Gillibrand: The Military Justice Improvement Act Would Give Service Members a Justice System That Works (July 1, 2019)

Brian Lewis MJIA.jpg

You can listen to U.S. Navy veteran Brian Lewis’ March 13, 2013 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel here.

“Nearly 30 years ago, when George H. W. Bush was president and Dick Cheney was the secretary of defense, the Pentagon made a promise to our service members. Dozens of Navy and Marine Corps aviation officers had just been investigated for the infamous Tailhook sexual assault scandal, and America’s military leadership affirmed a “zero tolerance” policy toward sexual assault within their ranks. The military had a sexual assault problem, and pledged to solve it.

It’s painfully clear that the military has now failed at this mission by almost any metric. For years, survivor after survivor has told us the change in the system we needed to make to end this scourge — the same change that a number of our allies around the world have already made: take the adjudication of these crimes outside of the chain of command and allow trained military prosecutors to prosecute them.” Read more opinion at Military Times here.

“The Military Justice Improvement Act would take the prosecution of sexual assault and other serious crimes, such as murder, out of the chain of command. It would keep those crimes in the military justice system, but put the decision to prosecute them into the hands of actual military prosecutors who are trained to deal with complex legal issues.” –Senator Kirsten Gillbrand (Military Times, July 1, 2019)

Gillibrand Leads Bipartisan Coalition to Reform Military Justice System  -Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (May 16, 2013)

Related Links:
Pass the Military Justice Improvement Act @SenGillibrand
S. 1789: Military Justice Improvement Act of 2019
S. 1789: Military Justice Improvement Act of 2019 [Full Text]
Comprehensive Resource Center for the Military Justice Improvement Act
Sens. Cruz, Gillibrand Reintroduce Military Justice Improvement Act
Udall, Heinrich Reintroduce Military Justice Improvement Act To Address Crisis Of Military Sexual Assault
Leahy Joins Gillibrand And Others To Reintroduce Military Justice Improvement Act
Hirono Wants To Change How The Military Prosecutes Sexual Assault
Senator Martha McSally’s Responsibility to Survivors of Military Sexual Assault
McSally defends keeping military commanders involved in sexual assault cases
Gillibrand: “Status Quo” Not Working With Military Sexual Assaults
Veterans for Peace: Sexual Assault on Military Members Press Conference, Seattle, Washington (August 11, 2006)
Jamie Leigh Jones Testified at the House Judiciary Committee Halliburton/KBR Iraq Rape Case Hearing (December 19, 2007)
HOR Oversight Subcommittee on National Security & Foreign Affairs Held a Hearing on Sexual Assault in the Military (July 31, 2008)
Former Representative Bruce Braley (D-IA) Introduced the Holley Lynn James Act (April 12, 2011)
Lauterbach Case Prompts Policy Reforms for Victims of Sexual Assault in the Military (December 25, 2011)
Sexual Misconduct Allegations at Lackland AFB | C-SPAN (January 23, 2013)
Panetta Is Lifting Ban On Women In Combat Roles (NPR, January 23, 2013)
Sexual Assault in the Military, Part 1 | C-SPAN (March 13, 2013)
Sexual Assault in the Military, Part 2 | C-SPAN (March 13, 2013)
Gillibrand Leads Bipartisan Coalition to Reform Military Justice System [Full Video] | Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (May 16, 2013)
Gillibrand Builds Bipartisan Support for Change of Military Justice Code (May 16, 2013)
S. 967: Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013 – U.S. Senate Voting Record (March 6, 2014)
The war in Congress over rape in the military, explained (June 8, 2016)
Sexual Assault in the Military | C-SPAN (March 6, 2019)
S. 1789: Military Justice Improvement Act of 2019 Reintroduced by Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York (June 13, 2019)
Senate Armed Services Committee Members & House Armed Services Committee Members (June 21, 2019)
Gillibrand: The Military Justice Improvement Act Would Give Service Members a Justice System That Works (July 1, 2019)

Extraordinary Claims Should Require Extraordinary Evidence (June 26, 2018)

National GuardGuest Post by Liz Ullman:

Enrique Costas comes from four generations of dignified and recognized military service. His grandfather’s name is in the history books as one of the first soldiers to join the Puerto Rico National Guard to serve the United States. His father defended this country for 32 years, earning an Air Medal for heroism in Vietnam; his nephew will be commissioned as an officer in the next week and will be going on active duty.

