For Former Military Lawyer Colby Vokey, the Defense Never Rests

Once an outspoken judge advocate, Dallas' Colby Vokey was chased from the Marines, but he's still defending troops -- and still speaking his mind.

Vokey says he was also threatened with charges that never materialized for talking to the media for a USA Today story about soldiers with PTSD; another time, Vokey heard that a Guantanamo officer hinted to his boss that he was receiving illegal gifts from foreign governments. Though he was never formally accused, Vokey says he spent years on edge because of vague threats of charges or ethics complaints.

Siegel remembers Vokey being under siege. "He refused to be silenced," she says. "He refused to bend to the very heavy hand of the government." She says that if it weren't for his outspokenness at Guantanamo, he likely would have been promoted to colonel. "Every day, he never knew when he was going to get a phone call to say you're out of there."


Omar Khadr fired his American lawyers in 2007, and that was the last involvement Vokey had with the case that took so much from him. Last year, Khadr accepted a plea deal that would keep him at Guantanamo for one more year, followed by seven in a Canadian prison. He's still at Guantanamo.

Vokey's work has taken him to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he posed with members of the local police force.
Courtesy of Colby Vokey
Vokey's work has taken him to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he posed with members of the local police force.
Vokey, a retired lieutenant colonel, says he discovered his interest in the law serving on a jury in Dallas.
Courtesy of Colby Vokey
Vokey, a retired lieutenant colonel, says he discovered his interest in the law serving on a jury in Dallas.

As the Khadr case ended for Vokey, Wuterich's carried on much longer than expected. Trial was set for March 1, 2008, and Vokey had carefully planned his retirement to take effect a few weeks later. As the case dragged on, Vokey extended his retirement, living in a trailer by a lake at Camp Pendleton while his family lived in Dallas with his in-laws.

By this time, he says, he had been loosely threatened and nearly fired so many times that his wife feared for his pension. "He put his pension on the line, really, as a Marine, just trying to do what was right for his clients when the Marine Corps said it was wrong," his wife, Cindy, says.

"You had to be dedicated to your client and the defense team, not to the Marine Corps so much," she says. "Our storybook ending wasn't looking so good."

Vokey says he requested to extend his retirement a fourth time and was denied, meaning he couldn't finish Wuterich's case. A Marines official even accused him of milking his time in Southern California, he says. "I'm living in a friggin' trailer by the lake," Vokey remembers thinking. Six days later, he drove to Dallas, not knowing what he would do next.

In the end, the storybook ending his wife had wanted, or at least the book's next chapter, worked out as they'd hoped. The Marines provided the pension and benefits he'd earned over his 20 years of service, and an officer from his days in Dallas, Dan Hagood, offered him a job at a local criminal defense firm. Hagood had become a top Dallas prosecutor before moving into private practice.

"He's not a regular lawyer. I'm telling you," Hagood says. "There's nothing clever or shrewd about Colby ... he's smart and people know it."

In the winter of 2008, Vokey and his family bought their first home, in a quiet North Dallas neighborhood. Vokey rejoined the Wuterich case as a civilian co-counsel, working basically without pay. "I just didn't want to leave Frank," he says.

But in 2011, a conflict arose because Hagood had defended another of the accused soldiers. Vokey was removed from the case. In January of this year, Wuterich pleaded guilty to negligent dereliction of duty, with a maximum of three months confinement.


A month after Wuterich's sentencing, Vokey arrived at the Army base in Kandahar for the first time since his 2008 retirement. Throughout the next three days, he would interview his newest client, listen to a co-defendant's hearing, digest reams of evidence and witness statements that he was evaluating for the first time, and prepare his client for a hearing that would determine the charges that would progress to court martial, the military's version of a trial.

Those charges are rooted in the suicide of Danny Chen, the Chinese-American soldier who killed himself in October in a guard tower in Afghanistan. Staff Sergeant Andrew Van Bockel and seven other soldiers are accused of driving Chen to suicide, by hazing him with racial slurs and singling him out for physical punishment. Their charges range from involuntary manslaughter to making a false official statement.

"I thought it was ridiculous," Vokey says after his return. He says he's never heard of anyone being charged with involuntary manslaughter for a suicide. "It's insane."

Upon arriving in Afghanistan, Vokey had to find a place to stay before he could meet his client. He found a room in a bare-bones cube of a building with a dingy sign that read "Hotel Kandahar." Rows of doors, like those of ship cabins, lead to tiny rooms, each with a twin bed, unadorned dresser and small desk.

The morning after his arrival, Vokey sat on the cheap, squeaky chair at the desk amid stacks of papers, reviewing photos and witness statements. Van Bockel knocked on the door.

"It's good to finally meet you in person," Vokey told him.

Vokey, Van Bockel and two Army lawyers spent the next few days reviewing facts and statements, recreating scenes and, eventually, presenting their narrative at the hearing. It was held in a former Canadian Forces compound, Vokey says, transformed into a courtroom with handyman plywood work and a plastic Department of Defense seal slapped on the judge's podium.

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6 comments
jameswrangler472
jameswrangler472

Basically an attorney travels through various odds in their life especially if they simply related to defense background, here also we have been witnessed a number of odds issues charge against the defense attorney
Mr. Dallas' Colby Vokey who is preferred as one of the best ever military lawyer in the world. So it's have been an honor to go through a look on the life of this great attorney.


http://www.virginiasinjurylawyers.com/bio/damon-pendleton.cfm


Internet Attorney Los Angeles
Internet Attorney Los Angeles

Although most of these attorneys are good and knowledgeable, different attorneys have different abilities. Therefore, the lawyer you decided must have right abilities to deal with your case. This is because the things to be resolved in bankruptcy may confirm very hard to understand. For example, you could be interacting against a very sensible and innovative person.

fratdawgg23
fratdawgg23

Vokey sounds like a dedicated, sincere and intelligent defense attorney who advocates aggressively for his clients. A good defense attorney has always been crucial in our adversarial system of justice and even more nowadays since there is money to be made in the private prison business.

Pacificpaddle
Pacificpaddle

I served with Colby Vokey in the USMC in Dallas, and abroad. He's a warrior, citizen, friend, and top notch lawyer. If you are in need of an advocate and counselor at law, you cannot do better than Colby Vokey. Semper Fi.

HS
HS

Vokey is to be commended for his dedication to his clients, and to "doing the right thing". The advantages of the UCMJ as opposed to civilian law are all too often lost due to undue command influence. Too bad his military career was stunted by not being selected for professional dev. courses like Command & General Staff College. More than attending such institutions, he should lecture at them.

 
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