Army lax on sex crimes, files reveal

Denver Post - Apr. 12, 2004

U.S. soldiers accused of rape and other sex crimes while serving in Iraq routinely dodged prosecution during the past year with the help of commanders who gave them light punishments such as reprimands and pay cuts, according to military records released to the Denver Post.

Troops facing sex offenses were given job-related punishments -- which offer no prospect of prison time -- nearly five times as often as those charged with other crimes.

Such leniency also was granted to soldiers accused of serial crimes. Though investigators compiled evidence to prosecute a sergeant for sexually assaulting three subordinate battalion members, he was only given a reprimand, records show.

And though evidence was gathered to prosecute a military police officer for one of two rape allegations, reports show his commanders merely dropped him in rank and discharged him at his request.

Those cases are among three dozen closed investigations involving alleged assaults on troops by other military personnel released to the Post under the Freedom of Information Act. The Army records offer the clearest picture yet into the military's handling of sexual assault reports during the Iraqi war. The Navy and Air Force have not released similar data.

Many of the Army cases -- 25 others are still sealed awaiting disciplinary action -- confirm trends among reports from female troops who said they were attacked by fellow soldiers during Afghanistan and Iraq military operations: Specifically, that their complaints were met with incomplete investigations and lenient treatment of offenders.

"I am very concerned about this information," said Sen. Wayne Allard after reviewing several case details given to him by the Post. "I plan to bring it to the attention of the personnel subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee for discussion and possible investigation."

Pentagon officials said they could not comment on the cases because they did not have enough time to review them. But a spokeswoman emphasized that the Defense Department is examining how sexual assault cases are managed by commands.

"The Army is aggressive in investigating all cases of reported sexual misconduct," said Maj. Kristen Carle, an Army spokeswoman.