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Assault Verdict Reversal Splits Pentagon Brass and Civilians

Prosecution rates are just as bleak. In 2011, the Defense Department investigated 1,518 members of the military for sexual assault; only 240 cases made it to trial by April 2012, resulting in 191 convictions, according to the Pentagon’s most recent statistics.

The instances of commanders rejecting jury decisions on sexual assaults and other crimes is small — about 1 percent or less in the military services. But many on Capitol Hill fear that Franklin’s decision to overturn a conviction will only serve as another deterrent to victims in reporting sexual assaults.

“The Aviano Air Base case is shocking,” Gillibrand said. “And the outcome should compel all of us to take the necessary action to ensure that justice is swift and certain, not rare and fleeting.”

In the House, Reps. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio, and Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., who co-chair the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley on Tuesday requesting a briefing on the case and the necessity of commanders’ power to overturn convictions.

“Over the last several months, we had become optimistic that the Air Force was making some notable progress in investigating, prosecuting, and adjudicating sexual assault crimes,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, this decision seems to be a step backward.”

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., on Tuesday unveiled a bill (HR 1079) that would prevent commanders lessening sentences or overturning convictions after a court martial.

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