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Cadet's case shows sensitivity of sex crimes in the military

Whenever a person is accused of a sex crime, intense scrutiny is applied. In addition to negative media attention, entire communities can turn against a person even before a trial has taken place.

The same can be said for sexual misconduct cases in the military, but the pressure is even more significant. Even the slightest hint or suggestion of a sex-related offense can set off a flurry of attention and scrutiny. No matter how a case turns out, the very possibility of a court-martial could end a person's military career.

A recently resolved court-martial case exemplifies this issue. At the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, a male cadet was accused of inappropriately touching a female cadet as she slept in her bunk. The accused cadet said that he accidentally stumbled into the fellow cadet's room while he was under the influence of alcohol. He mistook her room for his girlfriend's quarters.

Despite the apparent mix-up, the cadet still faced the possibility of a court-martial at the very beginning of his career. Ultimately, the young man will not be court-martialed, but he will still receive an undisclosed punishment. Even though the court-martial was dismissed, the non-judicial punishment issued could still remain on file, which could create a negative bias against the man if he spends more time in the military.

Given the sensitivity of sex crimes in the military, there is little room for mistakes in launching a defense. Keeping this in mind, it may be critical to be thoughtful and strategic in approaching accusations in military court.

Source: The Washington Post, "Coast Guard cadet won't be court-martialed," June 12, 2014

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