In recent years past, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has called for
the installation independent prosecutors into the military justice system
to better identify, try, and prosecute sexual assault offenders. Those
efforts have been narrowly defeated in the Senate, but, as Stars and Stripes
reports, Gillibrand will be re-proposing the amendment to the annual defense
bill this year with new congressional allies and new military sexual assault data.
This week, Gillibrand told the press that she will again propose the use
of independent prosecutors to better employ an impartial perspective on
sexual assault allegations among the ranks. Gillibrand has time and time
asserted that these cases—which are pursued only with the approval
on military commanders—are regularly influenced by cronyism and
"The facts continue to show that the reforms Congress has passed to
date aren’t enough and it’s time to instead put decision-making
power into the hands of non-biased, professionally trained, military prosecutors,"
the senator said in a new statement.
Gillibrand is re-approaching her proposal with new data: she's armed
with a report of 329 separate 2014 sexual assault cases from four major
military bases. In those cases, she found a "troubling command culture"
that often avoided prosecuting sexual assault suspects in favor of light,
non-judicial punishments. "Instead of pursuing justice, it appears
that in many cases, commanders do the exact opposite and use their powers
to dispose of these troubling cases outside of a courtroom," the
In one case, detailed by Military Times, a military investigation determined
an enlisted member physically subdued a woman and sexually assaulted her.
Commanders reviewing the case, however, decided that a court-martial wasn't
necessary and instead elected to demote the Soldier, convicting him of
"The case files suggest a continued large-scale systemic failure and
an ingrained culture that protects the accused and ostracizes the survivor
at the expense of the public and our service members' safety,"
Gillibrand says in the report.
The advocacy group Protect Our Defenders—which is backing Gillibrand's
proposal—has developed a petition that not only appeals for the
president's support but alleges that the Pentagon provided manipulated
military sexual assault data to Congress. Last month, Gillibrand and Congressional
ally Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa called for the White House to investigate
whether or not retired Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm.
Sandy Winnefeld omitted military sexual assault information when testifying
under oath in 2013.
While there has been a big push both inside and outside the military to
quell the prevalence of sexual assault, it is questionable what progress
has been made. In late 2014, a RAND survey revealed that over 60% of military
sexual assault victims believed that they had experienced some form of
retaliation from others—including commanders.
It’s also worth noting that, while Gillibrand is focused on identifying
patterns and trends, each and every case is unique and should be evaluated
on its own merit. Our firm has successfully represented many service members
who have been either wrongfully accused of sexual assault, or have faced
overaggressive prosecution. There is no doubt that the military should
continue to take steps to reduce the prevalence of sexual assault, but
it’s important that the rights of both accusers, and the accused,
are not violated.
If you are a military servicemember facing a criminal allegation, then
Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law is ready to hear your story. Attorney Jordan is a 10+ year U.S. Army veteran
who now protects the rights and interests of armed service members stationed
all over the world.
It is possible to face the allegations against you with a proven advocate
by your side. Contact us today to request your free case evaluation.