Mario Manago, a 12-year-veteran of the U.S. Air Force was fired and convicted of a federal crime for being six minutes late to a meeting with superior officers. He’s now forced to find new employment and an employer willing to look past his curious criminal conviction.
NJ.com reports that Manago requested the meeting himself after filing an official complaint that he felt he was being targeted by superior officers. Manago and his attorney believe that they received this negatively and chose to make their message clear by essentially railroading him.
“When he said I was guilty, it didn’t hit me until after I sat down and thought about it,” Manago said.
To make matters worse, Manago was only late because he wasn’t allowed to leave his post and was denied his request to reschedule the meeting. Before his case could even be taken to a judge who could have overturned it, he learned he had been demoted and was no longer a member of the U.S. Air Force.
“It was not about punctuality. It was about this commander sending a message to Mario and punishing him for complaining,” said Manago’s attorney, Douglas Cody.
Manago’s firing and conviction hint at a larger power imbalance within the military that has apparently been in place for years. It allows superior officers to abuse their authority and maintain a status quo where criticism isn’t welcome or allowed.
“The idea that you can charge someone with a criminal offense for being six minutes late without any aggravating circumstance is very draconian,” Cody said. He went on to call the charge “completely unreasonable.”
When he arrived at the meeting, Manago was forced to read his complaints aloud and was mocked by his “not impressed” commander, Lt. Col. Eric B. Quidley. After the meeting, he was told he’d be charged with being late and three other offenses. All except for the tardiness charge were dropped.