How did I miss these two stories? Both were reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune back in the spring and both are fairly depressing. The Union-Tribune and the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, by the way, are both the local “papers of record” for regularly covering the goings-on within the Navy SEAL community, given that they are both located in the geographical vicinity of the two major East and West Coast commands of the Navy SEAL Teams.
The two papers do not necessarily get into the weeds of SEAL culture, personalities, and operations, reporting rather on things like changes of command, SEAL legal issues, and “official” goings-on within the community. This author regularly scours both papers for stories on the SEAL Teams, which I then share with you all, the readers of SOFREP (with my added spin, of course.)
Anyway, here we have two stories revolving around the SEAL Teams, one primarily because it describes a case of egregious stolen valor, and the other, because it describes a former SEAL’s unfortunate run-in with the U.S. Border Patrol. Let us begin with the former.
According to the Union-Tribune, U.S. prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office for the northern district of Ohio charged 68-year-old Kenneth E. Jozwiak of Wisconsin with theft and producing fake government paperwork in order to secure U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs pension benefits.
Jozwiak submitted a discharge certificate (the all-important DD-214 that proves U.S. military service) in 2014 that falsely claimed that he served as a Navy SEAL from 1965 to 1968, and during that time, was awarded the Bronze Star and four Purple Hearts for combat injuries. All of the claims were completely false, according to prosecutors.
Jozwiak pleaded guilty to the crimes and was sentenced to more than four years in prison. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney David Toepfer, who spoke with the Union-Tribune, “To say he [Jozwiak] had a lengthy criminal record is an understatement.” The man was apparently a known grifter who actually only served for one year in the military, from 1967 to 1968.
Jozwiak had a criminal record dating back to 1975, and had been arrested over 120 times in multiple states, according to Toepfer. The attorney went on to say that Jozwiak has had “literally dozens and dozens” of theft-related convictions.
What really stood out about Jozwiak’s stolen valor, apparently, was how brazenly he went about it. Not only did he apply for and receive unearned pension benefits of around $2,300, he also misrepresented himself as a SEAL publicly and often. On one occasion, for example, he accompanied his stepson to a “bring a veteran to school” type of event, where he bragged of being a SEAL and earning his combat decorations.
Talk about a douchebag. Kudos to the U.S. attorney’s office for bringing justice in this case and stopping a criminal from usurping military glory for personal gain. Well done.
In our second story, also from the Union-Tribune, we find a real Navy SEAL engaged in a legal fight with a Border Patrol agent over an unfortunate run along the border fence separating the United States and Mexico, in Border Field State Park in California.
Per the newspaper, former SEAL Alton Jones — who left military service after 13 years in 1990 — was running along the border fence in August of 2014 when he had a run-in with Border Patrol agents. Per Jones’ account of the incident, he and his family departed their home near the Imperial Beach, CA, Border Patrol station for a day at the beach park which sits at the “southwestern-most corner of the continental United States.” While his family played with beach toys in the sand, Jones went for a run.
Jones apparently jogged down a sand path that “appeared to go through a wildlife reserve and up to a paved road near the border fence and Friendship Park,” according to the Union-Tribune. According to Jones’ account, neither the path nor the road displayed any signs, nor was blocked by any barriers suggesting that pedestrians were forbidden from entering the area.
About a half-mile into this area, Jones stated that he noticed a Border Patrol vehicle rapidly approaching him, at which time he states that he called his wife to alert her. Another Border Patrol vehicle then approached him from behind, at which point Jones told the agent in the second vehicle that he was “planning on running up the hill and back down the beach.”
At this point, events turned ugly, per Jones, who stated in his lawsuit that the first agent used an expletive to yell at Jones to turn around. Jones shouted back his own expletive and asked the agent what his problem was. Jones then began to run back to the beach, but other Border Patrol agents on ATVs and in a third vehicle had already approached.
According to Jones, the Border Patrol agents then tackled him without warning, striking him on his back and neck. One agent allegedly also put his knee on Jones’ spine and placed his arms behind his back. At this point, Jones repeatedly asked the agents to stop, and per his account, at no time did he resist the agents or respond with force of his own.
Jones was arrested for assaulting a federal agent and spent the night in custody at the Imperial Beach border patrol station. He spent 17 hours in detention and was never provided paperwork on his detention, nor were charges ever filed against him.
The Border Patrol agents have their own account of the events that transpired that day, and in their counter lawsuit, they described it thusly:
Jones ignored repeated warnings to stay on the trail on which he was running (off the road), and instead kept jogging on the paved road. Finally, one of the agents exited his vehicle and ordered Jones to get off the road. Jones then allegedly replied with his “what’s your problem?” to the agent. He then stayed on the road, per the Border Patrol agent.
Jones then allegedly ignored an agent on an ATV, running around him as the agent ordered him to stop. Agents then blocked Jones, who took a “fighting position and tried to find a way past,” per the Border Patrol counterclaim. Agents tried to restrain Jones, who allegedly charged toward one, with his head down, ramming him. This caused the group of agents and Jones to “fall to the ground,” per the countersuit.
At that point, Jones was told he was under arrest for assaulting a federal officer, at which time he was also taken to the Imperial Beach station and detained for the night. Jones alleges he asked for an attorney several times, and for further explanation of his arrest, but was provided neither by the Border Patrol agents. He also claims he was denied medical treatment he requested for his back, hip, and shoulder pain.
Jones is being represented in his lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties, which filed in March 2015 a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all of the details on the arrest and detention. The ACLU claims the documents were never provided. Jones’ lawsuit alleges excessive use of force, violation of free speech, false imprisonment, battery by a peace officer, negligence, and violation of the federal public records act, among other claims.
One Border Patrol agent filed a counter-suit against Jones, alleging physical and emotional abuse. The Union-Tribune describes this as a rare legal move on the part of the federal government, and the first time a federal agent has presented such a counter-suit in San Diego. The suits remain in court as of the time of this writing.
Talk about a shitty day at the beach.
(Featured image courtesy of Wikipedia).
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