Falsely Accused Military Service Members Share their Stories on Capitol Hill
Center for Prosecutor Integrity, Military Justice Project, and Save Our Heroes’ Conduct Lobbying Event in Washington DC
July 14, 2016
by Michael Conzachi
“There’s nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.”
Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Doolittle, 1942
The Center for Prosecutor Integrity, the Military Justice Project, and Save Our Heroes conducted a lobbying event in Washington D.C. on July 7th & 8th, 2016. In all, they met with legislative staffers, senators and congressmen in 21 senatorial and congressional offices.
The lobbying event was designed to bring attention to Senate and House legislators, of the injustices that are routinely occurring at the accusatory stage, investigative stage and in military courtrooms, involving allegations of domestic violence, sexual harassment and assault.
U.S. Air Force Major Michael Turpiano, Technical Sergeant Aaron Allmon, and former West Point Cadet Trent Cromartie had all been falsely accused of some type of sexual misconduct; were court-martialed and acquitted of all sex related offenses, but were convicted of minor collateral charges.
Despite the challenges each of these “survivors” of the military’s sexual assault witch hunt had endured, and are still enduring, they presented logical and factual information and discussed their experiences in a clear, concise, and professional manner. The reception and interactions with senate and congressional representatives was extremely positive. More lobbying events are being planned and others who have been falsely accused, as well as their families will take part.
As we have seen many times before on the opposite side of this debate, there has been a flurry of irrational emotion, false information, contrived and misleading statistical information, all of which have produced draconian legislation and which has set the foundation for the types of injustices that are now becoming the norm, rather than the exception.
As the old saying goes; “you don’t need an A-Bomb to wipe out an anthill.”
In the military’s effort to eradicate sexual assault from its ranks, the military, through legislative changes, executive orders, policy directives, and intense and extreme pressure from the administration, legislature, and special interest groups, “Soviet” style investigative, enforcement and prosecution tactics have also become the norm.
This dedicated group of professionals conveyed to the legislators that sexual assaults in the military do happen and that offenders should and must be punished in accordance with applicable laws, when those cases are properly and fairly investigated, and ethically prosecuted. What has been missing from public perception and discussion on this issue are the draconian realities of how these types of cases are actually handled.
These legislators are becoming increasingly more aware of how the drastic and dramatic changes of combating this issue have played in these service members lives, the lives of their families, and the overall mission of the military as a whole. That can certainly be said for perhaps the thousands of other service members who have been falsely accused, convicted, incarcerated, and their families as well.
There is a myth and a narrative that has been promulgated at the highest levels of the government and Pentagon that there is a sexual assault “epidemic” in the military. That myth, narrative, and contrived statistics have been debunked many times over, just as the college campus sexual assault myth of the “1 in 5” has been debunked many times over. What is not a myth and what is truly an “epidemic,” are false allegations of domestic violence, sexual harassment and assault in the military  .
No one knows for sure the rate of false allegations, however based on the numbers of falsely accused, the similarity of facts; the pattern and practice, it is posited that the false allegation rate is very high. Part of the argument regarding the percentage of false allegations is that no one can say with any degree of accuracy what percentage of these cases are false. What is correct however, is that the proponents of the, “a woman never lies about rape” narrative have fought tooth and nail for any legislative change or policy directive for the implementation of an accurate system of compiling this information.
On the flip side of the coin, those who advocate and claim that the false allegation rate is extremely high have been derailed and stalled with their efforts to get into place, a system which would accurately and correctly reveal the true numbers.
So a logical question has to be posed. Why would those who claim that the false allegation rate is virtually nothing or so low and insignificant, have opposed any and all attempts to accurately make this determination? Perhaps, could it be due to the fact that the actual rate is very high and by exposing this fact, could in fact debunk the whole narrative?
There is a night and day difference between the public perception and the reality of what actually happens when a service member is accused of DV, sexual harassment or assault in the military. The fair administration of justice, due process and the constitution are myths, when service members are accused.
The reality of what actually happens when these types of allegations are made, would shock the conscience of the average American. Once an allegation is made; the virtual floodgates open, and any investigative effort is designed, not to determine the truth, but to build a case for prosecution. Sometimes drastic and illegal methods are used to obtain information.
Routinely, Military Law Enforcement (MLE) agents completely disregard, fail to obtain or seek out evidence of innocence, and if corroborative evidence of innocence is found; it is either not documented nor turned over to the defense. Brady issues and timely and proper disclosure of full exculpable evidence are extremely problematic. In some cases, MLE agents use coercive and threatening tactics to extract statements from individuals in order to bolster the prosecution effort .
Further complicating and hurting the effort are the “Victim Centered Investigations  that tout “Always Believe the Victim.” This approach starts by eliminating common sense and good judgment, and essentially defers investigative control of the process to the alleged victim, who can elect that certain investigative steps and evidence are to be ignored.
