Congress Put Independent Prosecutors In Charge of US Military Cases of Sexual Assault, Other Crimes

The U.S. military has decided to put independent lawyers in charge of how it investigates and prosecutes cases of sexual assault and other major crimes, sidelining commanders after years of pressure from Congress, Lolita C. Baldor reports for the Associated Press. The change was forced by members of Congress who believed that too often commanders would fail to take victims’ complaints seriously or would try to protect alleged perpetrators in their units. The Air Force, the Marine Corps and the Navy all saw reported sexual assaults go up last year, but a sharp 9 percent drop in reports from the Army — the largest military service — drove the overall number down. In 2021, reported assaults spiked by 13 percent. Under the law, new special counsels will have the authority to make prosecution decisions on a number of major crimes, including murder, rape and several other sexual assault-related offenses, kidnapping, domestic violence, making or possessing child sexual abuse images, stalking and retaliation. Officials said they expect each trial counsel to handle as many as 50 investigations and roughly eight to 12 trials a year.

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