Washington, DC – Today, in Prince William County Virginia Circuit Court, Major General James Grazioplene pled guilty to felonious aggravated sexual battery. Grazioplene’s conviction is a stunning victory for Protect Our Defenders’ (POD) client and survivor advocate Jennifer Elmore. Ms. Elmore, Major General Grazioplene’s daughter, fought for years to shed light on a childhood of repeated sexual abuse and trauma at the hands of her father. Major General Grazioplene was initially charged by the Army, but his case was subsequently dismissed on statute of limitations grounds following the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces highly flawed decision in US v. Mangahas, which is now pending review in the United States Supreme Court.
The Commonwealth of Virginia eventually filed charges in connection with Ms. Elmore’s assaults that took place in Virginia, culminating in Major General Grazioplene’s guilty plea. Today’s result comes on the heels of the tragic murder of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen by a fellow soldier, which has recently placed a spotlight on the epidemic of sexual assault and harrassment in the military.
“From the moment I met Jennifer Elmore, I knew immediately she had the courage and strength to go the distance. I never imagined her struggle would take five years, countless court hearings and meetings, and a herculean effort by so many who desired some measure of justice for Jennifer,” said Ryan Guilds, POD Advisory Board Member and voluntary attorney who represents Ms. Elmore. “Nothing can replace what Grazioplene took from her. He is a disgrace to the uniform. But hopefully, today will give Jennifer some peace. It would not have been possible was it not for Jennifer’s uncommon strength and fortitude. I know she hopes earnestly that her perseverance will serve as an inspiration for the many military members and families struggling to find safety and justice in a flawed system.”
Pentagon estimates of sexual assault and rape of active duty members in the military have jumped by 38% since 2016 and almost 25% of active duty women report they were sexually harassed in 2018. Military women who report sexual assault are 12 times as likely to experience some form of retaliation as to see their attacker convicted of a sex offense.
“Protect Our Defenders is grateful to the Commonwealth of Virginia for ensuring Jennifer Elmore was able to hold her father accountable for his heinous crimes,” said Col. Don Christensen, (ret), former Chief Prosecutor of the USAF and President of POD. “We know this would not have been possible without the incredible determination and legal acumen of Ryan Guilds who never stopped fighting for Jennifer. Ryan is a shining example of the importance of our pro bono legal network. Jennifer’s strength and perseverance to see this case through to the end is an inspiration for all survivors of sexual assault.”
US v. Mangahas reversed decades of legal precedent and established a five-year statute of limitations for rape in the military, setting free and stopping the prosecutions of dozens of rapists, including Major General Grazioplene. Earlier this year, POD filed an amicus curiae brief to challenge the decision in the US Supreme Court, but the hearing – and potential justice for countless survivors – was delayed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Elmore’s case is another example of the decades of broken promises and active resistance to institute meaningful reform in the military justice system.
POD will continue to fight alongside brave survivors like Ms. Elmore. To learn more, please visit: https://www.