Interviewer: How was practicing law in the military different from civilian practice?
Tipon: Well, practicing law in the military is significantly different from practicing
law in civilian court. While when you get there, in between the lines,
in court there are a lot of similarities but as you come to find out,
the procedure is significantly different in the military.
The most important thing that I think is different between the military
and civilian practice is: understanding the unique circumstances that
a military service member faces when charges with both a crime in the
military and out of the military.
Now, as a former Marine judge advocate having spent 10 years in the Marine
Corps, I have the benefit of understanding that unique perspective that
faces an active duty service member.
Interviewer: Noel, what really motivates you to represent service members who maybe
Tipon: You know, when I was in the Marine Corps, it wasn’t a client of
mine but I saw a service member get wrongly convicted of a crime he didn’t
commit, and I made a promise to myself that I would do whatever possible
to ensure that a client of mine would never ever be convicted of something
that he didn’t do.
And so, when you asked me what motivates me and what I’m passionate
about: making sure that the service member that I represent never gets
convicted of a crime he didn’t commit.
Interviewer: Noel, it seems that there’s a war even going on in the military,
and that’s this topic of sexual assault. Why is it dominating the
scene so much?
Tipon: You wouldn’t believe the amount of propaganda that is out there.
Things like the Invisible War has infected the way that the military thinks
about sex assault. And it hasn’t just affected the military, it’s
affected Congress. It has infected the government.
Just recently, you’ve hear comments from Pres. Obama and Vice-Pres.
Biden talking about what they want to see happen with military service
members not convicted with sex assault but accused of sex assault. They
want them dishonorable discharged.
Now, that has a significant effect on the leaders of the United States
military. And when that comes forward, it changes how the people think
about the prosecution of sex assault in the military.
You’ve seen it in the media today, and what you need is you need
a team of lawyers who has seen that progression—from before there
was a war on sex assault to today. You need to have a team on your side
that understands how to change the mindset of those who are going to judge
you and judge whether or not you’re guilty, or innocent because
when you rely on someone who doesn’t have the experience and you
rely on somebody who is beholding to the people in the military, you get
a deficient military defense.
So, what you need to think about, what you need to figure out is whether
or not you’re going to rely on what’s give to you, or you’re
going to go out there and you’re going to hire the best defense
team possible—somebody who’s willing to fight the system;
someone who knows it from the inside-out, and someone who isn’t
willing to just take what the military is going to give them but is willing
to take the fight to the prosecution. Because that’s what it takes—the
deck is stacked against you, and you just can’t "sit back and
Interviewer: Can a person who’s being investigated for a crime really trust law
enforcement to search for the truth?
Tipon: Look, this isn’t NCIS starring Mark Harmon. This isn’t CSI
Miami. That’s all television. When law enforcement is investigating
you and suspecting you of a crime, they’re out there to make a case
for the prosecution. They don’t suspect you of being innocent. They
suspect you of being guilty. And everything that they do, every step of
the way is to build a case for the people they work for: the United States
military. And what they’re trying to do is convict you and put you in jail.
So, is law enforcement who works for the military on your side? Are they
really looking out for your best interest? Are they looking out for the
truth? We like to hope so, but the reality of it is is that they’re
out there to get promoted. They’re out there to make a case so that
you get convicted and you go to jail.
Interviewer: What is a service member really up against in a military Court Martial
Tipon: In a military prosecution, military service members are up against the
best trial lawyers that the Army, the Marine Corps, and the AirForce,
and the Navy are willing to put up against you. When they make a decision
to charge you with a crime, they want to make sure that you’re convicted.
So, the military is going to put together a team of the best prosecutors.
They’re going to put together a team that consists of OSI, NCIS,
and CID agents to gather evidence against you. They’re going to
put together a team that is going to ensure that you go to jail for the
crime that you are suspected of.
Make no mistake about it, they don’t suspect you of being innocent—they
suspect you of being guilty, and the military is trying to make sure that
they haven’t made a bad prosecution.
Bilecki and Tipon, LLC: Aggressive Worldwide Court Martial Defense