POD calls on Pentagon to ensure prosecutors – especially leads in implementing historic military justice reforms – are properly vetted in cases of sexual misconduct
“The lead special trial counsel position was created to take cases out of the chain of command in order to remove bias from the process of justice for survivors. That the military’s pick to fill this role has clear bias against victims is beyond alarming,” said Protect Our Defenders Senior Vice President, Josh Connolly, former Chief of Staff for Rep. Jackie Speier (former Chairwoman of the Military Personnel Subcommittee on the House Armed Services Committee).
Today’s news comes on the heels of the largest military sexual assault scandal in recent history in which an Army doctor accused of sexually assaulting multiple servicemembers under his care faces court martial. For survivors of sexual assault it is nearly impossible to sue the military.
Survivors still cannot seek damages as sexual assault and harassment are considered by the Military as “incidence of service” under the Feres Doctrine. Last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Colonel Kathryn Spletstoser’s civil suit against former Air Force General John Hyten – aided by POD’s amicus brief filing on behalf of Spletstoser and opening the door for critical reforms to support servicemembers’ pursuit of justice.
“This news raises concerns as to systemic issues that perpetuate a broken decision making process allowing Wells to be elevated to this position to address the sexual assault crisis,” Connolly added.
“The email was found as part of unrelated allegations of gender discrimination and inappropriate behavior with a lower-ranking female officer. The allegations surfaced only after Wells had been publicly confirmed by the Senate raising serious questions about the thoroughness of the vetting process. How was he not vetted before appointment, or how was this missed?
“Sec. Wormuth did the right thing in removing Wells from his position as lead special trial counsel. As the military grapples with a staggering, systemic sexual assault and misconduct crisis, we must be assured that those at the helm of protecting our servicemembers are qualified to do so. All servicemembers deserve confidence in the military justice system.”