Did Deryk Schlessinger – the soldier son of syndicated talk show host Dr. Laura who’s currently serving in Afghanistan – post images of rape, murder, torture, and child molestation on his MySpace page?
The official answer to that question is an unequivocal “maybe” – the Army will only confirm that the investigation is complete, but will not discuss whether Schlessinger was at fault or whether he was reprimanded. All that Lt. Col. David Accetta, the Army’s spokesman in Afghanistan, could offer via email from his post in Bagram was, “The investigation is complete and the unit commander took appropriate action based on the results. Any disciplinary action taken is not publicly releasable nor are the specific allegations or investigation results.” Accetta said he could not discuss more because he was obligated to protect Schlessinger’s privacy.
It seems the final chapter has an open ending in the Deryk Schlessinger saga, which began last May when Salt Lake Tribune reporter Matthew LaPlante discovered that the son of Santa Barbara resident Laura Schlessinger, a.k.a. Dr. Laura, was the subject of a military investigation. Tipped off by a former schoolmate of the soldier’s, LaPlante reported that Deryk Schlessinger’s MySpace page was awash in objectionable material, from the aforementioned images to written entries such as “I LOVE MY JOB, it takes everything reckless and deviant and heathenistic and just overall bad about me and hyper focuses these traits into my job of running around this horrid place doing nasty things to people that deserve it . . . and some that don’t.”
When Independent.com repackaged and localized LaPlante’s story on May 22, it became one of our most emailed and widely read articles to date. It was then also picked up by both the Los Angeles Times, who interviewed this reporter, and the Washington Post, among other newspapers. Since then, multiple people have called The Independent asking what happened to the investigation, and that public interest is the primary reason for this update.
While LaPlante apparently tipped off the Army about Schlessinger’s MySpace page, the Pentagon was already in the midst of shutting down soldier access to such social networking sites because of security concerns and bandwidth pressures. And one of those security concerns was that “our enemies” could be possibly behind objectionable material on soldiers’ websites, according to Army spokesman Robert Tallman. He was quoted in LaPlante’s article as saying, “It may be possible that our enemies are actually behind this. Our enemies are adaptive, technologically sophisticated, and truly understand the importance of the information battlespace. Sadly, they will use that space to promulgate and disseminate untrue propaganda.”
So was it “our enemies” putting offensive material on Deryk Schlessinger’s MySpace page? Nope, and that was the only other confirmation from Lt. Col. Accetta. He explained, “There is no evidence to support any enemy involvement in creating the MySpace webpage. An investigation was conducted by trooper Schlessinger’s chain of command and found nothing that indicated that any foreign government or enemy organization contributed to the webpage.”
But while enemies are off the hook, Accetta isn’t letting off other possible culprits. He continued in his email, “I cannot comment on whether [Schlessinger] was personally responsible for the material, only that our enemies are not responsible. It is entirely possible that other people had access to the computer or webpage and influenced its content.”
With the investigation complete and her son still in Afghanistan, what does Dr. Laura have to say about the situation? “Deryk Schlessinger is proudly serving his country as a soldier in the Middle East,” wrote her PR manager Cecilia Cardenas earlier this week, “and for his protection and the protection of his fellow soldiers abroad, we have no further comment and refer all questions to the U.S. Army.”
And like that, the Deryk Schlessinger/MySpace controversy ends with a whimper.