I have not seen a claim that the dog ate up the records but perhaps that is coming.
As noted on the introduction to the main site, claiming secrecy is a favorite method that should raise suspicions. This post from Quora provided an all too familiar story about someone who tried to use many of the methods listed above. It is lengthy but entertaining.
True story. I once defended a civil lawsuit for a retailer where the customer claimed his Agent Orange exposure was aggravated by falling styrofoam coolers.
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During his deposition, he told a fantastic story about his service and injuries which included special forces, punji stick accident, and Agent Orange exposure while “serving in the bush. I had requested a copy of his DD 214 and was told it was lost and that his records had been lost in a ST Louis records fire. But, as indicated, local VA doctors had dutifully written down his history of Agent Orange exposure.
In preparing for trial, I was really bothered by his birthday, which would have made him 18 in March of 1973. I was also bothered by the fact he claimed he graduated high school, which precluded early service at 17. I also found a marajuana possession conviction in early 1973, which to me suggested he could not have shipped out till late 1973, which made his claims of service in the bush even more fantastic.
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He testifies on direct about his service and like any BS artist with an audience spins a fantastic tale. He said he was in active combat, won a Purple Heart and other awards he couldn’t disclose because they were secret. But his big mistake was claiming he fought house to house trying to retake Hue after the Tet offensive, a time when he would have been 13.
My first question on cross whether he was still in active service in Vietnam on June 17, 1973 and could he tell us what he was doing. (When I googled his name, it reminded me he graduated in 73, not 72, which is why his birthday alone made his story suspect.)
He actually said he was over there during that time but his specific mission and location were classified because his borders of operation were murky. I then asked him if he knew why that specific date was important historically. He said that when he was out in the bush, the days flowed together and he couldn’t possibly know what happened decades earlier. I told him that he personally had good reason to remember this date and he should think hard. He said he still didn’t know what he was doing.
I then approached with the 1973 Holidaysburg High School yearbook showing he was a senior and his transcript showing he graduated on June 17, 1973 (Pre internet days) It was the most single awesome impeachment I ever made. I then asked him his birthday and whether he knew when the battle of Hue took place. At this point he became indignant and said he did have records that could show he was in Vietnam when he said he was, but was instructed to never disclose his actual dates or locations because they were classified so they were told to disclose involvement in missions that were known like Hue. He was so sincere, I was almost nervous about what records he was going to bring.
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I had confirmed with a local veterans group that he had not earned the Vietnam Service Era medal, which was required by their group to be recognized as a Vietnam Vet. The head of the group was annoyed by the St Louis story which he’d heard a lot but he confirmed that the records confirming Vietnam Era Service had not been lost or destroyed in a fire.
I finished my cross on other areas, and the plaintiff’s Attorney did not question him at all about his service, probably because he was worried ethically about eliciting further false testimony.
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The jury comes back and the plaintiff proceeds to question himself. He explains that he was part of a secret special forces group that was actually operating in Korea in the early 70 s and that his memory was chemically scrubbed to protect them and the government from what they were doing because they were operating way outside the Geneva Convention. Suffice it to say, it was crazy and completely fantastical. Rather than make it look like I was picking on a crazy guy, I asked him no questions about his Korea story.
Jury returned with a defense verdict after 40 minutes including their lunch.
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If I were on the jury, I too would have held out for lunch.
My advice (other than to stick with the truth) is to not repeat the mistakes made by the client or Mark Richards — don’t quote records from when you would have been a teenager who was too young to serve and don’t rely on claims that all records are classified. A mission might be classified but the fact of service is not. Stolen valor destroys credibility and once lost it is difficult to regain.
But it gives some entertainment value.