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Drug records requested in court-martial

An attorney for an Air Force pharmacist accused of misusing drugs during Operation Desert Storm says the government has failed to provide the pharmaceutical "paper trail" that could prove his client's innocence. Attorney George Tragos told military Judge James J. Blommers Wednesday that "tons" of documentation tracking the shipment of drugs from MacDill Air Force Base to Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf conflict have not been handed over, making a defense of Air Force Capt. Roger E. Mansfield impossible.

Tragos indicated complete supply records would show that Mansfield, a St. Petersburg resident attached to the 56th Medical Group deployed to the Middle East, could not have "made a theft of something that wasn't there."

The civilian attorney also said he would ask the judge to suppress Mansfield's confession. Tragos said Mansfield's statements concerning allegations that he stole and used pharmaceutical drugs while overseas were given involuntarily.

The court-martial of Mansfield, which could result in his imprisonment for more than 35 years, has gained wide attention because the defendant claims he is being made a scapegoat to cover up what he says was widespread drug abuse during the war.

In a letter asking for a congressional investigation, Mansfield asserted that troops used hospital drugs to relieve the tension or boredom of active duty in a country where Islamic law makes consuming alcohol illegal.

The MacDill-based pharmacist also claimed that he filled numerous prescriptions for tranquilizers for senior officers and that certain drugs, particularly the anesthetic isoflurane, disappeared from pharmaceutical supplies during his stint in Saudi Arabia.

The court-martial is to start after defense motions, which began Wednesday, have been ruled upon by Blommers.

Air Force Capt. Gregory Pavlik, one of the judge advocate general prosecuting for the government, said Tragos' request for pharmaceutical supply documents was "a fishing expedition" into "a bottomless pit."

But Blommers indicated he favored granting a delay of the court-martial until the defense has received records to show what drugs went to Saudi Arabia, which ones were dispensed there and which ones were returned to MacDill after the war.

He gave attorneys until today to meet with military supply experts and agree on what kinds of records are available and how they most easily can be obtained.