Vietnam veteran fabricated heroic acts during trial

Saturday, June 28, 2014 5:01 PM
Last updated Sunday, June 29, 2014 1:32 AM
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In pleading the case of Charles Chavous in April, defense attorney Scott Con­nell detailed his heroic acts during the Vietnam War in an attempt to convince Judge Mi­chael N. Annis that Cha­vous was deserving of leniency.

Charles Chavous pleaded guilty April 3 to hindering the apprehension of a criminal and concealing the death of another for his limited role in a 1975 slaying.  HAND OUT
HAND OUT
Charles Chavous pleaded guilty April 3 to hindering the apprehension of a criminal and concealing the death of another for his limited role in a 1975 slaying.


Sandy Hodson
Database Reporter
E-mail | 706-823-3226

But Chavous’ deeds of heroism weren’t true.

Chavous, 63, was in the Marines and was in combat during his one-year tour of duty in 1970. But there was no Navy Cross, no Distinguished Service Cross, no five Purple Hearts, and no escape from a North Vietnamese prison camp, according to records The Au­­gusta Chronicle obtained from the National Ar­chives.

Chavous pleaded guilty April 3 to hindering the apprehension of a criminal and concealing the death of another for his limited role in a 1975 slaying.

Connell didn’t know Cha­vous had fabricated his story of heroism. After being contacted by the newspaper about concerns regarding his client’s military record, Connell provided a copy of Chavous’ discharge document that listed his military awards including the Navy Cross, Silver Star, Navy and Marine Corps Purple Hearts, and the Bronze Star.

Connell said he also had a stack of VA medical records dating back to the ’70s that detailed Chavous’ story of being repeatedly wounded, taken captive and escaping from a prison camp.

After the newspaper obtained verification of Cha­vous’ military history, Con­nell said he couldn’t comment because of ethical guidelines.

Annis, who sentenced Chavous to five years of probation, said even if he hadn’t heard the account of heroism he believes Chavous’ sentence was appropriate for seeing Bronzi Leon Peppers murdered and never telling law enforcement.

Attempts to reach Chavous for comment were unsuccessful.

The April hearing wasn’t the first time Chavous had embellished his military service.

He told the same story to the Augusta-Richmond County Historic Society when it created Heroes Overlook on Riverwalk Augusta in 1994. According to a story in The Chronicle, two bronze plaques were to be set for Cha­vous. There are no plaques for him there, however, and no records exist to explain what happened.

Chavous was a rifleman and was awarded a Com­bat Action Ribbon, Na­tional De­fense Service Me­dal, Viet­na­mese Service Me­dal and the Vietnamese Cam­paign Me­dal, according to his real military discharge document. But he was never wounded nor taken prisoner.

“We call it the POW sob story,” said retired Lt. Cmdr. John Michael McGrath, who was a POW and has worked with others to expose people who make false claims of military service.

In Vietnam, 966 Ameri­cans were POWs; only 662 got out alive, and 160 have died since the war, he said. The number of Americans who escaped from POW camps and survived was 30 in Viet­nam and two in Laos, McGrath said. But according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, about 1,000 people claimed to have escaped from prison camps, McGrath said.

McGrath, whose list of medals includes the Silver Star, Superior Service Me­dal and Distinguished Fly­ing Cross from his time in Vietnam, said the fact that Chavous has been telling his story for decades is typical.

McGrath pointed to Ed­ward Lee Daily, who claimed that he witnessed Ameri­cans commit the “Nogun-ri Mas­sacre” during the Korean War. Published accounts of his story led to a special investigation. There was no massacre, and Daily also falsely claimed to have been a POW. He was prosecuted for fraud in 2002, convicted, sentenced to 21 months in prison and ordered to repay more than $400,000 in benefits.

Daily had been lying for 40 years.

McGrath said he has written to every VA secretary asking for an investigation. He has only received boilerplate responses that all is correct, he said.

McGrath’s list of 662 Viet­nam POW survivors matches the Department of Defense’s records, he said. The VA could run its list against the department’s but has not.

The fraud continues, McGrath said. The VA has 91 POW survivors from Desert Storm, but there were only 21 and one has died, he said.

Why someone would fake war experiences is a good question, McGrath said. He thinks it has a lot to do with low self-esteem and the idea that it is only a “little white lie.” But such claims get repeated and then they are stuck with it. It even turns up in obituaries, McGrath said.

Those who take the lie to the VA also get additional benefits and tax exemptions.

McGrath, who was a POW from June 30, 1967, to March 4, 1973, said he doesn’t take great offense at those who lie. But one aspect does annoy him: all the people with POW license tags. POWs get a break on the fees. Most states, including his home state of Colorado, only ask the VA for a letter of verification and the VA allows service members to self-report.

