Azimuth Check: Military Sexual Assaults

Just a few notes, and perhaps a bit of direction, about the recent hubbub regarding Army and Air Force sexual assault commission personnel.Compass

Army

Yesterday, the story broke about an Army Sergeant First Class who worked as a battalion sexual assault prevention and response coordinator at Ft. Hood, TX. Evidently, he is being accused of some flavor of sexual assault, maltreatment of a subordinate, and pandering. The pandering charge will be particularly interesting from a Jerry Springer perspective.

Let’s start with the bad stuff.

  • What he is alleged to have done is bad. Assuming it is true, people have been harmed as well as the reputation of the Army. Nobody should ever be the victim of sexual assault/sex-related misconduct.
  • He was a trained leader in the sexual assault prevention community. Not only has he received days and weeks of training, but he also delivered the training to others. If anyone should know better, it is him.
  • As a Sergeant First Class, this is an individual who is regularly trusted with higher levels of responsibility compared to the average Noncommissioned Officer.
  • Pandering? Oh, this has the potential of being interesting, and salacious.
  • He is part of a bigger, well-documented problem.

There’s the bad. Now, let’s give ourselves some perspective.

  • He is a battalion sexual assault response coordinator. In the Army sexual assault prevention community, he is a small fish. Unlike the Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who currently faces prosecution in Washington, DC, this Sergeant First Class is not a bigwig on the policy level. Not even close. As a battalion coordinator, he oversees approximately .13% of the Army’s sexual assault prevention, response, and training programs (assuming he is in a particularly large battalion).
  • His primary duties? Teaching classes and referring allegations of sexual assault to more competent agencies for support and investigation. He probably also tracks statistics within the battalion.
  • At the battalion level, the job of sexual assault prevention coordinator is not a full-time job (there’s not enough work to justify having someone doing it full time). So, he is someone in anther job who is pulled to perform the SARC job as an extra duty. So, aside from some additional training, there is nothing that makes him particularly special.

Air Force

The Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski alleged sexual assault is a bit different. He headed the program at Department of the Air Force level and was, truly, at the strategic policy level. His is worthy of much more attention than that of the Ft. Hood Sergeant First Class.

Even so, some interesting developments arise from this case.

First, Ms. Petula Dvorak at WaPo published a very harsh take on Air Force culture, making many insinuations that seem to belie a hard-nosed bias. (H/T to CAAFlog) She ends her article with the following:

Hey, Pentagon commanders: Look beyond that 395 freeway on-ramp, just past the McDonald’s and Macy’s, and see how allegations of sexual assault ought to be dealt with. Like a potential crime.

OK, let’s see the folks in the DC area school us on how to handle sexual assaults. I’m waiting to see the blood-splatter.

Per US News:

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, maintained a stoic facial expression throughout his brief arraignment. He did not speak, except briefly to acknowledge that he understood his charge of sexual battery.

Wow. Sexual battery sounds harsh. I bet they’re going to teach him a very powerful lesson. He’s really in for it.

The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine.

Ummm. Misdemeanor? No more than 1 year? Wow, Petula, so this is how we should deal with sexual assault?

Let’s see how the military would probably charge him. This is just my guess from a brief (but action-packed) stint as a military prosecutor. Given the notoriety, I don’t think it would be a stretch. After all, there are some important military people who are a bit pissed that their efforts to deal with military sexual assaults are harmed by his alleged actions.

  • Wrongful Sexual Contact (Article 120). This is the typical charge for run-of-the-mill ass-grabs (even drunk ones). Must register as a sex offender in most states. Maximum punishment: 1 year confinement and a Dishonorable Discharge. Assuming that the evidence is solid, this is an easy guilty verdict for prosecutors.
  • Conduct Unbecoming an Officer (Article 133). Assuming he is found guilty of Wrongful Sexual Contact, this is a gimme. It adds one year to the potential maximum confinement and also carries the possibility of a Dishonorable Discharge (called a “Dismissal” for officers).

Granted, all of these are maximum punishments. As Ken White at Popehat has frequently noted, maximum punishments are rarely approached, especially for first-time offenders. However, considering his rank and position coupled with the dishonor he brought to the Air Force, a dismissal is very likely, and that cuts-off all meaningful military benefits and stigmatizes him for life. Those folks just past McDonald’s and Macy’s can’t give him one of those, Ms. Dvorak. Only at court-martial.

An Anecdote (because certain blawgers just love anecdotes)

I’ll never forget a case from years ago during my aforementioned stint as a prosecutor. A soldier was accused of sexual assault off of the military installation, giving local authorities equal right to prosecute. I called the local DA to inquire about which of us would take the case. His response:

This is a shitty he-said/she-said case. We won’t be wasting our tax payer dollars to prosecute it. It’s all yours.

We took the case. The commanders insisted on prosecuting him to the fullest extent. A panel (jury) found him not guilty. It included a female member who rolled her eyes during my closing argument. We spent over $25,000 to prosecute the case (not including the man-hours for judge, prosecutors, appointed defense, jury members, court reporter, and paralegal support).

Most military prosecutors have a story like this, but you don’t hear about those statistics.

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3 thoughts on “Azimuth Check: Military Sexual Assaults

  1. With regard to your anecdote (and who doesn’t love a personal anecdotes):

    You clearly don’t understand, but that’s because you’re a man and lack the sensitivity to appreciate the error of your thinking. Even if a woman falsely accuses a man of an improper sexual act, not because she has misperecieved something or is overly sensitive, but because it never came close to happening, she must still be believed and she is still the victim. The accussation never specifically occurred is irrelevent, as she suffers nonetheless from societal gender oppression, and is therefore entitled to accuse regardless.

    Until you men understand this, women will continue to be oppressed in our society and every man, regardless of what he has done or not done, is guilty. Guilty, guilty, guilty!

  2. A question: It used to be the case in every jurisdiction that in rape cases that the judge would instruct the jury that (1) rape is a very easy charge for the alleged victim to make, (2) it is very difficult for the accused to defend and (3) therefore, the alleged victim’s testimony must be scrutinized very closely, especially when there is no corroborating evidence (i.e., when the only evidence against the accused is the alleged victim’s testimony). This instruction has always struck me as common sense. but I think every state now prohibits it from being given. I assume that the instruction is also prohibited in cases of sexual abuse or the like, but I don’t know.

    My question: Do military courts give this instruction or is it prohibited there as well?

    • The military instructions are very bland and general. They address the fact that the jury (panel) must weigh the evidence and testimony, but it does not favor either side.

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