Joseph Saveri Law Firm, LLP Obtains Clemency Discharge Status Upgrade for Vietnam Veteran

David Seidel and Steven Williams of the Joseph Saveri Law Firm, LLP have successfully obtained clemency on behalf of Robert Clark, a Vietnam veteran who was court martialed and given a Bad Conduct Discharge for possessing a small amount of marijuana. 

Robert was just 17 when he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1965. He volunteered to serve and specifically requested to be deployed to Vietnam because he wanted to serve his country. Stationed in Da Nang, he worked as a telecommunications clerk in charge of receiving and relaying messages between the United States and the first marine division.

In 1967, Robert was found in possession of a small amount of marijuana and charged with selling it to fellow marines. He maintained the marijuana was for personal use and that he never sold it. Robert used marijuana as self-medication to cope with the extreme stress of serving as a Marine in Vietnam. Nevertheless, for this offense, he was court-martialed, sentenced to three years confinement and hard labor, and given a Bad Conduct Discharge that would stigmatize him for the rest of his life.

In 2005, Robert petitioned the Board for Correction of Naval Records (Board) to upgrade his discharge status, but his petition was denied. (The Marine Corps is under the Department of the Navy).

In 2019, Robert sought the help of Swords to Plowshares, a Bay Area-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting veterans. Swords to Plowshares referred Robert’s case to the Jones Day law firm’s San Francisco office, where David Seidel and other lawyers began preparing a new petition. The case stayed with David after his move to the firm in early 2022.

In December 2022, the firm filed the new petition on Robert’s behalf seeking clemency to upgrade his discharge status. The petition asked the Board to waive the statute of limitations, which had long passed, and argued for clemency based on changes to marijuana laws and military standards, arguing that his punishment was greatly disproportionate to his conduct when viewed through a contemporary lens. The petition also asked for clemency based on a recent psychological evaluation, showing that Robert’s marijuana use was a means of self-medication from the mental stresses of being deployed to Vietnam, thereby mitigating his offense. The petition submitted numerous supportive letters showing how despite being unjustly sentenced and discharged, Robert overcame his Bad Conduct Discharge by pursuing a successful business career and earning the respect and admiration of his colleagues. 

For 55 years, Robert has suffered the pain and stigma of his Bad Conduct Discharge. But in August 2023, the Board and the Secretary of the Navy approved his petition, officially upgrading his discharge status to General (Under Honorable Conditions). The Board’s decision provides long-awaited relief for Robert and his family.

On behalf of Robert, the firm extends its thanks to the many lawyers outside the firm who worked on his petition and helped achieve this just result: Nate Andrews, Tommy Ferdon, Nat Garrett, Maureen Siedor, and Deepa Arora.