McGrath sees the POW plates a lot, he said. But he knows there are only seven Vietnam POWs in the entire state.

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Dixieman
20082
Points
Dixieman 06/29/14 - 08:22 am
14
2
Well, now. It's about time. But who gets the credit?

Glad the Augusta Chronicle finally got around to looking into this and came up with the truth about his service. But a couple of comments:
1. At the time of the April hearing, the AC just wrote down what the lawyer said and did NOTHING AT ALL to verify or investigate what was a very, very suspicious story on its face.
2. A robust debate then ensued in this comment section. I and many others pointed out several glaring inconsistencies in the veteran's claims and urged the AC to follow up. There were 53 comments posted, most pointing out the obvious flaws in the story and urging the AC to investigate further. The AC never responded to us.
3. The story above makes NO MENTION of this and gives NO CREDIT to those of us who did what the reporter and editorial staff should have done in the first place.
Thus while I am glad that the AC, due to external prodding, finally got around to investigating and finding and publishing the truth -- which wasn't really hard to do -- it would have be gracious and professional of the AC to give credit where credit is due -- to the pajamahadeen with whom I am proud to be associated who did what the AC should have done in the first place. Shame on the AC for flubbing the story in April and more shame for failing to even acknowledge our help in today's story. Your handling of this story exhibits not only a lack of elementary journalism skills and practices but also a lack of good manners -- here in the South we thank people who help us out.

Dixieman
20082
Points
Dixieman 06/29/14 - 08:17 am
17
2
And another thing

Corgimom - you owe some of us an apology. in April you wrote "For all of you that doubt this, I've known him and his family for many years, and it's all true" and many similar, vehement posts when we said there was no record of his claim to have won the Navy Cross, been a POW, etc.

myfather15
59557
Points
myfather15 06/29/14 - 05:19 am
16
1
Dixie

Good luck!! I've yet to see her admit she even MIGHT be wrong, not to mention actually saying she indeed WAS wrong.

Riverman1
106745
Points
Riverman1 06/29/14 - 05:39 am
13
1
Dixieman, thanks!

Dixieman, thanks! I encourage everyone to go back and read the comments under the April story. The commenters, especially Dixieman, at their finest. Chavous served in Vietnam and he should have left it at that and not made up the unbelievable stories.

cush1944
22844
Points
cush1944 06/29/14 - 06:52 am
15
2
"Corgimom - you owe some of

"Corgimom - you owe some of us an apology."
Ain't gona happen she will most likely claim you miss understood her. She does seem to consider herself an expert on everything.

nocnoc
56952
Points
nocnoc 06/29/14 - 08:39 am
4
2
NOT defending the guy

But i remember many Vet's have had an impossible time even getting simple basic verification of their service records, after the 1973 St. Louis Fire. That fire destroyed literally millions of service records for pre-1961. My dad took weeks of digging to reconstruct his service and records back to 1939.

But that fire sure protected a lot of 1970's Federal Political types.

justthefacts
30004
Points
justthefacts 06/29/14 - 08:48 am
5
1
nocnoc

"not defending the guy, but". Not understanding your point. Do you think he was confused about his service because it's difficult to find records?

vls214
29
Points
vls214 06/29/14 - 08:54 am
2
8
What SICK soul finds satisfaction in this?

You also are a Vietnam/war Veteran and for that I give you endless amounts of thanks and appreciation for all that you did to ensure our Freedom. With that being said, what happened to LOVE and RESPECT for your fellow man? I guess "being right" means more to you than doing what is right. Since you all obviously have a lot of free time, maybe you could help solve some old Murder cases or better yet, help investigate the Missing Person cases that are being forgotten.

myfather15
59557
Points
myfather15 06/29/14 - 08:57 am
8
0
Not surprising though.

Many people, even veterans either lie about the details of their service or "stretch it" a little. Why? I don't know, but probably to give people the impression they're more than what they are. People seem to desire to be some sort of movie hero! Some want others to believe their highly trained killers of some sort. I've even experienced this with fellow deputies and officers. They will tell you they were a "Navy Seal" or "Marine Recon" and after about 2 minutes of speaking with them, I can tell they are FULL OF IT!!

I've had people tell me they were Marine Corps drill instructor's, only to find out later they were medically discharged after 2 or 3 years of service. There is NO WAY, anyone has ever been a drill instructor after only 2 or 3 years of service. I guess people see all these "Super heros" portrayed in movies such as (Lone Survivor) and want people to think that about them. They seem to believe it gives them more credibility or something; and for people who don't have a clue, it might. But those who have served, can usually figure them out within a few minutes or even seconds.

