New Law Requires Civilian Review of California Military Sexual Assault Cases


California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law on Thursday a bill that will take the prosecution of military sexual assault cases out of the chain of command and into the hands of civilian prosecutors in the state.

Currently, when a member of the state military is charged with sexual assault, the investigation and prosecution of the case is done within the military system and by military lawyers. The bill, SB 1422, removes such cases from the jurisdiction of military lawyers. The only exception would be when a civilian prosecutor refuses to see the case on behalf of the state.

The law also will require that the California Military Department annually report sexual assault incidents and plans for the prevention of sexual assault to the state government.

In 2013, the Pentagon released a report finding that 26,000 men and women in the military were sexually assaulted the previous year. Of those, only 3,374 cases were reported. Two days before the report was released, an Air Force officer responsible for sexual assault prevention programs was charged with sexual battery.

This year, the Pentagon found that cases of reported sexual assault increased to 5,061, or by 50 percent. But of those reported cases, only about 10 percent went to trial.

Advocates for reforms to the military’s handling of sexual assault have long been trying to pass on a federal level legislation like the new law in California. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) pushed for federal reform legislation that, among other things, took military sexual assault cases out of the chain of command, a reform which she said would encourage reporting and provide for a fair trial. After a long fight for the bill’s passage, the Military Justice Improvement Act (as it was called) was finally blocked earlier this year.

State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), who sponsored the California bill, said in a statement, “Sexual assault is a serious problem throughout our military. While Washington debates how to address this crisis, California can lead by example. Victims of sexual assault deserve our support and a respectful and effective justice system.”

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  • Arekushieru

    YES, this is a freaking AWESOME start!

  • BellsNwhistles

    10 percent went to trial? The military has always known there are many jobs the females can do but few they should be doing. All volunteer military is short brains so female enlisted are enjoying more opportunity.. The need for this military seems to be israels, not USA.

    • Arekushieru

      Few they ‘should’ be doing? Blame the victim much? Why would Israel need the military more than the US? And are you actually saying that women are not as intelligent as their male counterparts? Wow.

    • lady_black

      And who are YOU to determine what females “should” be doing? GFY.

  • fiona64

    Good! When I was sexually assaulted by a soldier (he backed me into a corner and committed frottage) during my last DoD job, the command brushed it under the rug because “we don’t want to damage good soldier’s reputation,” and I was written up for yelling “Get the FUCK away from me” because it was “unprofessional.” When the soldier left the unit, the JAG officer came into my office with the command’s copy of my letter of reprimand, tore it up in front of me and said “this bullshit never happened.”

  • fiona64

    Isaac, you seem to be forgetting that the majority of the time the service members *get away with it.* One-third of female service members will be sexually assaulted during their tour of duty, most often by a colleague/fellow service member. Stop excusing rapists.

    My experience, BTW, is *primary.*

    • Isaac Kennen

      Giving an accused citizen a fair trial before permitting the government to seize their life, liberty, and property is not “excusing rapists.” If there is sufficient evidence to unanimously convince a panel of 12 jurors beyond a reasonable doubt, then punishment should follow. If there is not sufficient evidence, even if the crime actually occurred, then the accused should walk. I am only advocating upholding the Constitution’s demand that our government be one of limited authority. I believe the Government is far more dangerous than any one criminal. It is more important that the government be made to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt than it is to punish the guilty. And, I’m truly sorry that you personally suffered. I hope your assailant was punished, assuming there was sufficient evidence to establish guilt beyond all reasonable doubt in a trial before a 12 member jury, selected to be representative of the community, and who were required to be unanimous in their verdict. (Which rules out a court-martial.)

      • fiona64

        And, I’m truly sorry that you personally suffered. I hope your
        assailant was punished, assuming there was sufficient evidence to
        establish guilt beyond all reasonable doubt in a trial before a 12
        member jury, selected to be representative of the community, and who
        were required to be unanimous in their verdict. (Which rules out a
        court-martial.)

        There were *eye-witnesses* to what happened to me … and my assailant was NOT punished, because “we don’t want to ruin the soldier’s reputation.” As I wrote above, *I* was written up for yelling at him to get the fuck away from me while he was backing me into a corner and rubbing his crotch on me, because my “language was unprofessional.”

        Save your smarminess; you’re a rape apologist.