Costas enlisted in the Puerto Rico National Guard in 1988. In 1999 he volunteered to be assigned as a Recruiter, earning top awards and commendations throughout his almost 14 years as the Senior Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of the Puerto Rico Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention (RR) Command office in San Juan. He was also selected and participated for seven years in the Puerto Rico National Guard Honor Guard, the team responsible for carrying our Nation’s and Army Colors in the highest of the Government’s activities and celebrations.

He was responsible for achieving monthly production for the three main tenets of the Guard recruiting office: Recruiting, Retention and Attrition Management • Staff resourcing for two Army battalions covering 13 cities • Supervising and mentoring up to 10 recruiting and retention non-commissioned officers.

Costas was a champion in mission accomplishment with the highest integrity and ethics. His walls are filled awards and photos with the Guard’s top-ranking officers, including General Clyde A. Vaughn, who personally commended Costas for his service and integrity. Costas retired in 2014 after Honorably serving our Nation for over 26 years.

The biggest mistake Costas made in his career was simply being on duty during the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program also known as G-RAP, a cash incentive opportunity for civilian soldiers to bring in new recruits. With no direction from Washington D.C.’s Strength Maintenance Division, General Vaughn’s recruiters were supposed to intuit the 60 changes in the G-RAP rules over a seven-year period, while also working to fill the dwindling ranks of Guard troops.

Just before dawn, on an early October morning in 2015, Costas’s home was stormed by six Federal agents and two State police officers, in full tactical gear. Costas thought his family was under attack, and it was – by the Government he had served. Costas was arrested and taken to a Federal Courthouse where he was charged with “crimes” dating back almost ten years, during the days of G-RAP.

Costas is one of hundreds of General Vaughn’s recruiters who have been held responsible for not knowing the G-RAP rules that were never sent to them. And not just held responsible — charged with criminal intent to commit fraud against the Government. General Vaughn, who created and administered G-RAP, and who was administratively sanctioned for poor management, is enjoying full retirement in Virginia and Arizona.

Costas is going to prison.

The government’s “evidence” against Costas and other recruiters does not even meet the standard of circumstantial. In his case, the government admitted during trial to having no actual evidence, but only a “reasonable inference” that a crime could have been committed.

As a recruiter, Costas could not and did not participate in G-RAP. There were no Army regulations that governed G-RAP because the program was run by a private Alabama-based contractor called Docupak. Docupak was essentially incentivized to run a sloppy program, earning a 17% markup on every new enlistment, on top of their contract fees and administrative expenses. This lack of training stands in sharp contrast to how the Army usually operates, with manuals and rules on almost every action and procedure.

The one rule that the prosecution seized on to brand soldiers and veterans as felons regarded the relationship between the Recruiting Officer and the Docupak civilian contractors known as Recruiting Assistants (RAs). When G-RAP began, those contractors were regarded as assistants to the Recruiting Officers. The Recruiting Officers might use the RAs to give that extra push to a potential applicant considering enlisting. The Recruiting Officers were encouraged to ask the RAs to attend recruiting events and help with the finding of potential candidates. The original program outline stated that the Recruiting Officer would provide specifics for each possible enlistment to the RA, including legal name, birth date and social security number. That information was used by Docupak to verify enlistments and process payments to their RA contractors. In later descriptions of G-RAP, the social security number would go from the new recruit to the RA contractor, bypassing the Recruiting Officer, which not a single RA contractor reports ever seeing or any evidence has ever been produced by Docupak that verifies it.

This procedural change has resulted in hundred of indictments and scores of convictions for identity theft and wire fraud. Soldiers and veterans are in prison. Costas, sadly, is on his way.

After the government filed more than 50 felonies against Costas, his defense team could not overcome the wrath of the United States and he was convicted by a jury who felt that with so many felonies filed, Costas certainly had to have done something wrong.

He did not. G-RAP was a tangle of mismanagement; the soldiers who were on duty during its tenure are paying the price of administrative failures by their command. In an internal investigation done by the Puerto Rico National Guard pertaining to G-RAP in 2012, the Investigating Officer admitted that “Recruiters had no formal training on how G-RAP operated.”

Costas and his family had their hearts broken when the prosecution opened with statements calling him a “cheater, stealer and a liar.” He said these words, “pierced the core of his soul.”