Let’s examine a hypothetical situation of an example of a victim centered investigation. Let’s say that an individual accused another individual of punching him in a bar that was full of patrons with a host of security cameras. In reality, it was the person making the accusation that actually did the punching and who initiated the assault. Let’s go further where the accuser, who is actually the perpetrator, commands the investigating officer to not interview other witnesses; patrons in the bar; and commands that the investigator not review the security camera tapes, but to just effect an arrest and prosecution on just his word alone. Let’s go even further that once the accuser; in this case the actual guilty person, refuses to be interviewed a second time, or refuses to clarify information.
Does anyone see the logic or the legality in that?
With the current media, political and public hype about the false perception of white police officers randomly and wantonly seeking out young black males for assassination; what would one think if a white male law enforcement officer simply arrested a black male for rape, with no other evidence other than just the word of the accuser? The media, public and political outcry would be turned into a frenzy of biblical proportions. The first thing that would be asked is why no investigative effort was done to determine whether a crime occurred; whether the facts are consistent with the evidence, or whether or not the accuser was telling the truth?
The “Victim Centered Investigation” does exactly that, but only in cases of sexual assault. That is currently what is happening in the military and on college campuses. The mere word of an accuser is sufficient to open the flood gates for all sorts of investigative, prosecutorial, constitutional and due process abuses.
Following the Civil War and during Reconstruction, various state and federal legislatures enacted “black codes,” or “Jim Crow” laws that severely restricted the civil rights and liberties of blacks. Through a series of court decisions and legislation such as the Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, these institutionalized means of discrimination were finally defeated.
To an extent, that is exactly what we are currently experiencing on college campuses and in the military when allegations of a sexual nature are levied. Not only does there exist a presumption of guilt, but through legislative actions and executive order, there is a near eradication of procedural, due process and constitutional rights guarantees, but also measures are in place making it extremely problematic for an accused service member to present a reasonable or adequate defense.
To make matters worse, military prosecutors routinely stack charges on top of any sex related case, to insure that the defendant; if acquitted of the original sexual misconduct allegation, will be convicted of something; some minor infraction, rules or orders violations or some type of manufactured false statement charge . In ensuring a conviction for “something,” Pentagon leaders can proclaim that convictions are being obtained in military sexual assault cases.
Recent changes to the Military Rules of Evidence  have been designed to severely limit the defense’s ability to present an adequate defense, and commanders are in a lose-lose situation and if they fail to prefer any sexual assault allegation to court-martial, their decision will automatically be reviewed by the Secretary and JAG command of that branch . In reality, what military commander wants that kind of scrutiny? Why would any commander risk his or her career for not preferring a sexual assault case, even if it is known and obvious that insufficient probable causes exists?
Commanders are evaluated on “Command Climate,” which literally and figuratively means whether or not they referred any and all allegations of sexual misconduct to court-martial. A refusal to do so, even in the most obvious false allegation cases is most likely a career ender.
In the past 7 ½ years, more than 200 generals, admirals and other military commanders have been relieved of duty, and not all for cause . Essentially; over this time period, the administration has built “a Compliant Class of Officer Yes Men” .
What all of these changes mean, is that any service member who is accused, will go to court-martial, regardless of the truth or veracity of the allegations. Although there have been very few examples of allegations involving same-sex marriages or partnerships, the vast bulk of these cases involve male service members in heterosexual relationships or marriages.
The military; through various spokespersons and Public Information Officers, routinely tout that the court-martial process is designed to determine the truth. The reality however is that military prosecutors do everything in their power to suppress the truth . Furthermore, military prosecutors resort to some of the most underhanded and despicable legal tactics to demonize defendants, making them appear to a panel (jury) that the defendant is some kind of unholy monster, routinely using terms such as “Jekyll and Hyde” and the usual assortment of clichés that one would hear coming from old reruns of the Perry Mason show  .
The narrative of the sexual assault epidemic in the military is very strong and powerful, and it appears that the military will stop at nothing to prevent the actual truth from being revealed to the general public. They will go after their own, or manufacture a case when the discrimination or fraud is brought to the attention of the news media, legislature or the Pentagon  .
This lobbying event and the growing public awareness was to educate and inform the decision makers; the legislators, that all is not well on the military justice front when it comes to these kinds of allegations.
The bottom line is that if you are falsely accused of domestic violence, sexual harassment or assault in today’s military, you WILL be court-martialed, your military records will be flagged, you will miss training and promotional opportunities, and in essence, even if acquitted of all charges, your career will essentially be over.
Although the actual number cannot be accurately determined; through advocacy, discussions and reviews of some official records, it is estimated that there have been more than 400 wrongful convictions for some type of sexual misconduct in the military with many of those wrongly convicted still languishing in military correctional facilities.
Just as the college “witch hunt” hunt has been exposed for the discriminatory, constitutional and due process fraud that it is, we are seeing the same thing with the military’s sexual assault “witch hunt,” except in the military, you don’t just face expulsion, you can be jailed for life.
Advocacy groups, non-profits, advocates, volunteers, the wrongly accused and convicted; their spouses, significant others, parents, siblings and children are speaking out in loud voices, and some in the legislature are beginning to hear them.
Save Our Heroes wishes to congratulate those dedicated individuals who took part in the lobbying effort and did so in the most professional way.