August 15th, 2013
Unintended legal loophole for accused military sexual offenders
No one can reasonably approve of military officers who rape and sexually assault fellow soldiers and sailors. Of course, their attorneys must defend them, but the public need not support them. Given that the Dept. of Defense estimates that 26,000 individuals were sexually assaulted last year, there is suddenly recognition of the scope of the problem. Stopping it is quite a different matter. Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate refused to remove the chain of command provisions for investigating and adjudicating cases. They left it in the hands of generals and admirals.
In May, President Obama said, that sexual offenders in the military ought to be “prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged.” Good leadership, right? Oops. He is also the commander-in-chief which places him at the head of all military operations. His words could be misconstrued as “unlawful command influence.” In other words, his well-intentioned sentiment, siding with victims, could be said to taint future trials, to be somehow prejudicial. Wow. Had he spoken with complete neutrality, he would have been accused of harboring sex offenders.
To date, his comments have been used by defense attorneys and military trial judges in a dozen cases to make it more difficult to achieve convictions or to implement punishment if found guilty.
To dilute the effect of unlawful command influence, Defense Secretary Hagel issued an unusual memo on Aug. 6 to circulate throughout the entire agency.
“There are no expected or required dispositions, outcomes or sentences in any military justice case, other than what result from the individual facts and merits of a case and the application to the case of the fundamentals of due process of law”
In other words, stick to the facts in each case and ignore what the President said. It makes sense. Legal watchdogs consider it unusual.
Both what the President and Secretary said make sense and should help accomplish justice. Here’s hoping the loophole for offenders inadvertently opened by the President has been shut by the Secretary.
Watch the documentary The Invisible War to see the destruction of the lives of good people — women and men — by sexual assault in the military.
Loopholes for offenders can be dangerous for post-military society. Jeremy Goulet was accused of two rapes while on duty at Wheeler AFB, Hawaii but was allowed to resign from the service in 2006. The base commander said the separation was “for the good of the service.”
On Feb. 26, 2013, he gunned down two Santa Cruz, CA police detectives, and was killed in a shootout. The officers had gone to Goulet’s home to arrest him on sexual assault charges. He murdered them both outside his front door.
Thank you USAF commander in Hawaii for thinking of the “good of the service!”
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