Rioting Penn State Cadet Shocked to Be Kicked Out of ROTC Program

Justin Strine spent part of the summer in jail for violent mayhem but doesn't understand why he's unfit to be an Army officer.

Justin Strine spent part of the summer in jail for violent mayhem but doesn’t understand why he’s unfit to be an Army officer.

AP (“Penn State riot ends aspiring Army officer’s dream“):

Stints in jail. Hefty fines and restitution. Clouded futures. The consequences of their bad behavior have been steep for the Penn State students who took to the streets and rioted in the chaotic aftermath of Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno’s firing last November.

Perhaps none have learned a harder lesson than Justin Strine, a young man from central Pennsylvania whose planned career as an Army officer is over before it began — the casualty of his own split-second decision to put his hands on a news van, and a judicial system that considered him as guilty as classmates who did far worse that dark night in State College.

[…]

As he resumes his studies, nothing’s the same for the 21-year-old from Hummelstown. He spent part of his summer in jail. Far worse: He’s been kicked out of ROTC, his dream of carrying on his family’s proud military tradition now out of reach.

“I’m losing everything I worked my entire life for,” Strine said.

Strine’s father, a career soldier, questions whether that’s a just result.

“I had to stand by and watch my son plead guilty to something he didn’t do,” said Jim Strine.

[…]

Strine had driven himself and a couple friends to the State College commercial district, where they joined thousands of other protesters. At one point Strine and his friend, Christina Assainte, found themselves in a large crowd moving toward a WTAJ-TV news van, where vandals were pelting it with rocks.

To the rippling chants of “Flip it! Flip it!” two young man approached the side of the van, motioning others to join them, a video recording shows. That set off a frenzied rush toward the van, and within seconds a large group started to push.

A second wave of spectators then pressed toward the front of the van, perhaps to get a better view. Strine and Assainte were in the front of that group.

With the vehicle already on two wheels and going over, Strine placed his palms on the hood. Four seconds later, the van was on its side. But that’s all it took for police and prosecutors to charge him with felony counts of riot and criminal mischief — the same charges filed against students who did the actual pushing.

“I always felt I was on a good path, and all the sudden I’m being made into a criminal. It was shocking to me they wouldn’t even hear me out and let me explain that yes, I was there and shouldn’t have been, but I wasn’t this person they are making me out to be,” Strine said. “No one ever looked at me as an individual. They looked at me as 5,000 Penn State rioters.”

Terrified of being branded a felon, Strine agreed to plead guilty to reduced misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and criminal mischief. He served 30 days in jail — getting out Aug. 4 — and will either be on parole or probation until 2015.

While I sympathize that mobs take on a life of their own and that people in them make bad decisions that they wouldn’t make as individuals, the fact of the matter is that Army officers are expected to make good decisions under much more stressful conditions than the firing of a football coach. And, frankly, if he and his father believed in his innocence, he should have stood up and fought—something else Army officers are expected to do in the course of their duties. It’s a little late to be whining about it after you’ve pleaded guilty to a crime and served a month in jail.

But at least this was a good cause: standing up for the honor of a man who aided and abetted child molestation for more than a decade.

Hat tip: Jeff Quinton

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. John Peabody says:

    Hear, hear! No one has the right to become a commissioned officer. Take it gladly if the training is offered to you. Don’t be surprised if it’s rescinded after an incident such as this.

  2. Gustopher says:

    Someday, if he actually realizes that he was not the victim here, I hope ROTC will reconsider. Some people need to learn lessons the hard way.

    Of course, some people never learn the lessons one way or another.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher: Yes, I’m sure his attitude didn’t help. But I’m shocked that his dad didn’t understand that pleading guilty to a crime wasn’t going to kill his son’s “career.” You’d be hard pressed to enlist with a criminal record, much less get commissioned.

  4. JKB says:

    I suspect this a an example of not understanding the implications of a guilty plea. Sure, it gets you out of the felony charges but most attorneys don’t really explain what that conviction can impact in the rest of your life. It will prevent him from getting other jobs as well. Well, unless the EEOC get their way and not hiring someone for a criminal record is deemed discriminatory.

    In any case, his “explanation” means little. He was there, he put his hands on the van, he participated in the riot. He was offered disorderly conduct and criminal mischief and he took it. If he wanted to explain, he should have risked the trial and felony conviction since he could have his say regardless of the prosecutor’s willingness to listen. On the other hand, it appears his explanation was yes I did it but I’m a good person so I shouldn’t be held responsible. Not good traits for someone wanting to be an Army officer.

  5. Boyd says:

    I’m sure that the US Army will somehow manage to struggle along without the likes of Mr Strine, who was and undoubtedly still is on a good path other than this minor hiccup, and whom the justice system has turned into a criminal without any reason or justification, polluting their officer corps.

  6. mattb says:

    @Boyd:

    whom the justice system has turned into a criminal without any reason or justification

    Was this sarcastic?

  7. Boyd says:

    C’mon, Matt, the “polluting their officer corps” phrase wasn’t a sufficient indicator? I know I can be obscure with my meaning sometimes, but I thought I was making it plain that I think that young Mr Strine doesn’t even meet the standards of the US Army officer corps, not known for their high standards to begin with, evidence whereof is offered here under the caption, James Joyner.

    N.B. for the humor impaired: The preceding sentence was a combination of interservice and junior officer/senior enlisted rivalries and poking fun at an online friend. So lighten up, Francis.

  8. mattb says:

    I was pretty sure it was humor, but it’s been one of those days.

    Plus us civies often only catch the broadest on “inside-baseball” military humor (i.e. Catch 22 and that everyone makes fun of the Navy, while the Navy heckle the Marines).

  9. al-Ameda says:

    Strine’s father, a career soldier, questions whether that’s a just result.
    “I had to stand by and watch my son plead guilty to something he didn’t do,” said Jim Strine.

    […]

    second wave of spectators then pressed toward the front of the van, perhaps to get a better view. Strine and Assainte were in the front of that group. With the vehicle already on two wheels and going over, Strine placed his palms on the hood. Four seconds later, the van was on its side. But that’s all it took for police and prosecutors to charge him with felony counts of riot and criminal mischief — the same charges filed against students who did the actual pushing.

    Is it just me, but … his father seems lost.

    Looks like Justin learned a lesson that he probably wasn’t going to lean in a classroom – that his actions often have consequences (and that there is virtually nothing that happens in public these days that is not caught on film or video tape (especially riots in support of a legendary football coach.)

  10. grumpy realist says:

    I think “unclear on the concept” is the term we want here.

  11. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    Congratulations on another Joe Paterno dig. Are you feeling better now or is the feeling diminishing with each additional occurrence ???

  12. James Joyner says:

    @11B40: This man participated in a violent crime in support of Joe Paterno, who spent years covering up a series of violent crimes. That struck me as worth pointing out.

  13. Ernieyeball says:

    You’d be hard pressed to enlist with a criminal record,..

    How times have changed.
    When the Vietnam war was raging and the military draft was in full swell I remember more than a few cases of 18+ year old men in front of the judge of the county circuit charged with jailable offenses and given the choice to “volunteer” for the service instead of prison.
    All the ones that I knew went to the jungle.
    I know of at least two who did not come back in body bags.
    I don’t know what happened to the others.

  14. 11B40 says:

    @James Joyner:

    Greetings, Mr. Joyner”

    So, then both parts of that “officer and a gentleman” have expired ???

  15. Boyd says:

    @11B40: Hello, Mr Non Sequitur! Or do you still go my Mr Ad Hominem?