Obviously, this guy was also using it to gain sympathy and compassion in a criminal case; which isn't surprising at all. It's hard for a judge to throw the book at a "War hero".

deestafford
38726
Points
deestafford 06/29/14 - 09:14 am
7
1
Let me make a few points on this....

Let me make a few points on this:

If someone is telling war stories to a second party and the second party is not a combat veteran also, the chances are pretty good the fellow telling t he stories is lying.

Why do I say this? The vast majority of those who have been in combat don't talk about it to those who have not been there. And, many times when two combat veterans are sharing stories there is some black humor involved that only those who have been there understand.

So, if someone starts telling you war stories...doubt them. They are trying to increase their stature in your eyes.

Lt Cmdr McGrath may not take offense at those who do claim to have a military record that is a fraud but I sure do. I have no use for them. The politicians and some generals have no big heartburn with these type of people because they have not "been there" and saw their buddies wounded and killed. Combat veterans take their service and their bond with fellow combat veterans very seriously and resent anyone falsely claiming to be part of that brotherhood.

Read the book, Stolen Valor, and you will see how many have claimed to have all kinds of awards, up to and including the Medal of Honor, when they have never served. Ted Kennedy's Chief of Staff was one such individual and nothing happened to him as a result...of course, we talking about Mass. here.

Those who make false claims should be jailed and have a felony conviction on their records and never allowed to vote or work for any government...local, state, or federal. Too many people have made sacrifices in combat for some scumbag to be able to be part of that group and get away with it.

deestafford
38726
Points
deestafford 06/29/14 - 09:37 am
7
3
Respect...

Respect. Something that liberals think you give someone.

With conservatives respect is something you earn before you can get it.

Airman
3823
Points
Airman 06/29/14 - 09:48 am
6
2
Did I miss the memo?

Did hell freeze over? Apology, never. Admit you are wrong. NOT. Sad

Airman
3823
Points
Airman 06/29/14 - 09:49 am
6
0
I get it.

He changed since she last saw him, you think that's what happened?

sawgrass
5691
Points
sawgrass 06/29/14 - 10:31 am
6
2
Dixieman

Good luck getting that apology.

Junket103
512
Points
Junket103 06/29/14 - 10:40 am
6
1
Thanks for the Follow-up

Many thanks to the AC for following up on this story from earlier this year. Also thanks to Dixieman for the comment above. The AC followed-up on this story for one reason: the detailed and very informative comments that online readers provided to the original story. The AC could have highlighted this fact in the update today. It demonstrates the power of the online version vs. the paper edition.

This story needs further follow-up as there may be criminal activity related to the fraud. Is he receiving any benefits from VA related to his fraud? Former POWs are entitled to specific VA benefits, is he in receipt of any? It is one thing to state a falsehood with free speech rights. However, faking a DD214 should be criminal, particularly if used to obtain unearned government benefits. The level of the lies and the effort to fraudulently substantiate them really brings into question his involvement in the murder. He is an accomplished liar and there is no indication he wouldn't lie in the courtroom. For the judge to say it has no bearing based on the facts is a sad statement regarding our courts. This guy and his lawyer perpetuated a fraud in the courtroom. While the lawyer and judge may not have known about it at the time, they certainly are aware if it now.

The part of the story regarding the VA maintaining a larger list of former POWs than is acknowledged by DoD goes to the heart of what is wrong with the VA. Clearly the VA has problems with accuracy and maintaining lists. Just another reason to close the VA or rebuild it from scratch.

Pops
19705
Points
Pops 06/29/14 - 11:37 am
4
1
This guy reminds me

of Eddie Murphy's character in "Trading Places".....when questioned by two Vietnam veteran cops, he claimed his name was Special Agent Orange and he had been in Sang Bang, Vietnam......all hush hush type stuff.......

harley_52
30590
Points
harley_52 06/29/14 - 11:00 am
5
1
Last Time I Was Involved....

...in a discussion with Corgimom, instead of admitting she had made a mistake she just went back and re-wrote her claim.

As for this poser...I agree with @deestafford. Reat the book "Stolen Valor." This sort of thing happens ALL the time. Whenever you hear ANYBODY bragging about all the really dangerous, brave, and courageous stuff they did in "the war," they're lying.

jimmymac
60093
Points
jimmymac 06/29/14 - 11:01 am
0
0
DEESTAFFORD
Unpublished

Your comments are spot on. Respect is always supposed to be earned.

cush1944
22844
Points
cush1944 06/29/14 - 11:04 am
4
2
" With that being said, what

" With that being said, what happened to LOVE and RESPECT for your fellow man? I guess "being right" means more to you than doing what is right."
vls214, I for one do not have respect for a liar. That is one reason I have NO respect for the lying, racist in the WH.

vls214
29
Points
vls214 06/29/14 - 11:04 am
1
5
So Disgusted!!

