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 Timeshere.
“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)
Keith Morrison follows a cold case for nearly 10 years, as a father in Hawaii fights to bring his daughter’s killer to justice despite one setback after another. -Dateline NBC
On June 15, 2018, Dateline premiered ‘The Other Side of Paradise’ on NBC. It’s the true crime story of Sandra Galas and her father’s quest for cold case justice. Air Force retiree Larry Mendonca’s daughter Sandra was found strangled to death in her car in the garage of her home on January 25, 2006 in ‘Ele’ele, Hawaii. The case went unsolved for years and if not for the efforts of her father Larry, the case may never have been solved. For years, Sandra’s estranged husband Darren Galas was the prime suspect. Darren had a history of domestic violence and it was rumored that he was angry Sandra was dating someone new. It wasn’t until 2012, investigators were able to pin Darren to the crime with the use of new forensic techniques, specifically touch DNA from evidence at the scene of the crime was a match to Darren Galas. In January 2018, twelve years after the murder, Darren Galas entered a no contest plea in court for a charge of first degree assault, a class B felony. The judge accepted his plea and he was found guilty. In March 2018, Galas was sentenced to a ten year open prison term for his connection to the crime, the maximum that could be imposed. Unfortunately, due to parental alienation, Sandra’s father Larry has no relationship with her two children. He claims Darren has brainwashed them to hate both their mother and her family.
Editor’s Note: You can watch the full episode of Dateline for a limited time on the NBC app. Download the app and binge on the last couple years of programming.
Darren Galas, 40 of Kalaheo was arrested for the 2006 murder of his estranged wife, Sandra Galas. -KHON2 News (2012)
A 2006 Kauai case has new witnesses and interviews. -KITV (2012)
The body of Sandra Galas was found in her garage in Eleele on Jan. 25, 2006. -KHON2 News (2018)
Kauai man Darren Galas has been sentenced in connection with his wife’s 2006 murder. -KHON2 News (2018)
If you or someone you know has been falsely accused of a crime,
please contact Save Our Heroes.
This animated video describes the obstacles faced by military members who are wrongly or falsely accused of sexual assault. From the recent changes to the UCMJ to the barriers built around the alleged victim, wrongly and falsely accused service members face an uphill battle defending themselves. Court-martial defense lawyer Will M. Helixon, with decades of experience as a sex crimes prosecutor, can team with the military detailed counsel to level the playing field and defend the rights of the wrongly and falsely accused. (www.helixongroup.com)
If someone reports a crime to a police department, even if the person is not prosecuted, there is still a record of the complaint. This is not happening in the military because the Commander does not have access to law enforcement databases. So if the person was accused before in the military, the Commander has no way of knowing. And they are not entering data into the system if they are informed of a complaint. We are losing valuable data if the person is not prosecuted for the crime. The military currently prosecutes less then 10% of complaints.
If information was processed like in the civilian world, we quite possibly could prevent a rape or sexual assault. It could help establish a pattern even if one of the cases didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute. If the military had multiple complaints against one person then they would have a better chance at prosecution.
Amy Schumer, a comedian, has depicted the unexpected turn your career takes when you become the victim of sexual assault in the military. We are not only harmed by the perpetrator but we are again harmed by the system. And currently we have two proposals in Congress that begin to address the issue. One is the Stop Act sponsored by Representative Jackie Speier. The other is the Military Justice Improvement Act sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Please watch the Amy Schumer video here before reading further.
If you keep up with Congressional efforts to address sexual assault in the military, you will find that the media discusses Senator Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act the most. But what most people do not know is that the MJIA was a compromise to our original efforts. I supported any efforts made by the Senate at the time considering we did not get the support we needed for the Stop Act from either the House of Representatives or military and women organizations. At the time, it was better then nothing and at least Senator Gillibrand addressed an option for our military members who do not report due to fear of retaliation from their Chain of Command. But it is only one element of the big picture.
