Military Investigation Into Stolen Weapons Fraught With Flaws
Posted March 17, 1998 6:00 a.m. EST
CAMP LEJUNE — A Camp Lejeune Marine who was busted in a major stolen military weapons ring says that there are some major flaws in the investigation. In an exclusive interview with WRAL, he says there are plenty of shortcomings in the sting dubbed Operation Longfuse.
After his arrest last October, Staff Sergeant Timothy Witham was confined in the brig at Camp Lejeune for 79 days. He was released after a judge decided he was not a flight risk. From day one, Witham has insisted that investigators have the wrong man.
Guns, explosives, and other weapons -- all stolen from Marine bases. And, the government says that it happened again last fall. A sting netted 13 arrests including six Marines. Most are from North Carolina, including Staff Sergeant Timothy Witham of Jacksonville.
Witham's wife, Karen, says the weapons charges have shaken the entire family.
But, Navy Criminal Investigator Neill Robbins believes that there is a strong case against Witham and the others.
Witham insists that, at least in his case, the feds arrested the wrong man -- a decorated soldier who has dedicated the last 12 years to the Marine Corps.
Witham showed us reviews dating back to 1991 with high praise -- "far and away, superior to all his peers", "would be outstanding team leader for any deployment", "ready for promotion now!"
The investigation did not turn up any stolen military weapons in Witham's home or business. He believes that an ex-Marine, turned government informant, falsely implicated him.
Witham admits he sells weapons as an ATF-licensed dealer at gun shows. But, he claims he did not attend the shows where the government informant secretly taped conversations in which others tied him to the military theft ring.
The man prosecuting Witham would not give us an on-camera interview. But, over the phone, Captain Michael Richardson said of Witham, "If he is unjustly accused, then he'll be acquited, but we don't believe that is the case."
Witham's court-martial is scheduled to begin in April.