Attorney Rees Lloyd
March 13, 2012
Convicted Child Sexual Molester A Leader of Cal Legion Childrens Program
The American Legion will celebrate its birthday on March 15-17, the anniversary of its creation in 1919 in Paris by GI’s awaiting repatriation home after winning WWI. It is now the largest wartime veterans organization in the world with some 2.4-million members in more than 14,000 Posts. American Legionnaires have brought honor to themselves and to the Legion by their service to America in war, and in peace through fulfillment of the Legion’s Four Pillars: Support of national defense; Support of veterans; Support of traditional American values; Support of children and youth. (See the American Legion’s many programs at www.Legion.org.)
But the honor of the Legion and its millions of members who contribute so much to the nation, is at risk of being unfairly sullied and tainted by two defining, and linked, controversies --or scandals-- in the Department of California: (1) The unremedied corruption of Past National Commander Bruce Thiesen; and (2) the knowing appointment of a convicted child sexual molester, Chester L. Petty of Hemet, CA, to a top office in the Sons of the American Legion, a children and youth program of the Legion.
I. The Unremedied Corruption of Legion Past National Commander Bruce Thiesen
One defining controversy is the failure to remedy the now admitted corrupt acts of one of its highest officers, Past National Commander (PNC) Bruce Thiesen, in his relations with the corrupt Vantage Marketing, a firm which attempted to take over the Department’s lucrative fundraising contract.
The Department Executive Committee (DEC) at its March, 2008, meeting, as a result of an investigation initiated by Legionnaires in District 21 (Riverside County), found Vantage Marketing guilty of “five years of unethical business practices,” using Thiesen as its agent, advocate, or lobbyist. Among other acts, Vantage offered and Thiesen accepted in whole or in part a free “European Riverboat Cruise” for Thiesen and his wife, valued at an estimated “$10,000,” each. The DEC found Thiesen had an undisclosed “conflict of interest” in his relations with Vantage.
The DEC banned Vantage Marketing from doing business with the Department for “ten years” as a remedy for its corruption. However, no issue of the appropriate remedy was presented to the DEC for vote regarding PNC Thiesen.
When no remedy was imposed on Thiesen, four Past Commanders of District 21—Pete Ramos, Robert D. Castillo, Robert Sigala, and I filed a complaint against Thiesen as a matter of right under the California Trial Manual. A trial was finally held in June, 2010, at the Department Convention. Thiesen was found guilty of all charges by unanimous decision of a five-member trial board. Substantial remedies were imposed, including orders for him to account for all things of value he received from Vantage Marketing and pay that amount into the Department treasury, along with the more then $3,000 he had been paid by the Department. His membership was immediately suspended; to be permanent expulsion if he failed to make the payments to the Department.
However, at the next DEC meeting in August, 2010, new-Department Commander Mark Foxworthy, a Thiesen political ally, engineered the nullification of the trial board’s conviction of Thiesen, on assertions that if the DEC went along with Foxworthy’s action to grant Thiesen a retrial—with the Department providing him with a lawyer—that the retrial would be held “swiftly and quickly.” It wasn’t. When no retrial was scheduled after 120 days, the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit. Before trial on the lawsuit, a politically-concocted “Stipulated Settlement” was entered into by and between the political allies Foxworthy and Thiesen—and approved as to form by Foxworthy’s Ass’t Judge Advocate John Bartos. Under the terms of the so-called “Stipulated Settlement” agreement, Thiesen, after four years of denials and evasions, finally pleaded guilty by stipulation to two (2) counts of “neglect of duty” in his relations with the corrupt Vantage Marketing. Foxworthy stipulated for the Department that the Department would take no further action about the matter.
Although the so-called “Stipulated Settlement” is farcical, Thiesen’s stipulation that he is guilty is legally binding on him. (On that basis, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit dismissed it – without prejudice, which means it can be reopened -- to prevent Thiesen from attempting to wiggle out of his guilty plea and to prevent the Department from spending money to defend Thiesen.) Thus, there is no longer a question whether Past National Commander Thiesen is guilty – he has stipulated that he is guilty. Notwithstanding, no remedy has been imposed on him for his corruption. Therefore, the now admitted corruption of Past National Commander Bruce Thiesen remains unremedied, to the disgrace of The American Legion Department of California.
