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.

Fort Hood Army Pvt. Dakota Stump Found Dead on Post Three Weeks After Vehicle Accident; Family Wants Missing ‘Warrior Alert’ Law (2016)

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Pvt. Dakota Stump, US Army

Pvt. Dakota Stump, 19, US Army, went missing from Fort Hood, Texas on October 10, 2016. The family confirmed Dakota was found dead on November 3rd, 2016 on the base. Military officials said Stump’s remains were found next to his flipped-over vehicle 100 yards from the roadway on Fort Hood. An investigator told Dakota’s mother Patrice Wise that his car had rolled multiple times and he was ejected but the crash scene wasn’t visible from the road. Patrice claimed Army officials said they searched the area but because his phone pinged off a cell phone tower in Indiana they thought he was Absent Without Leave (AWOL). Patrice’s response: ‘He was laying in the woods, and nobody would go look.’ Patrice has since started a petition to pass Dakota’s Law which would create a ‘Warrior Alert’ when soldiers go missing. Learn more here:

We need to change Standard Operating Procedures on how Law Enforcement and Military handle situations when our Veterans and Active Duty Members go missing. Which will in turn allow not only Law Enforcement and Military Officials the tools to better locate these individuals, but will help the families and any veterans organizations to assist as well. –Dakota’s Law Petition

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PETITION: Dakota’s Law


Dakota Stump Singing ‘Missing Warrior’ recording before he was found dead.

Letter of Support for Save Our Heroes in Our Shared Quest for Military Justice Reform & Constitutional Rights

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October 1, 2016

U.S. House of Representatives
United States Senate
Washington, DC

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a letter of support for Save Our Heroes. We recognized immediately that Save Our Heroes and victims of crimes both want similar changes in the military justice system. Save Our Heroes is asking for three specific legislative/policy changes to restore fundamental fairness in the military justice system:

1. Remove all Commanders authority from decision-making in the legal system.
2. The number of panel members should be increased to 12 for General Courts Martial.
3. Any conviction at Courts Martial shall require a unanimous verdict.

These requests by Save Our Heroes are similar to the overall changes that victims of crimes in the military have lobbied for, specifically that Commanders be removed from the reporting and decision-making process because of fear of bias, lack of investigative training, and the power to discharge and/or punish with the stroke of a pen. Save Our Heroes is requesting the same changes because ultimately both the victims and accused are looking for a military justice system that mirrors the civilian justice system while respecting the need of the Commanding Officer to ensure discipline is maintained within their command. We want a justice system where crimes are reported to legal authorities and not a Commander who is an authority figure with the power to impact your entire life. We want a justice system where crimes will be investigated thoroughly by unbiased military criminal investigative organizations looking for the truth. We want a justice system that provides the same constitutional rights as those provided in the civilian justice system. Save Our Heroes is specifically asking for changes that are commonplace in the civilian justice system, like a jury of twelve of our peers and a unanimous verdict. Our military deserves no less.

Victims of crimes in the military are asking for a military justice system that provides due process for the accuser and the accused. Crime victims want the ability to go to trial based on an independent prosecutor’s decision to charge because there was sufficient evidence to move forward with a case. Crime victims want those people who level false accusations, and engage in other abuses of the process, to be held accountable. While we recognize that false reports represent a small percentage of total reports (between 2-8 percent based on Bureau of Justice Statistics data), those who do falsely accuse are hurting the real victims of these crimes and should be held accountable through the same impartial military justice system. Both the accusers and the accused are asking for due process, which is best accomplished by a system that mirrors the civilian justice system. Currently, Commanders have control of the process when the accused, accuser, defense attorneys, and prosecutors should have control over the process.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Norris, Military Justice for All
Stephanie Schroeder, US Human Rights Network & UN Board Member
Brian Lewis, Men Recovering from Military Sexual Trauma

Army Reserve Veteran Micah Johnson Murdered Five Dallas Police Officers During Black Lives Matter Protest in Texas (2016)

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Micah Johnson, US Army Reserve

