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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

West Point Cadet Acquitted of Sexual Assault

Is sexual misconduct a problem in the U.S. military?

A court-martial proceeding has resulted in an acquittal of West Point Cadet Lucas Saul on charges of sexual assault and sodomy. Despite the verdict in this case, many military observers still believe there is widespread sexual misconduct in the service.

The cadet had been charged with sexually assaulting a female cadet by engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct without her consent on three occasions in 2012. The incidents allegedly occurred both on and off West Point property. In particular, Saul was charged with aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault under Article 120 of the UCMJ, and sodomy (UCMJ Article 125).

In response to the acquittal, a spokesperson  for West Point stated that the academy takes sexual misconduct allegations "very seriously," but that the court-martial panel determined Saul was innocent of the charges.

"All the facts were presented in a full and open hearing and the issue was resolved in a manner consistent with military law and due process requirements," he said.

Sexual Misconduct is a Lingering Problem in the U.S. Military

Despite efforts to address the problem by military brass, sexual misconduct continues to plague the service. As we have previously reported, the Military Justice Improvement Act of 2016 contains provisions that are designed for sexual assault incidents. The reform measure also calls for changes in the jury and conviction requirements.

The issue has also been taken up by Congressional lawmakers, in particular, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).  Ms. Gillebrand has been championing legislation that would directly address the issue of sexual misconduct and protect those who bring charges from retaliation.

The senator has reported that 62 percent of women in the military who report an assault are subjected to some form of retaliation and that there are 52 new cases of unwanted sexual contacts every day. Victims of these assaults believe that the military justice system is unfair and that they are often denied advancement or forced out of the service after bringing charges.

The case involving Cadet Saul has only added to the controversy about how the military handles incidents of sexual misconduct and its failure to address the epidemic of assaults. In the meantime, Saul has been on administrative leave since August 2015 and it is unclear whether he will return to the academy.

While the military has faced criticism for not adequately addressing the problem, sexual misconduct is a serious offense that can lead to a court-martial. If you are facing sexual assault charges, you should consult with a military court-martial attorney.


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