The story focuses on the U.S.S. Enterprise visiting a planet that was supposed to be the technological equivalent of ancient Rome and somehow had energy weapons.
The key “legal villain” in the story is the former captain of the Enterprise, Robert April. Well, and barbaric aliens called the Shadows. And maybe a Bajoran woman named Mudd.
Only if you are a hard core geek do you know of Commodore Robert April from the animated series where the Enterprise crew was aging backyards. However, in the “new” timeline, April was not captain of the Enterprise that was also captained by Christopher Pike and then James T. Kirk, but a prior Enterprise (based on the Captain’s Chair, possibly the 1701 from The Original Series that was decommissioned for the new 1701). He never made the rank Commodore and spent 20 years going rogue.
How is Robert April the “villain”? He deserted his Enterprise, thanks to a cover-up by his First Officer, to stop the minority of a pre-warp society from being butchered by the majority known as Shadows.
This is also a crime, because April willfully violated the Prime Directive. For those who do not know the actual text of the Prime Directive, it states the following:
As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Star Fleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes introducing superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Star Fleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship, unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation.
How did April violate the Prime Directive? He armed the inhabitants of Phaedus IV with Federation weapons in their civil war and became the “leader” in the minority’s fight against the Shadows.
It is highly unlikely a JAG officer will make an appearance in the story, but it is obvious that Captain April can be charged, and convicted, of a violation of the Prime Directive. His former First Officer also could be charged with a conspiracy to violate the Prime Directive and any subsequent crime by April in furtherance of the conspiracy. However, the former XO might not be responsible for additional arms smuggling, as that arguably is outside the scope of the original conspiracy for April to leave the Enterprise to help fight against the Shadows. It would all depend whether the Executive Officer contacted the arms dealers.
Of course, this is a Star Trek story. Let’s see how the story unfolds Into Darkness…