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Documents reveal chaotic military sex-abuse record

TOKYO (AP) - At U.S. military bases in Japan, most service members found culpable in sex crimes in recent years did not go to prison, according to internal Department of Defense documents. Instead, in a review of hundreds of cases filed in America's largest overseas military installation, offenders were fined, demoted, restricted to their bases or removed from the military.

In about 30 cases, a letter of reprimand was the only punishment.

More than 1,000 records, obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act, describe hundreds of cases in graphic detail, painting a disturbing picture of how senior American officers prosecute and punish troops accused of sex crimes. The handling of allegations verged on the chaotic, with seemingly strong cases often reduced to lesser charges. In two rape cases, commanders overruled recommendations to court-martial and dropped the charges instead.

Even when military authorities agreed a crime had been committed, the suspect was unlikely to serve time. Of 244 service members whose punishments were detailed in the records, only a third of them were incarcerated.

The analysis of the reported sex crimes, filed between 2005 and early 2013, shows a pattern of random and inconsistent judgments:

-The Marines were far more likely than other branches to send offenders to prison, with 53 prison sentences out of 270 cases. By contrast, of the Navy's 203 cases, more than 70 were court-martialed or punished in some way. Only 15 were sentenced to time behind bars.

-The Air Force was the most lenient. Of 124 sex crimes, the only punishment for 21 offenders was a letter of reprimand.

-Victims increasingly declined to cooperate with investigators or recanted, a sign they may have been losing confidence in the system. In 2006, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which handles the Navy and Marine Corps, reported 13 such cases; in 2012, it was 28.

In two cases, both adjudicated by the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, the accusers said they were sexually abused after nights of heavy drinking, and both had some evidence to support their cases. One suspect was sentenced to six years in prison, but the other was confined to his base for 30 days instead of getting jail time.

Taken together, the cases illustrate how far military leaders have to go to reverse a spiraling number of sexual assault reports. The records also may give weight to members of Congress pushing to strip senior officers of their authority to decide whether serious crimes, including sexual assault cases, go to trial.

"How many more rapes do we have to endure to wait and see what reforms are needed?" asked Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., chair of the Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee. She leads a vocal group of lawmakers from both political parties who argue that further reforms to the military's legal system are needed.

Air Force Col. Alan Metzler, deputy director of the Defense Department's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said the department "has been very transparent that we do have a problem." He said a raft of changes in military law is creating a culture where victims trust that their allegations will be taken seriously and perpetrators will be punished.

The number of sexual assault cases taken to courts-martial has grown steadily - from 42 percent in 2009 to 68 percent in 2012, according to DOD figures. In 2012, of the 238 service members convicted, 74 percent served time.

That trend is not reflected in the Japan cases. Out of 473 sexual assault allegations within Navy and Marine Corps units, just 116, or 24 percent, ended up in courts-martial. In the Navy, one case in 2012 led to court-martial, compared to 13 in which commanders used non-judicial penalties instead.

The authority to decide how to prosecute serious criminal allegations would be taken away from senior officers under a bill crafted by Gillibrand that is expected to come before the Senate this week. The bill would place that responsibility with the trial counsel who has prosecutorial experience.

Senior U.S. military leaders oppose the plan.

"Taking the commander out of the loop never solved any problem," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the personnel subcommittee's top Republican. "It would dismantle the military justice system beyond sexual assaults. It would take commanders off the hook for their responsibility to fix this problem."

Gillibrand and her supporters argue that the cultural shift the military needs won't happen if commanders retain their current role in the legal system.

"Skippers have had this authority since the days of John Paul Jones and sexual assaults still occur," said Lory Manning, a retired Navy captain and senior fellow at the Women in the Military Project. "And this is where we are."

Join the discussion

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robert&ruth&ozzy February 09 2014 at 3:06 PM

I'm so happy I served in the "old NAVY" (1963-67) life aboard ship was a helluva lot better the only thing that did any sexual assault was your hand!!

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David S. robert&ruth&ozzy February 09 2014 at 3:24 PM


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macdonnall February 09 2014 at 10:58 PM

While I can never say it didn't happen, I spent several years in uniform and never knew of "forcible rape" committed by anyone in uniform. On the other hand, the uniform, and the good physical condition of the men in uniform, attracted the attention of many women, young and old. I can tell you that the opportunity for consensual interaction was very prevalent. It has always been that way. When our “Yankees” marched into Paris, in WWII, a famous general said “Show me the soldier who doesn’t have sex with a French girl on his next leave into the city; and I will show you a boy who missed a golden opportunity.” So many girls were willing; why force any woman not willing????