Presumption of Innocence or even the “benefit of the doubt” was never given. In the end the Government spent an estimated $100,000 prosecuting Costas and the jury found Costas guilty on three charges amounting to $3,000. Although never having a criminal record and an impeccable military career, the judge sentenced Costas to prison. In the end “reasonable inference” and circumstantial evidence weighed more than 26 years of honorable service willing to sacrifice life and limb.

Recently the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th District reversed and vacated a conviction of an accused soldier involving G-RAP and determined, that the “Government did not retain a revisionary interest in the funds and that it did not exercise supervision or control over the funds”. This decision cannot be applied to Costas unless the United States Court of Appeals for the 1st District, the Supreme Court, or Congress rules on it.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
― Carl Sagan

The claims were extraordinary. The evidence was missing. And yet, a United States military hero and veteran has been sacrificed.

We respectfully request that Congress or the White House appoint a commission to review the G-RAP investigation, to identify Soldiers that have been unjustly stigmatized by it, and to recommend suitable cases for clemency and pardon.

Related Links:
Stop G-RAP Injustice | Facebook
The Conspiracy Behind the G-RAP War on American Soldiers (March 30, 2016)
If You Look at the Dollars, Guard Recruiting Assistance Program Investigations Make No Sense (July 12, 2016)
Top Ten Problems with the National Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP) Investigations (December 15, 2016)
An Open Letter to Congress Regarding the Investigations of the National Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (June 5, 2017)

Marine Vet & Civilian Contractor Kenneth Gadson Found Guilty of the Rape & Murder of Rina Shimabukuro; Sentenced to Life in Japanese Prison (December 1, 2017)

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Kenneth Gadson, USMC Veteran

On May 19, 2016, Marine Corps veteran, Kenneth Gadson, was arrested for the rape and murder of Rina Shimabukuro, 20, a Japanese citizen he chose at random. Gadson was working as a military contractor in Japan and used his wife’s Japanese family name Shinzato. Gadson admitted to the rape and murder of Rina on April 28, 2016 but claimed it was not premeditated. Gadson’s attorney requested that jurisdiction of the case be changed to the Tokyo District Court to ensure a fair trial for his client as the crimes sparked outrage in Okinawa resulting in protests and demands that the US military leave Japan. Gadson was tried for the rape and murder of Rina in a Japanese courtroom and found guilty of rape and murder on December 1, 2017. As punishment, Gadson was sentenced to life with hard labor in a Japanese prison. Gadson appealed the guilty verdict but that appeal was denied.

Related Links:
Former Marine is prime suspect in murder of Okinawa woman
Ex-marine now prime suspect in Japan rape-murder
Okinawa suspect married to local woman; couple have infant
Former U.S. Marine arrested in Okinawa over murder case
U.S. military contractor arrested after Japanese woman’s body found, sparking outrage on Okinawa
Ex-U.S. vet’s arrest in Okinawa woman’s death stirs outrage
Ex-U.S. Marine charged in 20-year-old woman’s rape, murder
U.S. Contractor Kenneth Shinzato Charged in Okinawa Murder
Former Marine charged with murder, rape in Okinawa woman’s death
US military worker on Okinawa is arrested on suspicion of killing Japanese woman, 20, just days before Obama is due to visit Hiroshima
Outrage in Japan as U.S. Marine veteran arrested in connection with death of woman on Okinawa
Massive rally to protest ex-Marine’s arrest in killing of Okinawa woman
Thousands to call for US troops’ exit from Okinawa
Abe Voices Outrage After Former U.S. Marine Is Arrested in Okinawa Killing
Japan ‘outraged’ after US airbase worker arrested in murder case
Okinawa base imposes curfew on US troops after woman’s death
4th of July canceled after ex-marine’s rape & murder of Japanese woman
US military lifts some restrictions on sailors in Japan
The Suitcase Murder Tearing the U.S. and Japan Apart
Trying to find U.S.-Japanese harmony amid the discord of a death in Okinawa
Defense attorney says Okinawa confession made in a daze
Defendant in Okinawa slaying seeks change of venue
US Military Worker Wants His Murder Trial Moved off Okinawa
Shinzato’s murder trial must be held in Okinawa: Supreme Court
Former Kadena worker reveals gruesome details of Okinawan woman’s death
Former U.S. Marine charged with raping, killing Japanese woman says he heard voices in his head and fantasized about kidnapping
Gadson pleads not guilty to Okinawan woman’s murder, but admits other charges
Base worker sentenced to life with hard labor for slaying of Okinawan woman
Retired US Marine sentenced to life in Japan for rape-murder of Okinawa woman
Okinawan murder victim’s family to seek compensation from US government
Appeal denied for ex-base worker convicted of Okinawan woman’s slaying
Okinawa has been eager to expel U.S. troops. A murder-suicide is pouring fuel on those flames.

