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April 2014: Quinn Emanuel Helps Pro Bono Client, a Decorated Marine, Receive Honorable Discharge in a Mishandling of Classified Information Case

April 2014

The firm represented former Marine Major Jason Brezler in a separation proceeding before a military Board of Inquiry. Brezler faced six charges related to the mishandling of classified information. Brezler is a highly-decorated Marine Reserve officer and New York City fireman (in one of its most elite units). On his third combat tour in 2009-2010, Brezler fired a senior Afghan police official for serious human rights abuses, corruption, and ties to the Taliban. The Afghan police official unaccountably returned to power in 2012, and Marines serving there sought to learn more about his background. On July 24, 2012, Brezler, attending graduate school as a civilian, received a request to send a specific document outlining his concerns about the official. Brezler immediately sent that document, at which point a Marine officer in Afghanistan claimed that Brezler had sent him classified information and had ignored the confidentiality warnings that the document contained. Brezler reported sending the document to his chain of command, but tragically an abuse victim of the corrupt Afghan police official murdered three Marines in their base gymnasium on August 10, 2012.

This email spurred two investigations, and, as a result, the Marines charged Brezler with six offenses related to improper storage of classified information, the use of that classified information in a manuscript he wrote, and the sending of the email. The prosecution produced evidence that substantiated that Brezler had, in fact, illegally retained the classified information, copied this information into a manuscript he was working on, and sent a classified e-mail on an unclassified system.

Brezler faced the possibility of criminal punishment, and the loss of his military benefits if his service was negatively characterized in “general” or “other than honorable” terms. To combat the prosecution’s evidence, Quinn Emanuel came up with a strategy that invoked core Marine values and had Brezler take responsibly for his actions. In addition, the firm compiled and submitted over sixty character statements and produced a number of witnesses to rebut the prosecution’s case.

The Board of Inquiry acted with leniency and rejected all but the lightest punishment. As a result, Brezler received an honorable discharge and retained all of his military benefits. Brezler still desires to remain in the Marine Reserves, and the firm will seek that relief upon review. Quinn Emanuel created a solid record with possible grounds for relief including the argument that Brezler was facing unconstitutionally selective prosecution as a result of his exercise of his First Amendment right to petition Congress for redress in his case, as well as the exercise of unlawful command influence in connection with the Board proceeding.