        • Isaac Kennen

          “Smarminess”… I learn a new word everyday. But, no. My concern is sincere… Well, I guess as sincere as internet concern can be… If your assailant’s “reputation” was the reason no charges were brought despite evidence proving an assault, then that’s a foul. No doubt. All I’m saying to is that your assailant – and all accused persons (sexual assault and other crimes as well – should receive a fair trial, which the military jurisdiction is structurally incapable of giving. I want people held accountable, but I equally want the government to be accountable to the people (via the people’s juries). You’re reading animosity into my posts that simply is not there.

          • fiona64

            You’re right. I think we may actually be in what a former colleague called “violent agreement.” My apologies.

          • Isaac Kennen

            No worries. I like that concept – “violent agreement.”

          • Arekushieru

            Um, assailants more often receive fair trials than the accused person especially if the former is male and the latter is female. And, no, that doesn’t just happen with military court systems.

          • Isaac Kennen

            I think you’re saying victims do not get fair trials in military or civilian courts. If I’m misunderstanding, I apologize. The argument that victims are entitled to a “fair trial” is interesting to me. I don’t think a victim is entitled to anything other than courtesy in a criminal proceeding against his or her alleged attacker. Criminal trials are not victim v. alleged attacker. A criminal trial is the government v. one of its presumed-to-be-innocent citizens. It’s not even the accused who is on trial – he or she is presumed to be wrongfully accused by their government. The point of a trial is to ensure that no citizen can be deprived of life, liberty, or property unless the rest of the citizenry, as represented by their juries, consents. Trials are about keeping the government in check, not vindicating victims. All citizens are entitled to courtesy, but the only ones with “rights to a fair trial” in a criminal court are the alleged offender and the Public itself. We have allowed our thinking regarding trials to be degraded. Americans should see the criminal courts for what they were intended to be – an institution designed ensure the government is subject to the will of its people, not a forum for people to resolve their grievances and achieve their own

          • Arekushieru

            Actually, wrong. When a rapist walks free, his victim pays. When a murderer walks free, their victims’ families pay. Part of the citizenry that is apparently NOT represented by the juries, given how they are selected. But, isn’t the ‘accuser’ supposed to be part of the citizenry that Juries represent? Juries, however, are made up of humans that are just as full of failings as the rest of us. They can, and DO, make presumptions on the prevailing cultural narrative of the patriarchy. Therefore, the people they represent are narrowed even further. Also, when they presume that an accused is wrongfully done so by the government, they must then, in turn, act as if the victim has been rightfully presumed guilty by the government. Thanks.

          • Isaac Kennen

            I agree – giving an accused person the benefit of the doubt and presuming them to be innocent means, inversely, presuming that they’ve been erroneously accused. Giving them the benefit of the doubt means casting a suspicious eye against the key witness against them. We tend to be fine with that in cases with no human victim. Where it becomes hard is when that key witness is sympathetic because they are the victim. But, the alternative is terrifying. You have to ask yourself. Would you want me, as a prosecutor, to be able to drag your son or daughter into a courtroom and try them without permitting them to challenge the testimony of the witnesses I present against them? If the accused was not permitted to cross examine and impeach the complaining witness, I would be able to convict just about anyone so long as the complaining witness was a good enough actor. The idea of hurting a victim’s feelings is not pleasant to anyone, but the alternative – a government without a leash – is more horrible.

          • fiona64

            What Are is getting at is that, in order to create “reasonable doubt” in cases of sexual assault, the victim is put on trial rather than the assailant. “What was she wearing?” “Was she sober?” “Was she a virgin?”

          • Isaac Kennen

            Your case is a clear violation. There’s no accounting for it. But, you’re right, in a way it is the victim on trial. And, I think that’s actually how it is supposed to be. The accused in any trial – including sexual assault – is presumed to be innocent under the law. The alternative, where a citizen has to prove themselves innocent, is terrifying.

            A trial is about subjecting the evidence to fire to see if it holds up under close scrutiny. In a sexual assault case, unfortunately, the only evidence is often the victim’s testimony. Hence, the victim’s testimony is subject to scrutiny. Her clothing becomes relevant if it could cast doubt on some fact she asserts as part of her testimony. Her level of intoxication is relevant if it means her memory of the events in question is less reliable. (I.e., as in any sort of case, a drunk witness is less reliable. That’s not “victim blaming,” that’s just real world experience.) I can’t think of a way that virginity might be relevant, but there might be some case where that is fair game too. Point is – in a free society where the government is supposed to have to prove its case, the key witness will always be scrutinized. In a sex assault case, that’s the victim. It makes us uncomfortable because we’re decent people… But the alternative is tyranny where the government could accuse anyone without fear of its evidence being challenged.

