I find myself blogging often about court-martial process, reprimand rebuttal delays, and the importance of allowing the framework still in place in the military to work in a fair manner. Many days my efforts are spent keeping the wolves at bay, trying to ensure that no matter the evidence and no matter the allegations, there is fairness in the process. Other days, especially in the administrative arena, victory looks like a few extra days to prepare the written rebuttal. Mostly, however, delays are denied in the name of protecting my client’s right to speedy process and to securing good order and discipline – mind you, my clients aren’t often the object of rigorous supervision while pending their process. I am not entirely sure how the government justifies denying delay requests that I put in on behalf of the client on the basis that my client has a right to a speedy process or trial considering I would not put in a request for delay unless I believed it were in the client’s best interest, but I hear it often. And each time I see it in writing or hear it over the phone, it sounds less and less sincere or admirable.
Be that as it may, steamrolling is commonplace, and regulatory provisions in each of the services largely permit it. What is becoming more and more frequent are the threats of proceeding at an administrative separation board (for enlisted) or a board of inquiry (for officers) without the desired, hired, and willing civilian defense counsel. Regulatory provisions require that a respondent’s right to civilian counsel is not unfettered, that the process cannot be needlessly delayed to accommodate the counsel’s schedule.
Despite the constant onslaught of process that feels more like the proverbial head against a brick wall of bureaucracy, refusing to yield, there are days when all of the work, the nights of thirty-minute power naps, and the pressure float away. Today is one of those days. Today, a glimmer of justice crept through the barrage of rancor, truth rang out (however quietly), and a senior leader made the right call. Today, justice happened. And not justice the way the government envisions. No one went to jail, no one became a registered sex offender, and no one lost his livelihood. Today, a senior leader ripped up a piece of paper that reprimanded my client for sexually assaulting his subordinate. Because today that senior leader finished sifting through the mounds of evidence we had to prove him innocent. That bears repeating. We, the defense, had evidence of his innocence. We were forced to prove him innocent.
It isn’t often that a person accused of sexual assault brings to bear uncontroverted evidence of his accuser’s lies. Today’s victory is one I’ll savor because it provides my client with some peace of mind that at least the first step is paved to recover his life. Yes, his life. And he attained this victory only from his having learned from the paths of others, hardened by the harsh reality of what it means to be a man (yes, I said man) in today’s military.
Make no mistake. The military is in a crisis state and that crisis has nothing to do with a threat of downsizing, decreased budget, or even the terrorist onslaught of ISIS. The current posture of sexual assault allegations, the purported “investigations,” and the resultant processes our members face represents an illustration of the greatest failure confronting the contemporary military: choosing to blindly cater to the word and whim of an accuser who lacks credibility rather than to face scrutiny of the congressional cause du jour. And this crisis demands action beyond a man audiotaping his interactions with his female counterparts.
No matter how ludicrous the allegation, no matter how much evidence that contradicts the accuser, allegation equals reality in today’s military. As the paradigm shifted from an inability to convince commanders to prosecute worthy cases to the crisis state since at least 2012, even as efforts to empower women within the ranks have reached the penultimate of breaking down barriers of branch and positions to serve, the current trend of allegation as true is undermining male-female relations faster than they can be patched. Quietly male leaders are refusing to go behind closed doors with any female peer or subordinate lest they become an unintended target for the military’s modern day witch hunts. So what, you say? Here’s the so what: for it is behind those closed doors that women fought so hard to be, in the realm of the trusted advisor, where they became influential and someone to be relied upon.
However much rhetoric the military’s training regime casts about, false accusations happen every day. Those accusations lead to courts-martial and even reprimands when the accuser wants to avoid cross-examination. I know because I am fortunate or unfortunate enough to confront them on behalf of the shell-shocked client who cannot imagine how this has become his new reality.
But tonight, I rest easier – at least on behalf of this one client; for today, I kept his wolves at bay.