It must be remedied. For unremedied corruption is corrupting. Like unremedied cancer which begins with a single cell and spreads to debilitate and ultimately bring about death in a human body, unremedied corruption in an organizational body can spread to debilitate and ultimately destroy even a great organization like The American Legion. The plaintiffs, who were no parties to the so-called “Stipulated Settlement” and are not bound by it, contend their complaints of corruption against Past National Commander Bruce Thiesen will continue until remedied and justice is done.
II. Convicted Child Molester Is Adjutant Of California Sons of the American Legion
The other, linked, defining controversy is the astounding fact that the Department of California has knowingly allowed, approved, and authorized a convicted child sexual molester, Chester L. Petty, 45, of Hemet, CA, to serve as the top appointed officer of the Sons of the American Legion (SAL), a children and youth program of the Legion.
This is astounding , in my opinion, in that as SAL Acting Adjutant, convicted sexual child molester Chester Petty has not only access to the children in the program, but he has also access to the personal records of every minor in the program, i.e., the name, age, address, phone and/or social media contact information of every minor in the SAL program.
Equally astounding is the fact that the parents of the children in the SAL have not been informed by the Department that the adult SAL officer Chester L. Petty who has access to their children and to the records of their children as Acting Adjutant, is a convicted child sexual molester.
The risk of liability that this creates to Posts, Districts, Areas, and the Department itself, is enormous, in my opinion. In a recent case in Portland, OR, a jury ordered the Boy Scouts of America to pay $2.5-million in compensatory damages, plus $18.5-million in punitive damages, for a total of $20-million on a claim by a former Boy Scout that he was molested (more than 20 years earlier) by a convicted child molester that the BSA allowed to serve as an adult supervisor of the boys without informing the parents that he was a convicted child molester. The facts are almost identical to the policy of the California Department under Past Department Commander Mark Foxworthy, his Ass’t Judge Advocate John Bartos (who is now the Judge Advocate), and Bruce Thiesen.
The True Facts About Chester L. Petty’s Child Molestation Convictions
Chester Petty is a non-veteran member of SAL who joined the San Jacinto Post 848 SAL by and through the service of his now late father. He did not disclose in seeking SAL membership, which is intended to serve children and youth, that he was a convicted sexual molester who is required to be registered on Megan’s List.
Petty quickly sought election to higher office. He became Adjutant and then Commander of SAL Squadron 848. He was also active with the SAL Detachment, which is statewide, and at some point became the Ass’t Adjutant. Although not a businessman or otherwise employed, and reportedly on some form of (non-military) disability, Petty became active in the San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce by way of Post 848’s membership in the Chamber, and was elected president.
The Riverside Press Enterprise, a daily newspaper which covers all of Riverside County and parts of San Bernardino County, broke a story on Petty on September 24, 2010, reporting that “The San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce board president [Chester Petty] resigned Thursday at the request of the board’s president-elect after she confirmed that his name and photo are posted on the Megan’s Law Website for a child molestation conviction.” The Valley Chronicle published a similar story on Petty.
Although Petty immediately resigned from the Chamber, he refused to resign from the SAL, or to cooperate with Post 848’s efforts to investigate and determine the true facts. Petty responded to requests for him to provide information by having a lawyer send a letter to the Post 848 Commander and Judge Advocate threatening to sue them for “harassment” if they did not cease to try to investigate the facts. Petty threatened to sue also a retired Air Force Colonel in Florida who brought the Press-Enterprise story to the attention of the National SAL at Legion Headquarters. Post 848 retained me. I responded to Petty’s attorney by demanding he cease his threats to sue the Post 848 officers and told him to sue me instead as I intended to investigate.
Petty has represented to a number of people in the Legion that he really shouldn’t be on Megan’s list at all. He has claimed that all that happened was that he was attempting to help a co-worker at the hospital in Hawaii where he worked to deal with her recalcitrant teenage son. Petty has claimed that the boy became obstreperous and was attempting to attack his mother, and Petty merely pushed the boy in the chest to protect the mother. He claimed that was deemed an assault on the boy, resulting in him being required to register on Meghan’s List.
