General's Sex Case Shows Military Can't Try Its Own

Ruth Marcus: This time, Army prosecutors overreached because of political pressure
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 19, 2014 1:01 PM CDT
Brig Gen. Jeff Sinclair arrives to the Fort Bragg courthouse for his sentencing hearing Wednesday, March 19.   (AP Photo/The Fayetteville Observer, Andrew Craft)

(Newser) – Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair gets sentenced today in the military's highest-profile sexual harassment case to date, and the legal mess precisely illustrates why we need to remove such cases from the usual chain of command, writes Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post. But not for the reason you might think. Marcus writes that Sinclair is a "cad, a bully, and a boor." He's admitted to adultery and to pressuring female officers to send him nude photos, but the most serious charges against him—that he twice forced a subordinate to perform oral sex and threatened to kill her—have been dropped as part of a plea deal.

That's because his accuser has credibility issues so large that Marcus thinks prosecutors should have dropped the case, period. Given the pressure on the military over sexual harassment, however, they didn't dare. "Criminal prosecution is about both punishment and deterrence," writes Marcus. "But prosecutors fall short of their responsibility to do justice if they hesitate to drop a weak case, particularly for fear of the political fallout, as well as if they fail to pursue a worthy one." It's time we take commanders out of the equation when deciding to pursue, or not pursue, such cases and leave it to the "professionals." Click for her full column. (Or click to read about how Kirsten Gillibrand's effort to do so failed in the Senate.)

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