Should the Military Throw the Book at an AWOL Military Mom?

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, November 10, 2003.

Watch The O'Reilly Factor weeknights at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and listen to the Radio Factor!

BILL O'REILLY, HOST:  Now for the top story tonight.  An Army medic refuses to return to duty in Iraq because of her children.  Specialist Simone Holcomb (search) is an Army medic married to an Army sergeant.  They have seven children and are involved in a custody battle over two of those kids.  Holcomb was ordered back to Iraq, but  said she will not go because she fears losing the custody suit.

The Army says she's now AWOL and they will prosecute.  Joining us now from Washington is the Giorgio Ra'shadd, the attorney representing Specialist Holcomb.

All right, the Army's charges are willfully disobeying the  lawful order of a superior commissioned officer and AWOL.  All right, this is one step below court martial (search).  She was read her rights on the telephone by her commander.  What say you, counselor?

GIORGIO RA'SHADD, SIMONE HOLCOMB'S ATTY:  Well, the circumstances are more difficult than I believe the commander and the field understands.  Under Colorado law, Title 19, the Colorado children's code, if she were to comply with the order of the commander, and that order is get on a plane, get  back to Iraq -- she has seven kids, two of those kids could conceivably go back to their birth mother, but five of them will be at the airport.  And when mom gets on the plane, they'll be waving goodbye, turning around, and going into the hands of Colorado state troopers or Denver police because there's no one to care for them.

O'REILLY:  But wait a minute.  Wait a minute.  Whoa, whoa, whoa.


O'REILLY:  Her husband's already in Iraq, all right.

RA'SHADD:  He's in Iraq.

O'REILLY:  American Army sergeant.

RA'SHADD:  That's right.

O'REILLY:  She was in Iraq.  Both of them were there.  And then family, relatives, and friends cared for the children.  Are you saying that situation has changed?

RA'SHADD:  Yes.  Her mother-in-law cared for the children in the home on Fort Carson, but her father-in-law became ill.  The mother-in-law and father-in-law live in Akron, Ohio.  And the mother-in-law was forced to go back home to care for her ill husband.

O'REILLY:  OK.  And I think we can all understand that and feel sorry.

RA'SHADD:  Right.

O'REILLY:  Now shouldn't the specialist then ask for humanitarian discharge?

RA'SHADD:  Well, this is what she asked for in sequential order.  She asked for an extension of emergency leave.  That was denied.  Then she asked for a compassionate reassignment so that she could continue her military duties  but right there at Fort Carson where the kids were.  That was denied.  Then she said OK, if you won't do that, at least give me a compassionate discharge because the kids are here, the house is here, and I'm here.  That was denied.

O'REILLY:  Why?  I mean, I -- I'm -- if I'm the Secretary of the Army...

RA'SHADD:  They don't have -- right.

O'REILLY:  ...I give her a compassionate discharge immediately because there are, as you said, seven children involved, two in a custody fight.  So why did the Army say no?

RA'SHADD:  They didn't give a reason.  And a commander in the field  doesn't really have to give a reason why they won't give you emergency leave or a compassionate re-assignment, but you have the right to ask for it.

O'REILLY:  Right.

RA'SHADD:  That's what we did.

O'REILLY:  All right, now I am -- she has 48 hours to respond to these charges.  OK?

RA'SHADD:  Correct.

O'REILLY:  And I'm pretty sure, counselor, that you can get this  compassionate discharge.  I mean, I would be stunned if they didn't give it to her.  I think what they're trying to do is they don't think she handled it the right way.  That's what I think is going on here.  Now are you telling me you don't think she's going to get the discharge?

RA'SHADD:  Well, the interesting thing is that the Colorado National   Guard was working feverishly to bring this to a resolution.  I went to the Pentagon this morning where I spoke with the public affairs officer for the Department of the Army.  And they were actually trying to get something resolved.  But out of the blue at about 2:00 in the morning, the commander from the field called my client, not me, but called my client, read her her rights over the phone.

O'REILLY:  Right, it's we said, right.

RA'SHADD:  And imposed punishment under Article 15.

O'REILLY:  What's the punishment?

RA'SHADD:  Well, under Article 15, you're told that you have -- what you   have violated, you've violated this, you've violated that, and that I intend to punish you.  Now then you get 48 hours to respond to the Article 15.

O'REILLY:  Right.  Right.  So it looks to me -- look...

RA'SHADD:  Right.

O'REILLY:  ...the commander in the field is one thing.  But you're in D.C.

RA'SHADD:  Right.

O'REILLY:  You're at the Pentagon.  It looks to me like you can work this thing out because look, the Army has an obligation to all -- you know, there are a lot of specialists, a lot of personnel in the Army and in the Marines and in the  Navy that have children.

RA'SHADD:  That's correct.

O'REILLY:  And every time there's a situation, they can't be saying to the Army or Marines or Navy, I'm not showing up -- or Air Force -- because I got kid problems.  You know that.  You'd have anarchy.

RA'SHADD:  Oh, absolutely.

O'REILLY:  So there's way to do this.  And I'm pretty confident you can work it out.

RA'SHADD:  Well, that's my intention.  And I believe also that's the intention of the Colorado National Guard.  But in this instance, apparently the  Army had been trying to resolve this, too, but there was a fundamental disconnect between the work of  the Colorado National Guard, the Army, and this commander in the field.

O'REILLY:  All right, forget about the Colorado National Guard for a moment.  The Army told you today, and correct me if I'm wrong, to come back with more a detailed request for compassionate reassignment.  Isn't that correct?

RA'SHADD:  That's correct.

O'REILLY:  All right, you got it, then, counselor.

RA'SHADD:  I did.

O'REILLY:  They're going to give it to you, particularly after this exposition on The Factor tonight.  So you check in with us.  Let us know what happened.  That's the fair thing.  Let the woman have a compassionate discharge.  Work it out with the children.  The children should come first in this thing.  All right?

RA'SHADD:  I agree.

O'REILLY:  Fair enough?

RA'SHADD:  Thank you.

O'REILLY:  Let us know what happens.

RA'SHADD:  Will do.

Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2003 Fox News Network, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2003 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, Inc.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.