48 Hours Premiered ‘Hunted’ on CBS (2017)


“48 Hours” goes inside the mind of a serial rapist hunting his victims while two detectives were hunting him. Correspondent Maureen Maher investigates Saturday, Sept. 16 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

On August 11, 2008, Marc Patrick O’Leary raped an eighteen year old at knife point in Lynnwood, Washington. The 18 year old woman reported the rape to her local police department but they accused her of lying and she was charged with false reporting. In 2011, Marc O’Leary was arrested in Colorado for rape and consequently admitted to raping several women in Washington and Colorado. DNA, digital evidence, and O’Leary’s vehicle linked him physically to several rapes. Read more here.

Related Links:
An Unbelievable Story of Rape
“48 Hours” preview: Hunted
Sneak peek: Hunted | 48 Hours
Covering the unbearable | 48 Hours
“48 Hours” investigates the hunt for a serial rapist
Netflix series to tell story of rapist Marc O’Leary
Netflix series to tell story of rapist Marc O’Leary (2)
Army Soldier Marc O’Leary Raped an 18 Year Old Woman in Washington; Three Years Later Arrested in Colorado for Rape & Sentenced to 300 Plus Years (2008)

Unsolved Homicide: Fort Hood Army Pvt. Justin Lewis Shot & Killed Near Vacant Lot in Neighborhood in Killeen, Texas (2017)

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Pvt. Justin Lewis, US Army

Fort Hood Army soldier Pvt. Justin Lewis, 19, was shot and killed near a vacant lot in a neighborhood outside the post in Killeen, Texas on April 17, 2017. Justin was pronounced dead on April 18, 2017 by the coroner. Pvt. Lewis’ home of record is listed as Henderson, North Carolina and he entered active-duty service in August 2016. Pvt. Lewis was a cavalry scout assigned to 3rd Cavalry Regiment in Fort Hood, Texas. The circumstances surrounding the unsolved homicide are under investigation by the Killeen Police Department in Killeen, Texas. The point of contact for the investigation is Ofelia Miramontez, Public Information Officer, Killeen Police Department. Miramontez’s phone number is (254) 501-8941/8807 and her email is omiramontez@killeentexas.gov. Eight months later, the Killeen Police Department does not have any updates in the case according to Killeen Police spokeswoman Ofelia Miramontez. Justin’s Army buddy, Logan Duty, told the TDT news: “[Justin] was just gunned down in the middle of the night, and no one’s able to find out why. If I was there, and I was one of the detectives, I wouldn’t rest until I figured out why. … (Lewis) wanted to help others, willing to lay his life down defending someone. I haven’t met anyone who was dedicated to serving like him.”

“Pvt. Justin Lewis’ uncle, Jerry Lewis, said when you have a loved one go into the military, you deal with the fact you may lose them on the battlefield. They never imagined they would lose 19-year-old Justin on American soil, near a vacant lot in Killeen, Texas.” –11 ABC News

Related Links:
In loving memory of Justin Lewis
Pvt. Justin Antwan Lewis | Fallen Warriors
Death of a Fort Hood Soldier – Pvt. Justin Antwan Lewis
Fort Hood soldier found dead identified
Man found dead in Killeen identified by police
Fort Hood soldier shot dead Monday night in Killeen, Texas
Killeen homicide victim was Fort Hood soldier, Army says
Teen found dead near vacant lot in Killeen neighborhood identified
19-year-old Fort Hood soldier shot and killed in Killeen
Young soldier from NC shot and killed in Texas
Soldier from NC shot to death in Texas, officials say
Soldier from Henderson shot, killed in Texas, army base says
Family seeks answers after NC soldier slain in Texas
Family grieves loss of Henderson soldier, looks for answers
Friends remember Henderson man killed in Texas
School Remembers Soldier from Vance County Found Dead Near Fort Hood
Soldier’s death in Killeen weighs heavy on friend 8 months later
52 Deaths at Fort Hood Since January 2016 ~ 14 Since January 2017…Normal Or HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS?
73 Fort Hood Soldiers Died Since January 2016: 4 Insider Attacks & 2 Suicides Overseas; 67 Stateside Deaths Including 34 Alleged Suicides & 1 Unsolved Homicide
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas (US Army)
Killeen Calling in Feds to Combat Crime
Gangs in the US Army Documentary
The Fort Hood Fallen on Facebook
Seeking Justice with Change Your POV