What relief you all get from this is beyond me! What satisfaction does one get by calling a fellow veteran a liar, poser, fake etc?? You all seem to forget that Mr. Chavous has a family that love and adore him, friends who are faithful and nonjudgmental. Too bad the same can't be said for all of you on here. I was raised to respect my elders, especially those that have served our country. I'm starting to second guess that given the blatant disrespect that I'm reading about MY uncle. Shame on you all! Judge not lest ye be judged.

vls214
29
Points
vls214 06/29/14 - 11:11 am
1
5
Really!

Comparing Mr. Chavous to President Obama? If you have nothing intelligent to contribute, please stop posting. You are only proving what I already know: that most on here are sick & get some kick from insulting their fellow man.

nocnoc
56952
Points
nocnoc 06/29/14 - 11:38 am
3
0
justthefacts My 8:39am

I was too brief Older service personnel read my comment would likely have caught on....

Many Korea, WWII, 58-61 Vietnam Vets lost proof any of benefits, awards medals, and citations in the St. Louis fire.

We had actual POW's being called imposters, Actual Combat recipients denied replacement medals or VA disability exclusions.

While given the scope of the tall tales here for this guy this s not the case.

We should remember that we ALSO have a lot of Vets hobbling around that were denied awards and benefits and some called lairs.
----------------------------

BTW: SOME REAL Vietnam POW Numbers
1 Successful escape just 1.
December 31, 1968 - 2Lt Rowe, a Special Forces, was captured in 1963. He finally killed a guard and after 5 years as a POW escaped.

Total US POW'S
1200-1400 suspected 627 confirmed.
591+/- POWs were released to U.S. authorities
Lao's Pathet Lao was still held as many 28 in 1987 after giving up a few token POW's

Less we forget about 5 years after the war and previous final Official POW release, PFC Garwood showed up and was immediately labeled collaborator http://www.3rdmarines.net/Garwood_intro.htm
for political reasons. He pointed out other still in Vietnam. The DOD immediately labeled them deserters that the Communist welcomed... Yeah sure while NVA is "re-educating Millions, massive boat people leaving and the NVA welcome Americans.

Never trust a politician to bring them all back unless there's votes in it.

Dixieman
20082
Points
Dixieman 06/29/14 - 11:20 am
9
1
Why are we opposed?

I'm a Vietnam veteran too.
I do not lie about my service record.
I do not respect those who do.
They dishonor themselves and attempt to dishonor the rest of us.
Mr. Chavous deserves credit for having served and doing what he actually did.
Unfortunately, he undermined the credit he did deserve for this by his many very large falsehoods which he repeated over many, many years. His presentation to the court was not an isolated incident but part of a long pattern of serious deception.
This is indefensible.
Those of us who also served in Vietnam are right to call him out on this and set the record straight.
In fact, anyone who cares about the truth is entitled to do so.
If my uncle did this I would be ashamed, not defensive.

nocnoc
56952
Points
nocnoc 06/29/14 - 11:40 am
3
1
Well said DixieMan

Well said.

vls214
29
Points
vls214 06/29/14 - 11:46 am
1
7
DIXIEMAN.........

Your ignorant comments only confirmed my prior opinion of you. 1. I'm quite certain your life has involved lies, both big and small. You are FAR from perfect and the more you speak, the more you prove it. 2. My opinion of my Uncle is of NO concern to you. In our family, we love with no special conditions or stipulations. Obviously you haven't experienced the same type of love....maybe if you had, you wouldn't be such a bitter, rude jerk. 3. I'm curious how you will react when the FACTUAL truth is revealed......you don't know as much as you think you do.

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 06/29/14 - 11:51 am
0
0
the punk
Unpublished

must be obama's half-brother. they can tell a lie and make bureaucrats believe anything.

Riverman1
106745
Points
Riverman1 06/29/14 - 11:57 am
4
2
Hillary Too

A comment on another thread reminded me of Hillary's false claim they were firing on her at the airport in Bosnia.

Pops
19705
Points
Pops 06/29/14 - 11:58 am
4
1
I went to the Augusta Archives

and read the 1994 article on Chavous. He claims in the article to have served FIVE tours in Vietnam......also that he was a lieutenant. He ought to sue Sylvester Stallone for ripping off his life story in the "Rambo" series........

Riverman1
106745
Points
Riverman1 06/29/14 - 12:23 pm
5
0
Attack on Dixieman

I know Dixieman's history and he was a company commander in Vietnam. As a peon, small cog in the wheel, in the Army who knew how hard Vietnam company commanders had it, I can tell you that was not an easy thing. It's unfair to attack him because he was instrumental in bringing Chavous' lies into the light.

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