On the same day the Senate voted for, but failed to reach the 60-vote threshold in that undemocratic body, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's bill to improve prosecution of rapists in our military, news leaked out about another reason why military rape victims have little confidence in the current system.

It seems the Army's top guy (naturally) who prosecutes sexual assault cases has been suspended from that job while being investigated "for allegedly groping a lawyer who worked for him."

Super-serendipity, below.  

The TPM story linked above links to Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, which has the details about the allegations against Lt. Col. Joseph Morse:

Sources told Stars and Stripes that the Army lawyer alleged that Morse attempted to kiss and grope her against her will. The alleged assault reportedly took place in a hotel room at a 2011 sexual assault legal conference attended by special victims prosecutors in Alexandria, Va., before he was appointed as chief of the Trial Counsel Assistance Program.
That's right, an alleged sexual assault by the officer now responsible for supervising prosecution of Army sexual assaults worldwide took place at a conference about the problem of military sexual assaults.

Innocent until proven guilty, of course, but it seems there's some fire here, otherwise Morse would not have been suspended and there would be no story about this he-said-she-said in Stars and Stripes.

The accuser must have passed the basic credibility tests in any investigation, and Morse less so.

Nancy Parrish of Protect Our Defenders noted that Morse's suspension underscores the essential problem with business as usual:

If true, this case is yet another disheartening example of the hollow pledges of "zero tolerance" we have heard for more than 20 years. When the military has those at top of the chain who are in charge of fighting sexual assault accused of sexual misconduct at a conference on sexual assault it should be clear to every level-headed human being [that] the status quo must be changed.
Reported sexual assaults in the military rose 43 percent to 3,553 in the most recent year; unreported sexual assaults are more than five times that.

That's the crux of Gillibrand's bill -- most victims clearly have little confidence that the current system will treat their complaint fairly, and naturally do not report. So sexual assault cases should be dealt with outside the normal chain of command that has forever failed to take these cases seriously.

The Pentagon opposes that, and it's really a tribute to Gillibrand's assiduity that she got 55 Senators to vote against the brass.

As she commented after the vote:

We will continue to work harder than ever in the coming year to strengthen our military. ... We know the deck is stacked against victims of sexual assault in the military, and today, we saw the same in the halls of Congress.
Getting the absurd (for a modest reform to military justice procedure) 60 votes will probably be harder next year.

But you can be sure that Gillibrand will still work hard to secure real justice for military sexual assault victims.  

Your Email has been sent.