Massachusetts School of Law Interviews Veteran Jennifer Norris About Violent Crime in the Military & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Massachusetts School of Law explored violent crime in the military with Jennifer Norris, Military Justice for All, and the impact it has on civilians too. Jennifer talked about her experiences with four different perpetrators within the first two years of her enlisted career, the reporting & adjudication process, and the retaliation that ensued and eventually ended a fifteen year career. Also discussed was the jurisdictional hurdles that arise with a transient population like the military. For example, Jennifer was not able to press charges against one perpetrator because he moved out of state after learning he was getting reported. Another perpetrator was active duty Air Force at Keesler Air Force Base, therefore a state National Guard commander did not have jurisdiction of a federal employee. And finally, although Jennifer was able to move forward with two other cases involving high ranking National Guard members with over eighteen years of service, unlike the civilian world, after the cases were adjudicated, they retired with full military retirement benefits and no public records.

Jennifer also shared that although the Department of Defense downplays violent crime in the military and sexual assault appears to be closely monitored by some female members of Congress, everything is not under control. The crime appears to be escalating. The military doesn’t just have a sexual assault issue, they have a domestic violence and homicide issue as well. They also have a pattern of ruling soldier’s deaths both stateside and overseas as suicides, training accidents, and illness despite families strongly protesting and evidence revealing otherwise. Domestic violence is more likely to lead to homicide and unfortunately the two issues have not been given the attention they deserve because until you do the research yourself and see how many families and communities have been impacted by the crimes, suspicious death, and homicide of a soldier or civilian, you wouldn’t know because Congress and the main stream media do not give it the attention it deserves. Homicide and independent investigations of all suspicious deaths should be given the highest priority not only because people have lost their lives and families deserve answers but because someone needs to be held accountable. We must prevent others from becoming victims of these crimes too.

Jennifer discussed the lasting impacts the crimes and retaliation had on her. Jennifer was empowered after doing all that she could do to protect others from getting harmed by the same people, but her squadron did not see it the same way. After the cases were adjudicated, Jennifer faced hostility from a couple of the perpetrator’s friends and her Chain of Command once she returned back to work. She eventually had to transfer to another squadron. It was the professional and personal retaliation that made her start feeling more intense feelings of anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. And unfortunately her next squadron wasn’t any more welcoming then the last. She was told shortly after arriving that ‘no female makes it in the satellite communications work center’ and that she was experiencing hostility from her new Chain of Command because the old squadron called and informed them she was a ‘troublemaker.’ The retaliation had a direct impact on her mental health and cemented an already traumatizing experience with further abuse, indifference, and judgement. By the time she got to her third squadron (almost ten years after the first attack), she learned that the Department of Veterans Affairs treated Post Traumatic Stress resulting from military sexual trauma.

After Jennifer informed her third squadron that she was getting help for the PTS at the Department of Veterans Affairs, she was immediately red flagged and asked to leave the squadron until she could produce a note from her doctor giving her permission to be at work. She did this and jumped through the other hoops asked of her in an attempt to save her career but lost confidentiality in the process. Jennifer walked away from her career in the end because she refused to release her VA records for a security clearance investigation. The entire experience not only opened her up to judgement again (simply because she asked for some counseling due to what someone else did) but she had to prove that she was ‘fit for duty’ while the perpetrators were enjoying full military retirement benefits. Jennifer chose a second chance at a civilian career when she refused to release her confidential VA records for her security clearance investigation because she wanted to ensure a future free of a tainted security clearance. It makes zero sense that someone who is a victim of crime be negatively impacted by the crimes of others in yet another way. The hypocrisy of the system is truly revealed when you look at how the perpetrators were let off the hook but the victim of crime loses their military career because they had the strength to first report and then eventually ask for help.