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Heading to Court

Dec 2, 2017
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The bizarre case of two Army officers who tried to alter a paternity test to avoid paying child support is expected to be settled in a Pennsylvania court room, possibly as early as next month.

Cumberland County Assistant District Attorney Derek Clepper tells In From the Cold that Army Colonel Scott Carlson and Lt Col Bruce Adkins could face trial in late March, on felony and misdemeanor charges relating to the phony paternity test.

Clepper says he does not believe the case against Carlson and Adkins will be settled through a plea bargain, due to the number of charges filed against the two officers, and the severity of the alleged crimes. Mr. Clepper says that Adkins’ attorney inquired about a possible plea deal for his client in December, shortly after the Lt Col was arraigned on eight different charges in the case.

However, discussions about a potential deal broke off after prosecutors insisted that Adkins plead guilty to felony, rather than misdemeanor charges. Lieutenant Colonel Adkins is accused of obstruction of justice, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, conspiracy theft by deception, forgery, solicitation of forgery, and three other charges for his role in the alleged scheme. Adkins entered a not guilty plea to all charges at his arraignment in December.

Carlson, the alleged mastermind of the scheme, is facing ten different felony and misdemeanor charges, ranging from criminal solicitation to tamper with public records and solicitation to fabricate evidence, to obstruction of justice, forgery and theft by deception. If convicted on all counts, both Carlson and Adkins could be sentenced to more that 50 years in prison.

According to the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office, Colonel Carlson is currently completing a “mail-in” arraignment through his local attorney. Prosecutors also expect Carlson to enter a not guilty plea, setting the stage for his court date later this spring. If the mail-in arraignment is concluded in the next 2-3 weeks (as expected), Mr. Clepper believes the case against the two officers could go to trial at the end of March.

Carlson and Adkins were classmates at the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks in Cumberland County (near Harrisburg), when the plot unfolded last spring. The mother of Carlson’s nine-year-old daughter requested an increase in child support, from $400-$600 a month. Due to Carlson’s assignment at the war college, the case wound up in the Pennsylvania court.

While Colonel Carlson had paid support in the past, he claimed that the child was not his, and asked for genetic testing to prove paternity. However, when Adkins showed up to provide a DNA sample, court personnel determined that he was not the same man who requested the paternity test. Fingerprints and other military records confirmed the attempted deception.

By the time investigators concluded their probe, both officers had completed the prestigious war college and moved on to other assignments, Adkins at Ft McPherson, Georgia, and Carlson in Egypt. While Mr. Clepper reports that Pennsylvania authorities had “initial difficulty” in getting Colonel Carlson back to the states for arraignment, he apparently returned from Egypt in early November. Carlson’s current assignment is also at Ft McPherson.

Despite his “not guilty” plea, Adkins has provided a statement to prosecutors, and Clepper said it is possible that the Lt Col may be called to testify against Carlson. Mr. Clepper indicated that Adkins’ information provided a better “timeline” of events associated with the case.

By comparison, Colonel Carlson has not offered information to Pennsylvania officials, and Clepper doesn’t expect him to. “That’s his right,” the prosecutor observed.

The assistant district attorney claims that the state will present compelling evidence when the case goes to trial. “I believe I can prove every element of these crimes, “ Clepper said in an interview, “if the defendants testify, or even if they don’t.”

Lawyers representing Carlson and Adkins did not immediately respond to e-mail requests for comment. However, Colonel Carlson and his attorney outlined a possible defense in December, at a court hearing on the child support issue.

During that proceeding, Carlson produced a letter that requested cancellation of last April’s DNA test. Mr. Clepper and court officials said it was the “first time” they had seen the letter. The Colonel did not explain why Adkins still appeared on the referenced date—posing as Carlson–and provided the DNA sample.

Adkins’ motivation for taking part in the scheme remains murky. In his statement to authorities, Lt Col Adkins said that he agreed to participate “to help [Colonel] Carlson save his marriage.” Prosecutor Clepper says he is unsure if Adkins had “other reasons” for assisting Carlson.

The two Army officers could go on trial as early as March 24th, based on the current court calendar—and the expected completion of Carlson’s mail-in arraignment. If that process is delayed, Clepper says the trial would begin on April 17th or May 19th.

Beyond their Pennsylvania court date, Carlson and Adkins could also face criminal prosecution from the Army. A decision on military charges is expected after completion of civilian proceedings against the two men.

Clepper describes the case as “one of the strangest” he’s handled during his years as a prosecutor. The assistant district attorney says he can’t remember the last time an Army War College student faced felony charges in Cumberland County.

The program is considered the “capstone” of an officer’s military education. Selection for the course is highly competitive, and typically reserved for best and brightest officers in the armed forces. Many war college graduates go on to reach flag rank in their respective services.

But, a preliminary hearing in the Carlson-Adkins case raised questions about the officers’ past conduct, and why they were selected for the course. A Cumberland County Domestic Relations Officer testified that the mother of Carlson’s daughter–who filed the request for increased child support–was a soldier in the Colonel’s battalion when their affair began.

Improper relationships between superiors and subordinates are prohibited under Army regulations, and may result in punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Testimony at the January hearing also revealed that another soldier once accused Adkins of assault–a claim that was reflected in the Lieutenant Colonel’s military records. The board that selected Adkins for the war college was almost certainly aware of the purported assault; it’s unclear if Carlson’s superiors were aware of his past affair with a subordinate.

Adkins and Carlson are not the first defendants accused of faking a paternity test in Cumberland County. In an earlier case, a man was charged with providing DNA to help his brother “beat” a paternity suit. Their plan eventually unraveled, and both men wound up in prison, after being convicted on lesser charges than those facing the Army officers.

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