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U.S. senator wants info on military's handling of sex crimes cases

Alleged inconsistencies in the outcomes of criminal cases at American military bases in Japan have led to requests from a United States senator for detailed information on cases at several American installations.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wants reports and associated data from Article 32 proceedings related to sexual assault cases at four domestic military bases, as well as courts-martial results of rape and other sex crimes cases.

The four bases are major installations located in Texas, Virginia, California and Ohio, respectively.

Gillibrand specifically wants to know whether the inconsistencies reportedly noted in the Japan cases are isolated or, rather, part of a larger pattern across the entire military.

Gillibrand carries some clout in the matter, being head of the Senate Armed Services personnel panel. Her request is fueled by a recent AP report that she says contains “disturbing evidence” regarding the lenient actions of some base commanders with ultimate authority over sexual assault outcomes.

The senator would strip senior officers of their power to decide what sexual assault cases proceed to trial and what matters should be dismissed.

Military and Defense Department officials concede that there has been a problem regarding sexual assaults in the Armed Forces and that Gillibrand’s request will be responded to without delay.

They add, though, that proactive and responsive actions have already been taken, with one senior officer noting that a culture is being fostered that empowers victims and ensures punishment for wrongdoers.

That is of course a just and necessary imperative, provided that it equally ensures the rights of military members accused of crimes that have not been proven or adjudicated at trial.

Victims and persons who allege criminal behavior in the military obviously need to be treated fairly, with that same fairness being accorded to suspects who have not been adjudged guilty of any crime.

The role of an experienced courts-martial defense lawyer centrally encompasses the assurance that fundamental fairness and due process apply equally to all parties in a criminal matter.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "Senator presses Pentagon to hand over records about sexual assault cases at largest US bases," Richard Lardner and Yuri Kageyama, Feb. 10, 2014

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