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In California National Guard, claims of whistleblower retaliation go beyond Fresno

Alene Tchekmedyian and Paul Pringle, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Supervisors praised him in evaluations as having "limitless" potential and being "more than a first-rate" judge advocate, according to his evaluations.

He said that all changed in 2014, when he reported that a handful of military lawyers in the Guard were not licensed to practice law in the state.

Within months, he said, he was put under a sham investigation. Three years went by, he said, before he'd learned the details of the inquiry, which barred him from promotions while it remained open.

Stirling said he never was given an opportunity to challenge the allegations, which focused on a court-martial where he and his supervisors sought the immediate imprisonment of a soldier convicted of sexual assault.

He said the judge who signed off on the incarceration later launched an investigation into Stirling and accused him of failing to disclose that case law prohibited the judge from imprisoning the soldier without first getting approval from the commander who convened the court-martial.

Stirling said the judge himself should have known about the law, but cleared himself of wrongdoing and blamed Stirling instead. Stirling said he received a career-blunting letter of reprimand.

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"I was on the way up. All my evaluations were outstanding," he said. "I report the use of attorneys who are unlicensed, and the whole trajectory of my career starts to take a tailspin."

He filed a whistleblower complaint, he said, but no one investigated it.

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