, Civilians, and Families from terrorist acts and insider threats.”

Andrew Wolfson

Louisville Courier Journal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Even if cell tower evidence is wrong that allegedly implicated airline pilot Christian “Kit” Martin in a triple murder, the Kentucky attorney general’s office says there was other proof to justify his indictment.

Martin’s lawyer filed a motion Feb. 5 to dismiss his 2019 indictment on the grounds a Christian County sheriff’s deputy inaccurately summarized cell phone evidence he said showed Martin was at the crime scene on Nov. 19, 2015, not at home in Pembroke, Kentucky, as he had claimed.

 

Christian Richard Martin

Citing a report from a telecom expert hired by the defense, Assistant Public Advocate Tom Griffiths said the testimony of Lt. Scott Smith was “not only false,” but he may have knowingly or intentionally misled the grand jury.

Responding Feb. 17, Assistant Attorney Generals Barbara Maines Whaley and Alexander Garcia said even if the cell the evidence was inaccurate, Smith cited other evidence supporting murder and other charges, including a shell casing found at one of the crime scenes matching a .45-caliber Glock handgun seized from Martin’s home.

They noted Smith also testified that one of the victims, Calvin Phillips, was shot to death two weeks before he was set to testify for prosecutors in Martin’s court-martial.

Whaley and Garcia also said Smith accurately summarized FBI cell phone tower analysis showing Martin’s cell phone “pinged” towers near where the two other victims — Phillips’ wife, Pamela, and their next-door neighbor, Edward Dansereau — were found shot to death in her burned-up car.

The prosecutors say the accuracy of the cell tower evidence should be contested at trial, not in a defense motion to dismiss the indictment.

The cellphone analysis also purportedly showed Martin took Pamela Phillips’ phone and drove with it toward Fort Campbell, where he worked.

A hearing is set for March 18 on the defense’s motion to dismiss the indictment.

The triple murder went unsolved for nearly four years before the grand jury May 10, 2019. indicted Martin on murder, arson and other charges.

In a sensational arrest covered by national media, police handcuffed Martin, an American Airlines pilot at the gate as he was about to take off from Muhammad Ali International Airport in Louisville.

The former Army major was still wearing his pilot’s uniform when he was booked on three counts of complicity to murder, arson and other charges.

Calvin Phillips, 59, was found in the basement of his historic home, while the bodies of his 58-year-old wife and Dansereau, 63, were discovered a few miles away in the charred remains of her car, burned beyond recognition.

Then-Attorney General Andy Beshear said his office had intervened after the Phillips’ son begged him not to let his parents’ death go unsolved.

Martin, who has pleaded not guilty, is being held on a $3 million bond pending his June 1 trial in Elizabethtown, where the case has been moved on a change of venue.

Martin was always a person of interest in the murders; he was briefly detained at Fort Campbell after the crimes, then released.

Phillips was set to testify against him in a court-martial in which the Army had charged Martin with sexual and physical abuse of three children as well as mishandling classified information.

Martin was exonerated on the more serious charges but convicted of mishandling classified information and simple assault and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. He also was dismissed from the Army after serving nearly 30 years.

Martin claimed his ex-wife falsified the allegations to exact revenge on him for divorcing her and getting her charged with bigamy. She pleaded guilty in 2016 to the offense, a felony, in Christian Circuit Court and was placed on diversion.

 

A senior officer who presided over an Article 32 hearing weighing sexual assault charges against a former commander of Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has issued his report and recommendation on how the case should proceed.

A charge and three specifications of violating Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice were preferred against Maj. Gen. William Cooley in October by Lt. Gen. Gene Kirkland, the initial disposition authority in the case.

An Article 32 hearing was held in the case at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Feb. 8. In an unsworn statement in open court, Cooley, a two-star general, proclaimed his innocence while attorneys for the government charged that it was impossible for Cooley to have been honest both at the hearing and with Air Force investigators.

The case is potentially historic. If the case proceeds to a trial by court martial, it will be the first time an Air Force general has ever been court-martialed.

A photo of William Cooley when he was a brigadier general. Air Force image
A spokesman for Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) said the presiding officer’s recommendation cannot be revealed yet.

“The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to review all evidence and preferred charges and specifications to determine whether or not the specification alleges an offense occurred, whether or not there is probable cause to believe that the accused committed the offense charged, whether or not the convening authority has court-martial jurisdiction over the accused and over the offense, and finally to make a recommendation as to the disposition that should be made of the case,” Derek Kaufman, a spokesman for AFMC, said Wednesday. “The report cannot be released until final disposition of the case is complete.”

The accuser charges that in an August 2018 off-duty incident in Albuquerque, N.M., Cooley “made unwanted sexual advances by kissing and touching” her, according to an Air Force charge sheet. The charge says the two-star general kissed the accuser without her consent, “with an intent to gratify his sexual desire.”

