(4/7/14) Last November, we ran an article highlighting the Department of Defense’s (DoD) inability to deal with sexual misconduct in the armed services along with the efforts of one U.S. Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), to solve the problem. The legislation she sponsored, which would have been part of the 2014 DoD Appropriations Bill, called for an independent system when investigating and prosecuting sexually-related complaints in the military. Even though this effort was made on the heels of a 37% year-over-year increase in sexual assault cases in the military, it was ultimately defeated as federal lawmakers voted to let such cases remain under the purview of military chains of command.
Let’s see how that’s working out.
Two years ago, a female Army officer lodged a sexual assault complaint against a Brigadier General who was a top U.S. commander in Afghanistan at the time. In addition to the assault complaint, the accuser also alleged that the commander made death threats against her.
The case, prosecuted by the Army under 2014 rules which omitted Gillibrand’s proposed independent solutions, was just resolved at Fort Bragg, NC after the accused, Jeffrey Sinclair, eventually admitted guilt as part of a plea agreement at his court martial. In addition to pleading guilty to adultery, obstructing justice, criminal cruelty and maltreatment regarding his accuser, he also admitted to committing travel fraud and having two other improper relationships. The charges in his court martial could have landed him in prison for the rest of his life and/or resulted in dismissal from the service (which would have equated to a dishonorable discharge).
The sentence imposed by the military court: A reprimand, a $20,000 fine and approximately $4,000 in restitution for the travel fraud. No jail time. No dismissal.
In a statement following the conclusion of the court martial, Sen. Gillibrand remarked, “This case has illustrated a military justice system in dire need of independence from the chain of command.” We’re going to differ slightly and point out that the system illustrated that need well before this case, but the results of this episode certainly show something still quite amiss when predatory conduct by those entrusted with leadership responsibilities is dealt with by, essentially, a wrist slap from people inside the same system.
What do you think? We really want to know.