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Air Force sexual assault case attracting wide attention

“Sex crimes cases are notoriously complicated.”

So says a retired senior Army officer and former deputy judge advocate general in commenting on a rape case that is currently receiving wide scrutiny and media attention both within and outside the Armed Forces.

The case involves allegations by a female Air Force sergeant that she was raped by an airman in 2012 at a party. He denies the allegation, and a friend of his who was at the party contradicts much of what the woman says.

The case is notable on several levels of military law. While the airman was facing an Article 32 investigation pursuant to which evidence was being gathered for a potential court-martial, Third Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin exercised his discretionary authority to drop all charges in the case. That action has riled certain lawmakers and victims’ advocates, who say that military commanders -- many of whom lack legal knowledge -- should not have prosecutorial control in criminal matters.

Others disagree, saying that interfering with established precedent could undermine military discipline.

On another level, much attention is being focused on what has been described as an “unusual do-over” that began last month. Following Franklin’s dismissal, senior Air Force officials demanded that a new Article 32 investigation into the case be opened. There has been criticism of that decision, with one military law scholar saying that, “They seem to think they have an excellent system, except when it doesn’t produce the result they want.” He called the do-over “systematically indefensible.”

One victims’ advocate says that the stop-and-go-again manner of the proceeding is hurtful to the alleged rape victim, but she also concedes that it is damaging to the accused, especially given that charges were previously dropped against him.

Source: Stars and Stripes, "Do-over of rape investigation shows complexities of military sexual assault problem," Chris Carroll, Jan. 16, 2014

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