Damico & Stockstill, Attorneys at Law

Commanding officer defends overturning sex crime verdict (326)

A military officer who overturned a sexual assault case that had been filed against his fellow service member has defended his decision, citing information that ultimately discredited the alleged victim.

The defendant in the case, a lieutenant colonel, was exonerated by a lieutenant general who overturned a guilty verdict in connection with the sexual assault charges. Although the action has triggered questions about the military's legal structure, the higher-ranking officer argues that he was justified in his actions, considering the nature of the case.

Military law permits commanding officers to overturn certain legal verdicts. Cases that are overturned must be validated with compelling legal arguments from the commanding officer, which were certainly provided in this case. The man's letter to other government officials outlines 18 reasons for overturning the case, many of which have to do with the victim's credibility.

A jury had found the defendant guilty, but the commanding officer chose to overturn that verdict because the victim's account of the night's events did not add up. The alleged victim had become overly intoxicated at a party hosted at the defendant's home, according to the complaint, and she decided to spend the night at his house instead of driving home. She turned down three different offers for rides, according to the man's statements, and she could not provide consistent reports about the events of the evening.

The commanding officer also reportedly included evidence that was not admissible in court, including information from the victim's friend who transported her to the hospital after the alleged assault. The commanding officer said his subordinate was a "family man" who would never dream of violating a woman, especially in his own home.

Military members who face similar sexual assault should be aware that their commanding officers could overturn the verdicts. Enlisting the help of a qualified attorney could also provide for a more complete criminal defense, allowing the defendant to be protected throughout the trial, plea and sentencing processes.

Source: Times, "Officer Defends Overturning Sexual-Assault Verdict," Lolita Baldour, April 10, 2013

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