A military judge yesterday ordered the Army's first sit-down doctor of this all-volunteer era dismissed from the service and fined $2,000 after convicting him of disobeying orders and related charges.
Lt. Col. John W. Hanft, who presided over the trial of Capt. Leon T. Davis, a Walter Reed radiologist, rejected the defense argument that the Army had lost jurisdiction over the doctor by not living up to its contract with him.
But Hanft did lighten the charges lodged against Davis, and he scolded the Army for making flat promises to would-be doctors in its recruiting advertisements.
"I would suggest the recruiters clean up their act a little bit," Hanft said. He characterized as "shocking" an Army ad promising to promote doctors from captain to major in three years.
Davis had entered the ads as evidence during his general court-martial at Fort McNair. The Army breached its contract with him by not fulfilling promises of modern medical equipment, equal pay for equal work, 30 days leave a year, promotion to major in three years and time off to attend medical meeting, Davis contended.
"They are not contracts," Hanft said of recruiting ads Davis had cited. "These are merely advertisements."
He said the government lived up to its written contract with Davis, which obligated it to pay for his medical schooling in exchange for two years' service as an Army doctor.
But Judge Hanft took much of the sting out of the Army's charges by dropping a desertion one altother, softending an insubordination change from "willfully" disobeying an order to "failing" to obey it, and amending a charge of missing "through design" his flight to Korea to missing it "through neglect."
Davis was convicted of all the amended charges plus two counts of going absent without leave.
After Judge Hanft had declared the 30-year-old Davis guilty but before he had passed sentence, Capt. Howard Lem, Davis' military counsel, recommended that his client be dismissed from the Army. He argued that asking Davis to resume practicing, when he still felt that his contract had been breached, would just bring the whole controversy back into the courtroom.
Sending Davis to prison, testified radiologist Kathleen Dunne Eggli, who worked with the accused at Walter Reed, would only further lower the morale of the Army medical corps, prompting more physicians to resign at the first opportunity.
"The outcome of this case is going to have tremendous impact" on the morale of the medical corps, said Eggli.
Davis, taking the stand just before being sentenced, said he had offered to repay the government for its educational expenses and to serve in Korea as a civilian doctor, and had refused to continue practicing in the Army because "I certainly had to follow my conscience. My honest opinion is that there were serious violations" of the contract for medical services.
If the government does not fulfill its promises in this era of sole reliance on volunteers to fill the ranks of the military, Davis said, then this means, "You can't trust your government, and that's a disaster."
Capt. James Lee Jr., in making the presentencing argument for the prosecution, said that Davis was trying to get out of the Army "to pursue the almighty dollar" after receiving his medical training at government expense.
By equating military service with fulfilling a commercial contract, Lee continued, Davis has "reduced every single individual in the service to a mercenary. That is a humiliation to the rest of us, an outrageous affront to everything the armed forces stand for."