Pentagon Rejects Media Depiction of Recruits Receiving Waivers as 'Ex-Cons'

A senior Pentagon official has rejected as false and misleading recent media headlines, based on an AP story, depicting military recruits receiving waivers as 'ex-cons.' An example is this story: Military Accepting More Ex-Cons.
Said Bill Carr, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy:

"For those who have a felony waiver, not only are they not ex-cons, they are not felons for the most part. If one is charged with a felony offense, even if the charge is dismissed or the conviction is reduced to a misdemeanor, even under those circumstances the waiver still goes forward under our rule, simply so that we can be sure that the person, as a whole person, is going to be a good fit in the military. And so assertions that we're discussing ex-convicts are simply false, and frankly for a felony waiver we're typically not even discussing felons."

Carr made the remarks in a recent interview on rightANGLE, the TV show that this NewsBuster hosts. In comments made subsequent to the show, Carr observed:

"Society generally has a stereotypical view of felons as hard-core convicts. The majority of felons allowed to serve do not fit this stereotypical image. The press has headlined these as 'ex-cons,' yet in many of these cases imprisonment was not part of equation and the felony circumstance is a single instance and does not represent a criminal propensity.

"While the term 'felony' conjures up a vision of a person who served state or federal prison time for a serious or violent criminal act, the truth is that the vast majority, with only a few exceptions, are juvenile offenses that result in a fine or unsupervised probationary periods. In many cases the charges are eventually dismissed after such probationary periods. The Services do not recognize dismissal after the fact, and many waivers are run on such cases."

Carr offered the following examples of recruits having received "felony waivers," mentioning that these cases were selected at random:
  • A 15-year old trying to "smoke out" bees in a hive accidentally set the hive on fire, and in turn, the house close to the tree is damaged. He was charged with and convicted of arson and sentenced to probation. He is now 21 or 22-years old with no other record, yet is counted in the "felony waiver" category.
  • At age 12 a youth broke into his neighbor's shed. He takes a bike; is arrested and charged with breaking & entering and theft. He is now 23 yrs old, with no other charges -- counted as a felony waiver.
  • A person was charged with two DUI's. At age 17 he was charged under zero tolerance laws despite not being at the DUI threshold. He had another DUI at age 19. He is now 37 years old, with no other record.
  • Two kids got into a school fight at age 14. The police charge both of with aggravated assault with intent to commit bodily harm (one used shoe to kick the other one) and the applicant was charged with use of a deadly weapon (shoe). The applicant is now 18 and has no other charges, yet is listed as a felon. He does one year probation, then charges are dismissed. Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) is commonly used in states like Maryland to allow a "no record for juvenile cases." However, the military still requires a waiver for such an offense.
There is a certain irony here. The MSM would normally champion the idea of giving youthful offenders a second chance. But when it comes to exploting youthful brushes with the law for purposes of criticizing the military, the MSM suddenly transforms itself into hard-bitten law & order types, writing people off as "ex-cons." I challenge anyone to cite examples of other stories in which the MSM slapped the "ex-con" label on youthful offenders in similar circumstances.

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Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.