Petty Was Convicted Of Seven Counts Of Sexual Molestation Of A Minor
The truth is very different. According to certified court records I obtained from the State of Hawaii Criminal Court, Chester L. Petty was convicted by guilty plea on seven (7) counts of “sexual assault” on a boy of sixteen, in Case 2p101252 thru Case 2p1-011258. Petty first pleaded “not guilty” then changed his plea to guilty in all seven cases. He was sentenced to one-year-probation on condition that he register as a sex offender, undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation and comply with the recommendations of the psychologist. Among other things, he participated in a 12-step sex-addiction program.
The Minor And Mother Sued Chester Petty For Restraining Orders
Court records further prove that, far from protecting a woman from her violent son, that mother filed a civil action in Hawaii Family Court against Chester Petty for a restraining order protecting her son from Petty, as well as herself and the man with whom she lived. A temporary restraining order was granted, followed by a “protective order” protecting the boy and the mother from Petty following a hearing.
The records in that civil action, Carren Martin on behalf of Sean King vs. Chester L. Petty, Case2DA00-1-0429, include the declaration testimony of the boy Petty sexually molested. The boy was 16, small and slight. Petty is 5’10” And weighs over 300 pounds. The testimony of the boy against Petty is as follows (Petition for Temporary Restraining Order filed Sept. 21, 2000; page 2):
“ I lived with Chester from the ending of August 2000 until this last incident on September 15, 2000.
“On September 15, 2000 Chester pushed me over in my bed while I was asleep and pinned me down while rubbing my penis.
“September 14, 2000 Chester woke me up the same way as Sept. 15, 2000. Later that day, Chester put lotion on my penis area against my will.
“September 12, 2000 Chester demanded that I masturbate in front of him. I had to lie and tell him I already did in order to let him allow me to go to bed.
“September 11, 2000 Chester forced me to sit on the couch next to him by grabbing my arm and pulling me towards him. He told me to masturbate in front of him or else he would not let me sleep. Some time during this day, Chester forced me to kiss him on his lips by holding my head still.
“September 10, 2000 I refused to sleep with Chester in the same bed and he began to slam things around in the house.
“September 9, 2000 Chester would give me angry looks because I refused to sleep with him in his bed.
lived with Chester for not even a month and he has done this to me.
He has forced me to walk around in my boxers or walk around naked. Whenever
I did something he did not like, he would come up into my face and grab
me. He has told me that everything I own (including my body parts) is
his until I graduate. He calls me stupid on a daily basis and tells
me ‘shut my hole’ when I say something he didn’t like.
He has also told me, ‘If you ever run away, he’d put an
electronic anklet on my ankle.’ In many of these incidents, I
have pulled away, but Chester always pulls me back. His size alone intimidates
me. I am asking this court to protect me from Chester.”
Post 848 and District 21 Acts To Protect Children Blocked By Foxworthy-Thiesen-Bartos
The facts set forth above are the true facts of Chester L. Petty, convicted child sexual molester who was the Ass’t Adjutant of the SAL children youth program and was approved and protected in that role by PDC Mark Foxworthy, his Ass’t Judge Advocate John Bartos, and Bruce Thiesen. Petty is now the Acting Adjutant, with even greater powers over the children in the program, including complete unsupervised access to their persons and records.
Post 848, and District 21, has made strenuous efforts to protect the children in the SAL from the risk of harm. Those efforts have been impeded by Foxworthy, Thiesen, and Bartos.
First, Post 848 of District 21, acted to terminate its relationship with Petty when he refused to cooperate with a reasonable investigation after the Press-Enterprise made public county-wide and farther that Petty is a registered sex-offender on Megan’s List. More particularly, the Executive Board of Post 848 requested Petty to meet with them to discuss the Press-Enterprise story and the facts. Petty flatly refused to meet with the Board, defying the Post’s request. Post 848 then voted to have nothing to do with Petty and withdrew his privileges to be in Post 848 or on its property. SAL Squadron 848 voted as did Post 848. J.A. John Bartos has attacked Post 848’s action and attempted to compel Post 848 to reverse its decision., supported by Foxworthy and Thiesen.
“District 21 “Zero Tolerance Resolution To Protect The Children”
To protect the children in the SAL and all other Legion children and youth programs, District 21 voted to adopt a “Zero Tolerance Resolution To Protect The Children,” which I drafted. It affirms a policy of the District to protect the children from risk of harm by providing that convicted sexual molesters shall neither serve as adult officers of, nor participate in, the Legion’s children and youth programs.
