Guard probe case before nation's high court

By The Associated Press

JACKSON — The U.S. Supreme Court will decide soon whether to if hear an appeal from a former Mississippi Air National Guard colonel who alleged other officers retaliated against him for revealing corruption.

A federal judge in Mississippi dismissed the lawsuit in 2008. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision earlier this year.

Retired Col. Joe H. “Jody” Bryant Jr. has claimed more than a dozen current and former members of the 186th Air Refueling Wing in Meridian tried to intimidate him after he went public with accusations of racism, fraud and favoritism.

Bryant sued in 2005, claiming members of the unit vandalized his cars, pilfered his computer bag and filed a slander lawsuit in retaliation.

The defendants denied the allegations. Bryant seeks to have his lawsuit reinstated.

Bryant also contended the defendants violated the federal Whistleblower Protection Act by filing a slander lawsuit over comments Bryant made during a radio interview in 2003.

U.S. District Judge Tom S. Lee ruled that even if the motivation behind the slander lawsuit was retaliation against Bryant, the others had a First Amendment right to sue as long as their claims were not “objectively baseless.” The slander suit had already been thrown out of court.

Lee also dismissed other portions of Bryant’s whistleblower lawsuit, including claims that the defendants cut the fuel line on his wife’s car.

The allegations of misconduct in the 186th, which Bryant said he first brought to the attention of Guard officials in 1998 and detailed in a letter signed by dozens of officers in 2000, included racial bigotry, records falsification and misuse of funds.

The military concluded in 2004 that there were problems in the 186th, including findings that its leaders misrepresented training levels in order to qualify for an overseas mission for which the unit was not qualified.

Air National Guard officials said disciplinary actions were taken depending on the severity of the substantiated allegations. Citing personnel rules, officials have not identified any of the personnel involved. They said the actions included letters of reprimand, counseling and dismissal.

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