It is nearly unheard of for a military officer to stand trial, or even
be publically accused of sexual misconduct. Military records over the
last few years, however, are now showing that this culture of silence
and shielding military leaders from these allegations is slowly eroding.
Stars and Stripes reports, pressure on the military from Washington D.C. to crack down on
sex crimes has made its way into the upper ranks. In the last six months,
four colonels from the Army, the Air Force and the Marines have been charged
with sexual assault. A Navy captain has also been found guilty of abusive
How rare is it for a military officer to be publically charged and tried
for these kinds of offenses? During last federal fiscal year, 116 officers
were tried, discharged, or punished following a sexual misconduct investigation.
That number is more than double the number the Defense Department has
on record for three years earlier. In fact, eight of those cases were
against officers of colonel/Navy captain rank or higher. Eight may seem
small but, in 2012, that number was two.
"There's not a lot of transparency when it comes to senior-officer
misconduct," former Air Force chief prosecutor Don Christensen told
Stripes. "They don't like the American public knowing what's going
on, so they drag their heels in getting information out."
The prevailing attitude among the ranks now seems to be that officers will
be held to the same standard their subordinates-- and reporting of officer
misconduct has slowly improved. "We've made it abundantly clear
that this [sexual assault] is not tolerable," says Nathan Galbreath,
who serves as senior executive adviser for the Pentagon's Sexual Assault
Prevention and Response Office. "The numbers suggest that people
are reporting when they see the officers appointed above [committing a
crime], and they really do expect that their bosses walk the walk and
talk the talk."
Cases Breaking the "Taboo"
Those that know how rare it is for military officers to be accused and
tried for sexual offenses often point to the case of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey
Sinclair as a significant turning point. In 2013, Sinclair was court-martialed
by the Army for sodomy, adultery, and other offenses. While the general
escaped jail via a plea deal, the case nonetheless "shattered"
the taboo of publically charging high-ranking military officers for sexual
assault. It had only been the third time in six decades that a defendant
of that rank, facing allegations of that kind, had been tried in a military
The change in tide, however, appears most evident in a more recent case
of Captain Brian K. Sorenson, leader of a U.S.S. Anzio, a guided missile
cruiser. Last August, Sorenson reportedly got intoxicated in a Virginia
pub with his fellow sailors, only to later inappropriately touch a female
sailor, make verbal advances towards her, and even command her to report
to his quarters. Sorenson was later confronted by his sailors and blamed
them for letting him get too drunk. Sorenson has since been found guilty
of sexual harassment and conduct unbecoming an officer. He is currently
facing discharge proceedings.
Progress Still to Be Made
As encouraging as the recent statics are, the lack of transparency when
dealing with officer's sexual misconduct is still evident in some
cases. Records show that the Marine Corps filed sex-abuse charges against
one Col. T. Shane Tomko, formerly of the Wounded Warrior Regiment in Quantico.
Those records, however, had to be requested and were initially kept secret
by the Marines. They now show that Tomko is accused of abusive sexual
contact, obstruction of justice, and possession of steroids.
A deeper dig into Tomko's history shows that this is not the first
time he had been accused of sexual assault. One dismissed 2014 lawsuit
against him details an incident with a civilian woman during an official
trip to London and another with a second civilian woman who was working
for the Wounded Warrior Regiment. There was no public announcement of
any of the allegations against Tomko.
If you are a U.S. military servicemember facing a criminal charge or adverse
administrative action, then
Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law is ready to advocate for you. Attorney Jordan is a 10+ year veteran of
the U.S. Army who now dedicates his firm to the defense of the accused
in our armed services. He has traveled the world to protect the rights
of his clients and is ready to help navigate your case to the best possible outcome.
Answer the allegations against you with powerful representation by your side.
Contact our firm today to request a free case evaluation.