The “Zero Tolerance Resolution” was sent to the Department Adjutant to be voted upon by delegates at the 2011 Department of California Convention as to whether it should be accepted or rejected as the policy of the Department. However, delegates to the Convention never got to vote on the “Zero Tolerance Resolution.” It was blocked by Thiesen-Bartos-and Foxworthy.
First, Foxworthy, as presiding officer, appointed Thiesen as Resolutions Committee Chairman, even though Thiesen only three months earlier had stipulated he was guilty of two counts of “neglect of duty” in his corrupt relations with the corrupt Vantage Marketing.
Bartos, without notice to District 21 or me as author of the resolution, wrote a memorandum of opinion to the Resolutions Committee urging it to reject the “Zero Tolerance Resolution,” although the Committee has no power to do so. Under Article 9, Section 8 of the California Dept. Constitution, the Resolution Committee has only the very limited power to “assign such resolutions to the several appropriate committees without recommendation.”
Notwithstanding, Thiesen, as Resolutions Committee chairman, citing Bartos’ memo urging rejection, then caused the “Zero Tolerance Resolution” to be rejected, i.e., killed, at the Resolutions Committee level, thus preventing the delegates from voting on it.
When objections were made by District 21from the floor, Foxworthy, as presiding officer, allowed the rejection to stand.
All of this was done in arrogant abuse of authority by Foxworthy-Thiesen-and Bartos in complete, indisputable violation of Article 9, Section 8 of the Department Constitution, and the policy adopted in 2008 forbidding committees to kill resolutions in committee and commanding that resolutions must be taken to the floor for vote.
Such is the depth to which American Legion democracy sank in the autocratic regime of PDC Mark Foxworthy, who is now seeking election as National Executive Committeeman as the endorsed candidate of the corrupt PNC Bruce Thiesen, who is still acting as a shot–caller and power broker due to his connections to the National Legion hierarchy as a Past National Commander.
Bartos Threatens To Sue District 21 – Under A Non Existent Civil Code Statute
So desperate have Thiesen-Foxworthy and Bartos been to maintain the convicted child sexual molester Chester Petty as an officer of the Sons of the American Legion children and youth program, that Bartos wrote a demand letter to District 21 Commander Fred MacKenzie ordering him and District 21 to “cease and desist” enforcement of the “Zero Tolerance Resolution” and threatened civil lawsuits or “criminal charges under the provisions of California Civil Code §290.46(h)(2).”
This is perhaps the most illustrative if not illustrious example of the pompous lawyer Bartos’ legal excellence, or lack thereof. For, alas, “California Civil Code §290.46(h)(2)” cited by Bartos, does not in fact exist.
Thus, as it celebrates its birthday March 15-17, 2012, The American Legion is America’s and the world’s largest wartime veterans organization with a long and honored history behind it from its founding in 1919. But that honor is threatened by the policies of the Department of California under Past National Commander Bruce Thiesen, Mark Foxworthy, and John Bartos.
Subscribe to the NewsWithViews Daily News Alerts!
Therefore, if the honor of the American Legion is to be maintained as it begins its 94th year, it will be up to the rank-and-file men and women veterans of the California American Legion to take a stand and demand that the unremedied corruption of Past National Commander Bruce Thiesen be effectively remedied; and to repudiate and reverse the wrongful policy of Thiesen-Foxworthy-and Bartos of allowing, approving, and authorizing convicted child sexual molesters to hold office or otherwise participate in the Sons of The American Legion, or any other Legion children and youth program.
© 2012 Rees Lloyd - All Rights Reserved
REES LLOYD is a longtime civil rights attorney and veterans activist whose work has been honored by, among others, the California Senate and Assembly, and numerous civil rights, workers rights, and veterans rights organizations. He has testified as a constitutional expert at hearings before the U.S. House and Senate representing The American Legion.
He has been profiled, and his work featured, by such varied print media as the Los Angeles Times and American Legion Magazine, and such broadcast media as ABC's Nightline and 20/20, Fox News In The Morning, and, among others, by Hannity. His writings have appeared in a variety of national, regional, and local newspaper, magazine, and other publications. He is a frequent radio commentator, and a sought after speaker.*
[*For identification only. The views expressed here are solely Rees Lloyd's and not necessarily any person, entity or organization he may otherwise represent. ]