Posted August 8th, 2007 by lex
I’ve been around long enough to understand that you take what you read in major media with at least a grain of salt, especially if it concerns the military, and most especially if a defense lawyer is a source for the story. But if this tale is even 10% true, you have to wonder who’s driving the bus over in bus driver land.
To summarize, the Washington Post writes that a USAF airman who had accused three fellow servicemen of raping her decided not to cooperate in the investigation, citing the stress of the judicial process. The Air Force dropped rape charges against the three, choosing instead to punish them through a non-judicial, or administrative process. They then turned around and immunized the accused from further punishment so long as they agree to testify against – wait for it – the woman who had accused them of raping her.
I certainly hope there’s more to this, because, as a Texas jurist once opined, we do not hang men for stealing horses – we hang them that horses might not be stolen. The UCMJ exists to maintain good order and discipline in the service, and with that in mind it seems clear to me that there can only be one set of victims here: Either the woman fraudulently accused the men of an assault for which she – and she alone – should be punished, or having been assaulted she has chosen not to press charges, which is her perfect right and the Air Force, having been denied a provable legal case, instead pursued administrative punishment against her attackers.
But by punishing the men administratively and then turning around and subjecting their accuser to court martial proceedings, the service is trying to have it both ways – on its face, this seems mere petulance. It may be legally defensible, but it’s a public relations disaster, not to mention the message that it sends to both to predators and any their future victims.
At the very best, the service has provided the “Law and Order” television franchise with fodder for its six billionth episode. At worst, it seems to me, it’s shooting itself in the foot.
What a mess.