The defense argued that the kiss was consensual.

The accuser is not a member of the Air Force or a Department of Defense employee.

The preliminary hearing officer, Col. Charles Wiedie, transmitted his report to the AFMC staff judge advocate, Kaufman said.

Following a review by the judge advocate and processing, that report will be provided to the Convening Authority and Gen. Arnold W. Bunch, Jr., AFMC commander.

The purpose of the preliminary hearing includes making a disposition recommendation, Kaufman said.

The spokesman offered no timeline for disposition of the case.

Bunch relieved Cooley from command of AFRL in January 2020 following the accusations.

Both AFRL and AFMC are headquartered at Wright-Patterson.

A TRAINEE Army officer has been sacked after hiding in a fellow cadet’s room five times hoping to see her naked when she returned from a shower.

Hector Orrell, 21, sat behind her bed at the military academy.

Hector Orrell, 21, admitted disgraceful conduct of an indecent kind

Hector Orrell, 21, admitted disgraceful conduct of an indecent kind

A court martial heard he also pushed his groin against her legs in a lunch queue, and did the same to another trainee.

Orrell — whose father and grandfather were both officers — was 19 at the time and got a warning from superiors.

Military Police became aware a year later.

Orrell, of Guildford, Surrey, admitted disgraceful conduct of an indecent kind.

An Air Force officer who was assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School will face a general court-martial this spring on charges of dereliction of duty, prohibited activities with a trainee, and sexual assault, according to the Air Force JAG Corps’ online docket.

Maj. Elaine C. Christian, a force support officer, allegedly groped “a specially protected junior member of the armed forces” in the fall of 2019, according to a charge sheet provided to Task & Purpose by the Air Force Academy. Force support officers like Christian specialize in personnel management, which could mean anything from developing education programs for airmen to handling promotion and separation paperwork. She has served in the Air Force since 2006, according to the Air Force Personnel Center.

The charge was a violation of Article 93a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: prohibited activities with a military recruit or trainee by a person in a position of special trust. The term “specially protected junior member” generally means a recruit or trainee in an initial enlisted or officer training program, while “person in a position of special trust,” refers to a training or leadership position, as Christian was in, though the charge sheet did not specify the nature of that position.

Since the incident allegedly took place at the Academy, the victim may have been a cadet, though they could have also been a cadet candidate enrolled at the Preparatory School, a 10-month program located near the academy which prepares possible cadets, 40 percent of whom are recruited athletes, for life at the academy.

Christian was also charged with committing sexual assault sometime between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30, 2019, at or near the academy, when she allegedly groped an individual “with an intent to gratify her sexual desire” without the victim’s consent, the charge sheet said. It remains unclear whether this victim was the same as the one of the alleged Article 93a violation.

Christian was also charged with two counts of violating UCMJ Article 92, failure to obey order or regulation, when she allegedly carried on an inappropriate “social relationship” with at least one person at or near the academy, the charge sheet said, and when she allegedly provided alcohol for Air Force Academy cadets under 21 years old on or about Oct. 1 and Nov. 30, 2019.

Christian’s trial is expected to begin on April 19 at the Air Force Academy, according to the JAG docket. Her defense counsel declined to speak about the case. The academy’s public affairs office stressed that the charges were merely accusations and Christian is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The trial comes as the Air Force Academy is still working to improve its sexual assault prevention and response office. The office received 40 reports of sexual assault in the 2018-2019 school year, up from 23 the year before, according to a study released last year by the Pentagon office in charge of sexual assault prevention and response (SAPR). The study found that there were 149 reports of sexual assaults at the service academies overall in 2018-2019, up from 117 the year before.

The Air Force Academy in particular has struggled to rebuild its own SAPR office, the study found. The entire SAPR staff was replaced in 2018 after a separate report called the office “derelict” in its duties, Air Force Magazine reported. In 2018-2019, the new staff was still working to understand how the academy worked, and SAPR staffers often contradicted each other’s orders, wrote Col. Gerald P. Szybist, the Air Force Academy Inspector General at the time, in 2020.

It did not help that the new staff were “starting from nothing” and had to work with office files that were “missing, inaccurate or inadequate,” from the previous group, Szybist wrote. The new staff underwent 11 inspections, assessments and inquiries in 18 months, and they were often “over-saturated and under resourced,” and there was a “lack of comprehensive onboarding/training.”

Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s SAPR office emphasized how important it was to eliminate sexual assault from service academies. “The academies are critical points of accession from which we draw future leaders,” the office wrote in 2020. “We must get this right.”

And Lloyd Austin, the new Secretary of Defense, shares this goal for the military writ large. “We must do more,” Austin wrote in a memo on Saturday where he gave senior military leaders until Feb. 5 to prepare a summary of what is and is not working in their efforts to combat sexual assault and harassment. “All of us.”