          • fiona64

            And … now we’re right back to where we started, with you being a rape apologist.

          • Isaac Kennen

            Nah. Our differences stem from you being more interested in seeing rapists punished than you are in giving accused persons the benefit of the doubt and making the government prove guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. There’s nothing wrong with that inclination. The legal system is all about trying to strike a balance between those competing viewpoints. It’s just that I don’t strike the same balance you do. I am far more concerned with government power than I am about the feelings of a victim or the evil committed by of an accused. I have no interest in “apologizing” for rapists. My interest is in making the government work for a conviction, and that just happens to benefit accused persons. You shouldn’t assume that means I have any sympathy – at all – for the devils. I also support the death penalty and would not oppose its use on someone who commits a sexual assault and is convicted the right way. I want zealous fair trials that hold the government’s feet to the fire, and I don’t care about the impacts that may have on victims being run through the wringer or accused persons being acquitted when they actually committed the offense.

          • fiona64

            I don’t care about the impacts that may have on victims being run
            through the wringer or accused persons being acquitted when they
            actually committed the offense.

            Thanks for admitting that you don’t give a flying fuck about justice.

          • Isaac Kennen

            It’s not that I don’t care about justice – it’s that justice is not the goal of criminal trials. Adherence to law is the goal. I’m reminded of this story: Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1092 to 1932, famously was listening to the argument of a young lawyer who mentioned at several points in his argument that his client sought justice before the Court. Justice Holmes listened as long as he could and then said, not unkindly, “Young man, let me remind you that this is a court of law and not a court of justice.”

          • Arekushieru

            Then they should be about justice. And if you agree, stop playing Devil’s Advocate, we have enough of that type in this world.

          • Isaac Kennen

            I don’t agree that courts of law should be about justice. That’s because I see a different purpose for them. The reason a criminal court exists is not to vindicate those who have been wronged, but to act as a check on the power of the government to harm citizens it claims have done something wrong. That’s why courts are not about “justice” but instead are about law – and making the government accountable to law, because otherwise the government is accountable to nothing. I put justice in quotes above to make another point – there is no consensus on what justice is. Every person defines it differently depending on the crime. Law, on the other hand, is less subjective, which makes it more appropriate for courts to be led by.

  • Isaac Kennen

    This article contains a misleading line: “Two days before the report was released, an Air Force officer responsible for sexual assault prevention programs was charged with sexual battery.” The truth is that Lieutenant Colonel Kruzinski was arrested on suspicion of sexual battery. However, at his arraignment before a civilian court in Arlington, VA, he was only charged with assault consummated by a battery. An Arlington county civilian jury then fully acquitted Kruzinski of any wrongdoing. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/jeffrey-krusinski-air-force-colonel-accused-of-assault-goes-on-trial-in-arlington/2013/11/13/04aa0dfa-4c9f-11e3-ac54-aa84301ced81_story.html

    The Kruzinski story is actually a good illustration for how civilian judicial processes are better for the accused than military trials. If Kruzinski had been tried by a military court, the jury wouldn’t have had to have been 12 members strong, they would have been hand picked by the prosecuting authority, and they could have convicted with only a 2/3 majority rather than having to be unanimous. Winning a conviction before a 12 member civilian jury that is randomly selected and required to be unanimous is a good bit tougher. California might not be doing victims any favors by giving their assailants civilian (fair?) trials.

    • Arekushieru

      Just because someone was acquitted doesn’t mean that they didn’t actually commit the assault.

      • Isaac Kennen

        Agreed. Just like a conviction does not mean that the person actually committed the crime. Guilty people walk everyday, and innocent people are convicted everyday. But, a conviction means actual guilt is more likely, just as an acquittal means actual innocence is more likely. It’s not a certainty either way; it’s all about what is more likely to be true.

        • Arekushieru

          True. I cannot disagree with you, there.

  • http://www.BR-549.com Junior Samples

    George Washington Drummed Out Soldier for ‘Infamous Crime’ of Attempted ‘Sodomy’ (Homosexual conduct)
    http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/george-washington-drummed-out-soldier-infamous-crime-attempted-sodomy

  • Bobbie Garnet Bees

    I still see a major problem here. The military is still going to have to investigate these crimes. And we all know how reluctant the military is to do a proper investigation. They can do the investigation in such a sloppy manner that no conviction will ever result.

    Investigation and prosecution MUST be stripped from the military ASAP!