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Hilde macdonnall February 10 2014 at 1:17 AM

Why???? 'cause it's about a power trip.

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sexicalibunny macdonnall February 10 2014 at 2:43 AM

exactly so if these studs have the opportunity to have consensual sex well then why are they raping? Hmmm seems ill logical unless you recognize it has nothing to do with sex but power. Men it seems are good enough to run the world and have all the power both domestically and politically but go all to pieces over the fact that there are women about,really?

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Nicholas February 09 2014 at 2:00 PM

No surprise here! As a Non- Commissioned military police office for Operation Enduring Freedom, I was prosecuted on three separate occasions for reporting senior command abuses involving sex abuse and more. I went through a three year battle and won all my appeals proving retribution by command and abuses toward me for speaking out. I was forced to seek Federal Whistle Blower protection because of this. Mean while, the innocent suffered and the guilty went on to do more damage to the innocent. It took 3 years for me to clear my name at the loss of my career, my health and my promotions. This happened before all of these other problem came to light and ended up an International incident.

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usci1 February 09 2014 at 1:17 PM

Can't the military guys on leave afford to pay for a lady of the night? Just asking. "Rape" is not acceptable. It is NON CONSENTUAL, non American in spirit of service, and abuse.
During WWII getting a Good Conduct Medal was a big honor and valuable after the 2WW in getting benefits from military service. My father served in Merril's Marauders and got the Good Conduct Metal, amongst others, and he was treated royaly wherever he went and the banks were available to him for special financial services and preferential treatment. Maybe our country should reinstate that policy as an incentive for "Good Behavior" while in military service?

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1 reply
David S. usci1 February 09 2014 at 3:13 PM

That has gone on since the beginning of time and always will.....as far as "ladies of the night." Problem is, some guys see an available woman in their own ranks, something previous generations of miitary did not......and think they are also available to be used.....

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retnav1979 February 09 2014 at 11:06 PM

You must have missed the part where I said date rape so no I wasn't there. I do however know the character of the 2 people involved. In a he said she said with no physical evidence that is what should matter and yes I'll say it, "Sexual History" of both parties is relevant.

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1 reply
retnav1979 retnav1979 February 09 2014 at 11:08 PM

This was to LONNIE

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rutch8 February 09 2014 at 1:07 PM

when a women is raped it's terrorism to a women. should be sentenced as a terror crime!

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mail hound February 09 2014 at 1:06 PM

All rapists should be in prison regardless of whether or not they are in the military. Of course, if you are looking to the military to imprison all of their rapists, that won't happen. They will just release them into society without a record of what they are.

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carbonique February 09 2014 at 12:56 PM

When a military son or daughter intentionally rapes another military son or daughter, it is a crime and it should be treated the same way as it is treated within any community. And, military sons and daughters that do make decisions to rape others, they do know their actions are criminal because they would not be able to serve in the military if they were incompetent. So, it is a crime that should be punished appropriately and I am glad the truth has been revealed about what has been happening to so many human beings that chose to serve their country. With rapist behavior being in the news media, perhaps more military soldiers will think more clearly about who they are and who they represent. And it is horrible to learn some American soldiers are raping their own support system; other soldiers. Also, it hurts those soldiers who know how to represent themselves as symbols of strength and might for their countrymen. Any soldier who commits rape and it is proven to be the truth, needs to spend some time in prison; not in the armed forces of America. I am so thankful my daughter did not join the military as she had intended to do. I cannot imagine how it must feel to proudly join the armed forces and then, to have one of your own rape you. It has to be a life shattering event that changes the course of one's existance. And to see the rapist go without a judgment and punishment from his/her superiors is total injustice and it must definitely add to the life viewpoint of survivors of rape.

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tazgadon February 09 2014 at 5:08 PM

Is there an increase in weak low life men who have to take sex? have record keeping methods improved, or is this a new low in the human quotient?

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1 reply
retnav1979 tazgadon February 09 2014 at 6:03 PM

Or Is there an increase in weak low life women using false allegations as a weapon? How many times have we seen a man wrongfully prosecuted for something that is later proven they did not do. Happens all the time.

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sfrly55 February 09 2014 at 12:37 PM

How is this news? In 2000, Chalmers Johnson's book "Blowback" pointed out that rapes of foreigners are only investigated when the victim is under 12(too many over twelve rapes too be tried if the current defense budget were used for nothing else). Even then the " convicts" are released, and returned to duty with back pay, and lost promotions, when they return to the states.

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