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Fight Over Drug Test : Judge Blocks Effort to Discharge Marine

January 26, 1988|JOHN SPANO | Times Staff Writer

A federal judge Monday blocked the discharge of a career El Toro Marine sergeant who claims that he was singled out for retribution after he decided to fight drug abuse charges he says are untrue.

Staff Sgt. Michael Jordan won the reprieve when U.S. District Judge William J. Rea signed an order prohibiting the discharge before a hearing can be held Feb. 3.

Jordan claims that he has never used drugs and that the positive results from a surprise urine test last summer for marijuana must be in error.

"I do not use drugs," Jordan said Monday. "If you're in the Marines, especially if you have a family, you know they're serious on the drug issue. It's suicide."

Jordan, 30, is a 10-year veteran who lives in Tustin with his wife, Donna, and children Michael and Jamila. Jordan, assigned to an F4 unit at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, said he had "no option" but to fight the discipline.

His lawyer, Kevin B. McDermott, said Jordan was routinely faced with a summary court-martial after the drug test in June.

But Jordan took the unusual step of informing Marine brass that he would fight any discipline by demanding a special court-martial. At a special court-martial, Jordan gets the right to a lawyer, the right to cross-examine witnesses, and trial before a three-officer tribunal, among other advantages. But he would face stricter penalties than a summary court-martial if found guilty.

At that point, Jordan claims in the suit, he was sent instead to an administrative discharge hearing, at which he only had the right to a lawyer, and not the other safeguards. McDermott contends that Marine prosecutors should not be allowed to impose such a hearing on Jordan. Under the administrative hearing, he faced a less-than-honorable discharge.

A Marine spokesman could not be reached for comment.

McDermott said Jordan's decision to go to court to fight the corps, while not unprecedented, is unusual. "He's a dedicated Marine," McDermott said. "He and his wife sat down and decided they would pay the price to clear his name."

"The test was erroneous," said Jordan, who demanded follow-up tests, which were negative four days after the initial test. "I don't smoke marijuana. This is crazy. This deal is a nightmare. I had no options but to fight it."

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