December 16, 2004
Sleeping in tents, trying to grab a few hours sleep amid distant explosions, flying to battlefields in helicopters that are being shot at — not a typical lawyer’s life.
But for six months earlier this year, that was Steve Logan’s job. As a Marine reservist, the assistant U.S. attorney from Phoenix defended 17 soldiers charged with various crimes in and around Baghdad, Iraq.
Logan, a major who was attached to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said he could not talk about the types of cases he worked on because they were being appealed. With young Marines, often between 18 and 20, "you can imagine some of the things they get involved in," he said. "Sometimes they make decisions others don’t agree with and place others in harm’s way."
For example, he said, if one Marine assaults another Marine, an effective commander will take quick action. Holding a courtmartial in Iraq, with insurgent mortars raining down nearby, drives home a point to young troops, Logan said.
"The commander can turn around and say ‘Marine, if you get in trouble, it doesn’t give you a free pass back home,’ " he said.
Just like the cliche, military justice is swift — especially in war. A case that might take a year to go to trial at home could take just two months in the field, Logan said.
"You don’t get Saturday off. You don’t get Sunday off," he said. "You sleep when you can. You’re in uniform 24/7, working virtually around the clock."
But the process also is fair, he said. It starts with an Article 32 investigation — similar to a grand jury. The defense and prosecution lay out evidence and an officer decides whether to move forward. In some cases, prominent defense attorneys would come to Iraq to aid soldiers, he said. Logan also spent an "astronomical" amount of time riding or flying around Iraq to interview clients or witnesses.
"You basically hitch a ride," he said.
It was never possible to forget his workplace was a war zone, he said.
"I was in Fallujah, went to a location and had to talk to some witnesses," Logan said. "I said ‘I need this guy.’ They said ‘He’s not available. He died yesterday.’ "
A large part of Logan’s duties was to take care of troops’ civil law problems.
"We had over 900 civil law issues," he said. "How can you focus on staying alive and focus on the mission and helping out fellow service members when your home is going under in Kentucky?"
Logan said one of the most difficult aspects of his assignment was being away from his family. He came home Sept. 12.
Though Logan is back to driving his kids to soccer practice and other normal routines, his regular job is no cakewalk. Before he left for Iraq, Logan prosecuted a drug dealer who tried to assassinate Billie Rosen, a prosecutor with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. Rosen’s brother was seriously wounded in the attempt. The dealer, Mark David Brannon, was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
For his role in that case, Logan was one of three other assistant U.S. attorneys in Arizona who received a distinguished service award last month from U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.