In last week’s post, we discussed the recommendation made after Sgt. Bergdahl’s Article 32 hearing. As readers may recall, the number refers to a provision in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Today’s post provides an update into the procedural wheels of the military’s criminal justice system at work.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice criminalizes behaviors that might be inconsequential or even commonplace in the civilian context, such as fraternization, missing work or insubordination. In the military, such behaviors could result in prosecution in the form of a court-martial. If that proceeding results in a conviction, severe punishments may attach, including a loss of one's military benefits and/or discharge.
There are parallels that can be drawn between the military courts-martial process and a criminal proceeding in the civilian context. Just as civilian police forward their investigation to a district attorney who makes the decision of whether to press charges, so do military commanders make a decision after conducting a preliminary inquiry. Not every inquiry may progress to a court-marital proceeding under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
In the civil arena, a party that loses at trial may have appeal options. In the military system, however, a recent article suggests that there is inadequate appellate review.
According to a recent news release from the Judge Advocate General's office, a U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. stationed at a domestic air force base was recently court-martialed on sexual abuse and assault charges.
In many justice proceedings, both in the civilian world and in the military alike, whether or not an accused committed a certain act is not at issue.
It is generally understood -- certainly by members of the armed forces -- that free speech is not quite as unfettered generally as it is in the civilian world. Servicemembers don't openly question their superiors about orders received. Troops don't publicly denigrate the president -- who is their commander in chief -- or matters of military policy.
Should this be a big deal or not?
The following narrative provides both a summary review of an ongoing sexual assault case with an Air Force Academy nexus and -- in a larger sense -- an overview of some of the predominant problems and issues that can feature in a sex-based criminal case.
It is understatement to note that a military blog must necessarily trace material developments that unfold regarding Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.