In the midst of the on-going coverage of BGen Sinclair’s court-martial (the “Poppa Panda Sexy Pants” case), the Secretary of Defense issued a memo this week addressing “Sexual Assault Prevention and Response.” The memo outlined seven initiatives designed to “enhance oversight, investigative quality, pretrial investigations, and victim support” in sexual assault and sexual harassment situations.
This memo is in line with the Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel (576 panel), which is currently conducting an “independent review and assessment of the [DOD] systems used to investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate crimes involving adult sexual assault and related offenses under article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, for the purpose of developing recommendations concerning how to improve the effectiveness of those systems.”
As long as sexual assault allegations and offenses continue to receive this level of scrutiny in the military, courts-martial face the danger of unlawful command influence, convictions based on insufficient evidence, and unduly severe sentences. The best protection from these threats is competent and committed legal counsel. Servicemembers suspected or accused of a crime should ensure that they discuss their rights with legal counsel as soon as possible.