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Senator slams Air Force commander for overruling rape conviction
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In a recent editorial written just before a Senate penal hearing on the problem of sexual assault in the military, Senator Claire McCaskill personally denounced an Air Force lieutenant general. The lieutenant general was the commander overseeing the military prosecution for rape. When a military jury's convicted one of his subordinates, the commander unilaterally reversed the conviction, reinstated the convicted rapist, and expunged his record.

While recognizing that military law gives commanders authority to take such an action McCaskill, a former prosecutor and a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was enraged. The Senator has now asked the secretary and chief of staff of the Air Force to personally review the case.

The case came after several years of public scandals about how the military responds to allegations of rape and sexual misconduct in its ranks. Innumerable soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and reservists have come forward with reports of the harrowing retaliation they faced after reporting sex crimes. Many claim they weren't believed or that their abusers weren't prosecuted. Even when prosecutions took place, they virtually never resulted in convictions. Instead, the victims' military careers were often ruined.

The sexual assault conviction last November of an Air Force lieutenant colonel, McCaskill says, seemed like proof the military had begun to take rape and sexual misconduct seriously. The man was sentenced to a year in military prison and dismissed from the service.

Just a few months later, his commander issued his reversal. Under military law, he is not required to provide any reason for his decision.

"As I told military leaders last week," McCaskill wrote, "it's difficult to imagine a sexual assault survivor in that Air Force unit will now come forward."

"[T]he time has come to take a hard look at the rules which allow military commanders to vacate entire jury convictions, expunge criminal records, and reinstate convicted sex offenders to the ranks of our armed forces, without even offering justification," she declared.

Source: Huffington Post, "Their Day in Court," Sen. Claire McCaskill for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 13, 2013

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