G.I. Jerk

Phil Haberman claims he fought with special forces in Iraq, but he's about as real as Rambo

Rhoad was surprised when Haberman gave her address as Key West on the military documents. Haberman insisted that since it was his home of record, it was hers as well. Rhoad later discovered Haberman had at least a half-dozen addresses. His car was registered in Texas, but he also had addresses in California and North Carolina. She learned that the Army's basic housing allowance (BAH) for Key West was one of the highest in the country.

By marrying Rhoad, Haberman would receive about $550 extra each month in BAH plus $250 "separation pay" each month while he lived away from home. But Rhoad says Haberman wasn't sending her much money.

Haberman told her he'd had prostate cancer and was unable to father children, so Rhoad was shocked to learn in February that she was pregnant. He insisted she take an herbal potion to trigger an abortion; Rhoad refused, but a few weeks later she miscarried. "I was relieved," she says.

Phil Haberman was on "medical hold" at Fort Bragg for more than a year.
Phil Haberman was on "medical hold" at Fort Bragg for more than a year.

After the miscarriage, Haberman flew to Las Vegas on emergency leave. They made a stab at marriage counseling. "I was nonstop crying," Rhoad says. But the session ended in disaster, Rhoad says, after Haberman told the therapist that he'd served on Secret Service detail in the Clinton White House. When the counselor challenged him, Rhoad says, Haberman erupted in anger.

Though Rhoad had stayed on base with Haberman in a hotel at Fort Bragg, she began wondering if he was really in the military and confronted him. Haberman's teddy-bear look gave way to fury. He insisted that he was an Army Special Forces staff sergeant. "It was scary," Rhoad says.

Later in February, the couple got into a fight that turned physical. Rhoad took several Xanax and went to sleep, only to wake up in the emergency room.

Haberman had told the doctors she tried to commit suicide because he was going to Iraq and insisted that she be committed involuntarily. Rhoad admits she was depressed but says she hadn't tried to kill herself. Released three days later, Rhoad discovered that Jake had trashed her house, defecating everywhere. Several months later, in June, she filed a series of complaints with the Henderson, Nevada, police against Haberman alleging "sexual assault, battery and coercion." An investigator talked to Haberman, who said the sex was consensual and that she was just trying to get him in trouble. No action was taken.

As their relationship disintegrated, Rhoad filed repeated complaints with Haberman's commanding officer. Estimating the relationship had cost her more than $20,000, she went after the BAH payments with a vengeance.

Beware the pissed-off female with paralegal skills.

Haberman fought back, alleging that Rhoad had committed unemployment fraud and was determined to ruin his military career.

Even amidst the bitterness, though, they continued to communicate by e-mail after Haberman was deployed to Iraq.

Respect

When he heard about the Channel 8 news story on his adoptive brother Phil that ran in May 2004, Adam Haberman was dismayed. The story centered on "Sergeant Phil Haberman, a Special Forces soldier" who'd served in Iraq and had been "badly hurt during a rocket attack." Phil was featured returning to Richardson High School, where he'd graduated in 1990. For several months, he'd been writing letters to the journalism class about training at Fort Bragg and "the war, the loneliness and helping the Iraqi people." The letters, published in the school newspaper, had inspired the class to gather "Stuff for Soldiers." They had three dozen boxes ready to be shipped to Iraq.

Adam didn't believe a word of it and called reporter Bill Brown to say he'd been scammed.

Now a researcher at UT Southwestern Medical School, Adam says that from the time he was a hyperactive child, Phil had told wild stories. "He was always lying to get attention," Adam says. "He shows no remorse [about the lies] and doesn't remember his stories six months later."

Richardson High School held enormous significance for Phil. As a youngster, he'd struggled with learning difficulties and was always in trouble. But at RHS he blossomed, Adam says, getting in shape by biking and becoming known as a photographer for the school yearbook.

Phil and his father took scuba diving classes together and got certified. As with everything he did, Phil became obsessed with the ocean. "I don't know how many Jacques Cousteau shows we watched," Adam says. "When something interests him, he puts a lot of attention to it."

To the family's surprise, Phil joined the Marines as soon as he graduated from high school. His family went to San Diego for his graduation from boot camp. Adam says Phil graduated a week later than his class. "He was a 'sick bay' soldier," Adam says, "always in the infirmary. But he got a lot of respect as a Marine."

When Adam heard about Channel 8's story, he flashed back to the time of Desert Storm, when Phil was in the Marines. "We got a staticky call from him, and he said he was in Iraq," Adam says. "I believed it. He came home after the war, and he was full of stories about Iraq. He was the center of attention when he went to school to talk about it." The family later learned that during the first Gulf War, Phil was training as a flight mechanic, hadn't left the United States and had been disciplined for going AWOL.

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