Micah Johnson, a US Army Reserve veteran, is accused of gunning down and murdering five Dallas police officers during a Black Lives Matter Event on July 7, 2016. This is considered one of the deadliest attacks on police officers since September 11, 2001. He was eventually killed in a stand off with police. In recent media reports we learned that Micah Johnson deployed to Afghanistan from November 2013 to July 2014. He was accused of sexual harassment while deployed to Afghanistan in May 2014. He was accused of stalking and stealing women’s underwear as well. The victim sought a protection order and told superiors he needed mental health treatment. The protection order was granted and the Commanding officer recommended an Other Than Honorable discharge and sent him home early from his deployment to Afghanistan. Johnson’s military attorney stated that this kind of punishment is unusual for an isolated incident of sexual harassment. As part of a tentative agreement, it was recommended that Johnson receive a general discharge which saves the Army time and resources needed to discharge soldiers under Other Than Honorable conditions. Instead he was eventually released from the Army with a honorable discharge in April 2015.

As a result of his actions while serving, he was not investigated and prosecuted but instead sent back home from overseas and discharged from the US Army Reserves honorably. Although we have limited information in which to base conclusions, at first glance this looks like a case of escalation of predatory behavior that starts with sexual harassment, progresses to stalking, then the individual gets brazen and starts breaking and entering to steal his victims belongings. It would only be a matter of time before the individual escalated to sexual assault, rape and then murder. It’s too early to make a definitive conclusion as we are still waiting for information to come in because this story is developing. But one thing we do know is that the US Army Reserves took the easy way out, booted Micah Johnson from the military to protect it’s service members, and unleashed him on society with no warning or records. This case is another reason why we need the military to investigate and process each and every case through the legal system so we at least have a fighting chance at prevention and escalation of crimes. If the military can’t handle or afford to investigate and prosecute each case to determine the soldier’s danger to society, then maybe they should hand over the investigation and prosecution of crimes to the civilians. This isn’t the first case they let slip through the cracks and it certainly won’t be the last.

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As the funerals for the slain Dallas police officers continue, the investigation into the background and motive of Dallas shooter, Micah Johnson, continues. The US Army has opened an investigation into Johnson’s military service. Johnson reportedly spent six years in the Army Reserves and was accused of sexual harassment while serving. RT America’s Manuel Rapalo reports from Dallas, where police are also investigating claims that Johnson purchased an AK-47 off of Facebook for $600 before the shooting. -RT America

Tracking Military Sex Offenders Prevents Crime

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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.

Continue reading

Chuck Hagel’s sexual assault panel may be too late

Department of DefenseDefense Secretary Chuck Hagel is soliciting advice on what else he can do to stop sexual assault in the ranks by turning to a panel of experts from outside the Pentagon.

But there’s a big catch: The nine-person committee he has chartered to study the issue doesn’t plan to release any recommendations until several months after the Senate votes on the key question of whether to remove the chain of command from major criminal prosecutions.

Read more here.

Lauterbach Sexual Assault Case Prompts Policy Reforms in Military

Maria LauterbachThe family of slain Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach is hailing recent provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act that profoundly change the way the Department of Defense will handle sexual assault charges.

The Defense STRONG Act has cleared both the House and the Senate and is awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature. Provisions include access to legal counsel for victims and the right to request a base transfer.

Lauterbach’s mother, Mary Lauterbach of Vandalia, said the new law would have made the difference in the case of her daughter, who was denied a base transfer after accusing fellow Marine Cesar Laurean of sexual assault. “Maria would be alive today if the base transfer had been available to her,” she said.

Turner concurred, “In civilian life you have complete control of your movements, and if you’re in an unsafe situation you can remove yourself. In military life, the victim needs permission to take even basic self-preservation actions.”

Key changes in military policy

  • By executive order, communication between victims and victim advocates will now be privileged. Previously conversations between victim and victim advocates can be subpoenaed in court, making victims reluctant to come forward. Pending legislation HR 1540, passed by both the House and Senate, provides for:
  • Legal assistance for victims of sexual assault. Previously, only defendants in the military have been guaranteed access to a lawyer.
  • Stricter training guidelines and greater oversight for Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and Sexual Assault Victim Advocates.
  • Retention of sexual assault records with lifetime access for service members.
  • The victim’s right to a base transfer or unit transfer. Under the new law, these requests will be expedited, with decisions being made within 72 hours and the bias should be in favor of the victim.

Read more here.