Ninety-four US military women in the military have died in Iraq or during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). ‘The Silent Truth’ tells the story of one of these women, PFC LaVena Lynn Johnson, who was found dead on Balad Air Force Base in Iraq. The army claimed she shot herself with her own M16 rifle, but forensic evidence, obtained by the Johnson family through the Freedom of Information Act, brings the army’s findings into question. The Army refuses to re-open LaVena Johnson’s case, leaving the family in limbo. ‘The Silent Truth’ follows the Johnson’s pursuit of justice and truth for their daughter. -The Silent Truth Documentary (July 1, 2014)
“What happened to LaVena Lynn Johnson and so many others speaks to a Pentagon culture which more closely resembles a rogue government–than a legitimate branch serving under civilian control. It is highly telling that this family, along with the Tillman family each had to have a documentary film made JUST TO ALERT THE PUBLIC TO THE TRUTH OF PENTAGON COVER-UPS. I urge everyone to view this important documentary–before the local military recruiter mandated under No Child Left Behind–‘friends’ their child at school. God forbid, they could wind up coming home in a body bag–like LaVena.” Read more from Truthouthere.
In the News:
Nineteen year-old Army PFC LaVena Johnson, was found dead on a military base in Balad, Iraq in 2005. The U.S. Army ruled Lavena’s death a suicide, but an autopsy report and photographs revealed Johnson had a broken nose, black eye, loose teeth, burns from a corrosive chemical on her genitals, and a gunshot wound that seemed inconsistent with suicide. LaVena’s father, John Johnson, shares his family’s fight to get answers from the military about his daughter’s death. -Protect Our Defenders (July 14, 2012)
Pfc. LaVena Johnson died in Iraq on July 19th, 2005 and her family needs your help. -Unsolved Mysteries (September 26, 2014)
Lawmakers say they fear the Defense Department has found a new way to drum sexual assault victims out of the service: by diagnosing adjustment disorder and having them discharged from the military.
It’s the latest technique the department has used to retaliate against troops who report they were sexually assaulted, according to members of Congress who are determined to use this year’s defense policy debate to curtail the practice and get justice for the service members who they say were illegally discharged in the past.
“It’s like a ‘Whac-A-Mole,’” said Rep. Jackie Speier, California Democrat. “Every time we shut them down on something, they’ll find a way around it.”
Sen. Ted Cruz Q&A in Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Sexual Assaults in the Military -Senator Ted Cruz (June 4, 2013)
Gillibrand Leads Bipartisan Senate Coalition to End Military Sexual Assault -U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (July 16, 2013)
Sen. Ted Cruz Supports Sen. Gillibrand’s Push to Stop Sexual Assault in the Military -Senator Ted Cruz (July 16, 2013)
Sen. Ted Cruz Joins Sen. Gillibrand in Press Conference on Preventing Sexual Assault in the Military -Senator Ted Cruz (November 6, 2013)
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stops by to talk about what she’s doing to protect our soilders from military sexual assault. Find out why she’s getting support from both sides of the aisle and tune in to hear from a survivor. -Katie Couric (November 19, 2013)
Sen. Ted Cruz Speaks In Favor of Gillibrand Amendment to Combat Sexual Assault in the Military (November 20, 2013)
Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz joined the New York Democrat in support of taking the chain of command out of military sexual assault cases. -The Washington Examiner (February 18, 2014)
Senator Ted Cruz speaks out in support of a military sexual assault bill that was blocked in the Senate. -CNN (March 6, 2014)
Sen. Ted Cruz at MJIA Press Conference -Senator Ted Cruz (December 2, 2014)
[Full Video] Senator Gillibrand was joined by Senators Grassley, Blumenthal, Cruz and Wyden to discuss next steps in the effort to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act. -U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (June 16, 2015)
Sen. Ted Cruz at Military Justice Improvement Act Press Conference. -Senator Ted Cruz (June 16, 2015)
Ted Cruz speaks out on sexual assault in the military. -CNN (April 1, 2016)
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is reaching across the aisle to prevent military officers from reaching into their subordinates’ pants. #passMJIA -Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (June 7, 2016)
Support the Military Justice Improvement Act, and help protect our privates’ privates. #PassMJIA -Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (June 7, 2016)