Air Force Fires Man, Slams Him With Felony For Being 6 Minutes Late

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The father of six said he wanted to retire from the Air Force, but now it looks like he’s going to have a hard time finding any job with a criminal record.

A black Air Force officer was charged with a felony and discharged from service, just for being six minutes late for a meeting.

Mario Manago of Willingboro, New Jersey, was court-martialed on March 9 for being late to an appointment — a meeting that he himself requested to address concerns that he was being treated unfairly by his superior officers at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington County.

Manago’s trouble began in 2016 when he complained to his supervisors about the problems he saw in a mission and the way he was being treated. He said the whistle blowing memos he wrote about his concerns aggravated his superiors who would hit back at him with an imaginary offenses.

However, the real trouble started when he scheduled a meeting with Lt. Col. Eric B. Quidley but was told by his senior that he couldn’t leave his post because things were too busy. He tried to reschedule his meeting but his request was denied. Afraid he would be charged with dereliction of duty if he left his post, Manago stayed to finish his task.

Consequently, when he reached the meeting, he was six minutes late and Quidley told him he was “not impressed” with him. The lieutenant colonel also made him read out his own memos and mocked them.

After his meeting was finished, Manago was told he was going to be charged for being late. He said he declined non-judicial punishment and opted for court-martial because the former would give his commander the ability to demote him.

However, even before the judge could decide whether he should be punished, Manago’s commander demoted him. The Air Force has a rule the limits the age of a senior airman and because Manago is now above that cap, he will be honorably discharged coming weekend.

“When he said I was guilty,” Manago said. “It didn't hit me until after I sat down and thought about it: I am a felon for being six minutes late to a meeting I requested, that was about wrongdoing. Something is wrong.”

The 33-year-old, who is married and is a father of six, said he wanted to retire from the Air Force, but now it looks like he’s going to have a hard time finding any job with a criminal record.

“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 of Hammonton.

The lawyer said Manago’s inability to come to the meeting on time because of his unwillingness to abandon his post on the base was not a serious offense.

“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. Coupled with the fact that the meeting was being called because of Manago’s alleged mistreatments, the charges seemed “completely unreasonable.”

“It's a reflection of leadership that doesn't care about the people it's supposed to take charge of and take care of,” he said.

Manago doesn’t think his African heritage played a big part in the Air Force’s decision but did say a study released last week by the nonprofit group Protect Our Defenders, claimed black people in the Air Force were 71 percent more likely to face military charges.

The Air Force has denied these charges and a spokesman, Sean Eagan, said Manago’s allegations that he was treated spitefully were investigated and found to be false. He also confirmed that Manago was indeed punished for being six minutes late.

“The U.S. Air Force, out of mission necessity, expects discipline from our military members and for airmen to conduct themselves in accordance to Air Force standards and core values,” Eagan said in a statement. “Accordingly, it is a commander's responsibility to hold the members of the unit accountable for misconduct.”

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