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PRESS RELEASE: Military Sexual Assault Survivor Launches Petition Asking President Obama to Investigate Claims that Pentagon Misled Congress

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 27, 2016

***PRESS RELEASE***

MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT SURVIVOR LAUNCHES PETITION ASKING PRESIDENT OBAMA TO INVESTIGATE CLAIMS THAT PENTAGON MISLED CONGRESS

Survivor Samantha Jackson and Protect Our Defenders ask President Obama to investigate why the Pentagon gave Congress false information about sexual assault prosecutions; calls on the President to reform the broken military justice system before he leaves office

Washington, D.C. – Samantha Jackson was raped by an Army soldier while unconscious. A year later, she found out her attacker videotaped the assault. She reported the rape to the authorities and her attacker confessed. But the military declined to prosecute him, despite telling civilian prosecutors that they would handle her case. Last year, while the Army told Samantha they were reconsidering their decision not to prosecute, they allowed him to leave the Army and avoid their jurisdiction. Samantha’s case is not an isolated incident; last week, an Associated Press investigation and Protect Our Defenders report exposed that the Pentagon misled Congress to block much needed reforms, claiming that military commanders are tougher on crime than prosecutors.

That is why today, Samantha is launching a petition on Care2, urging President Obama to investigate the Pentagon for intentionally misleading Congress and the public about its handling of sexual assault cases and to enact fundamental reforms to fix the broken justice system before he leaves office.

“The military told the civilian DA they would handle my case, but then declined to prosecute him. While they were supposedly reviewing my request, they allowed him to separate, so he could no longer be prosecuted. We’ve recently learned that this was not an isolated event,” said Jackson. “Now I, along with thousands of other survivors, am calling on President Obama to ensure all servicemembers have access to a fair, impartial system of justice.”

In July 2013, at the height of a heated debate in the Senate over legislation to create an impartial military justice system where military prosecutors, instead of commanders, make decisions about which cases will be sent to trial, Admiral James Winnefeld, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before Congress on behalf of the Pentagon that commanders routinely order cases to trial that civilian prosecutors “refused” to take. He also claimed these cases show there would be “fewer prosecutions” if such decisions were removed from the chain of command. In a follow-up letter to then-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Senator Carl Levin, Adm. Winnefeld cited 93 cases across the Armed Forces to support his claim, and stated, “I believe these statistics demonstrate the personal ownership commanders take in the discipline of their units.” These cases were used to influence undecided Senators and were referenced repeatedly by lawmakers opposed to reform.

POD’s analysis of the case documents relied on by the military to support these claims and an investigative report by the AP reveal that the Pentagon distorted the facts to block reform. After years of delay, the Pentagon finally released the documents.

“It is now crystal clear that the Pentagon knowingly relied upon false information to mislead Congress and derail reforms they oppose,” said Former Air Force Chief Prosecutor and Protect Our Defenders President Col Don Christensen. “Now it is up to our Commander-in-Chief to

investigate these false claims and fix this broken system before he leaves office. President Obama should stand with survivors like Samantha.”

Click here to read Samantha’s petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/623/951/226/

Associated Press: Pentagon misled lawmakers on military sexual assault cases

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/23aed8a571f64a9d9c81271f0c6ae2fa/pentagon-misled-lawmakers-military-sexual-assault-cases

Debunked: Fact-Checking the Pentagon’s Claims Regarding Military Justice

http://www.protectourdefenders.com/debunked

VIDEO: The Pentagon’s Misleading Claims on Military Justice

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NF-nFxwbA8U

Washington Post: Pentagon misled Congress about military’s handling of sexual assault cases, report says

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/04/19/to-stop-bill-that-would-reform-military-justice-system-pentagon-misled-congress-report-says

Vox: How the Pentagon misled Congress to stop a law intended to help rape victims

http://www.vox.com/2016/4/18/11450436/pentagon-misled-congress-military-sexual-assault

New York Magazine: AP Report Says the Pentagon Misled Congress on Sexual-Assault Cases Within the Military

http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/04/report-pentagon-misled-congress-on-sex-assault.html

About Protect Our Defenders: Protect Our Defenders (POD) is a human rights organization. We are the only national organization solely dedicated to addressing the epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the military and to combating a culture of pervasive sexual harassment and retribution against victims. We honor, support and give voice to survivors of military sexual assault – including both service members and civilians assaulted by members of the military. We seek reform to ensure all survivors have access to a fair, impartially administered system of justice. Learn more about Protect Our Defenders at www.protectourdefenders.com or on Facebook at http://facebook.com/ProtectOurDefenders or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ProtectRDfnders.

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