A Hundred and Twenty Days and a Question

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The flowers of spring in Washington D.C. where we photographed images of our mission to storm Capitol Hill on behalf of Military Sexual Trauma victims.
If you would like some evidence that UCMJ needs an overhaul, you don' t have to go very far in Texas. Some of those working at the JAG at Ft. Hood seem to have gotten the current message from the top, and they are fighting sexual misconduct with a vengeance! “There's a rule, and she broke it,” according to the Killeen Daily Herald, is the direct quote of Capt. Carl Moore, who is representing the Army in the following matter. They have investigated, and now it is being considered under Article 32, (similar to a grand jury,) for prosecution. As I tell this tale, the reader should carefully note all references I make to when things happen, and also to all numbers referenced. I think that as these details of the story are noted, the reader, at the end of my tale, will probably have the same question that I do.

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It seems that in April of 2012, at Ft. Hood, Texas in a unit whose identity I don't think is relevant, a “small talk” conversation occurred between Lt. Karneisha Rossom and her unit commander Capt. Amanda Dodd. Capt. Dodd had noticed that Lt. Rossom was obviously pregnant. When asked the Lt. acknowledged she was in fact pregnant, and that she was married to Sgt. 1st Class Luis Rivera Jr. the father of her child. It was later determined that she was about two months pregnant when the marriage occurred on December 30, 2011. For a time both Soldiers had been in the same unit, and the rule good Capt. Moore cited as being broken is “fraternization.”

Capt. Dodd was new to her company command, and before her first month in this position was out, she had reported the conversation with Rossom to her superiors, and an investigation was launched into this tawdry affair. Evidently it has taken more than a year to investigate but, as the Killeen Daily Herald reported on May 24, 2013 it is now under consideration for court martial. The Lt. stands to lose the most, because she outranks her husband.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice defines “fraternization” in a subparagraph of Article 134. It is specifically defined in the MCM, ( Manual for Courts-martial.) The following are the “elements of proof:”

1. That the accused was a commissioned or warrant officer,

2. That the accused fraternized on terms of military equality with one or more certain enlisted member(s) in a certain manner;

3. That the accused then knew the person(s) to be an enlisted member(s);

4. That such fraternization violated the custom of the accused's service that officers shall not fraternize with enlisted members on terms of military equality; and

5. That under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.

I don't know if it is just my ignorance of the law concerning the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and its' application, but all that sounds somewhat vague to me. For instance, what is the definition of “a certain manner?”

If this charge is brought to Court martial, and Lt. Rossom is convicted, the least amount of time she will serve in prison is two years. She could also faces disciplinary action. According to Capt. Dodd when she was questioned, Lt. Rossom was ranked in the “top quadrant” in work performance. 1st Sgt Rivera, (not a rank easily achieved,) could face dishonorable discharge and a year in prison.

Capt. Dodd had this response to explain why she reported this information to her command:

“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. I can't believe she just told me this, she could lose her job. I can't believe she would tell her company commander this.”‘ As Dodd continued her sworn testimony, she talked of how their relationship (Rivera and Rossom,) contributed to an atmosphere of distrust in the company, and caused women to be afraid to report instances of sexual assault and harassment. Capt. Dodd apparently learned a lot about the Soldiers in her command in thirty days, must have taken hours to develop this bank of information, or one would think Dodd had received multiple complaint.

I have to pause here and say I consider Capt. Dodd's remarks highly offensive. How dare she and Maj. Moore drag this hot topic and serious problem, which according to our President, “threatens our national security,” into this dog and pony show? I would like to explain to Maj. Moore, and Capt. Dodd, since apparently they lack understanding, that the part of this horrific state of affairs that our President was referring to, not only is addressing sexual assault and harassment. He also is referencing the military's failure, in many cases, to render justice to those who are the victims of these crimes. In fact, rendering justice from where I sit, is near impossible as the UCMJ is administered by current leadership. I really cannot discern what “justice” is according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, nor can I see anything “uniform” in its' practice. When she was questioned by Lt. Rossom's civilian attorney, (a retired colonel,) Dodd could not name any Soldier in the unit who had ever referenced Lt. Rossom and her marriage in any way at all, positive or negative.

There are Army regulations which make an exception to relationships between officers and enlisted soldiers who are married, but getting married does not guarantee charges cannot be filed. So for some couples who get married, with differing ranks, all is hunky dory, but for others, it's prison time. It's all in how a particular command views the situation. A major will recommend in this case, with this couple, whether this goes on to the Judge Advocate for prosecution.

Now as Paul Harvey used to say, “for the rest of the story.”

About a year ago, Military Judge Lt. Col. Patricia Lewis, of Ft. Hood, dismissed charges against a specialist, Spc. Benjamin Hill, for sexual abuse, conspiracy to commit maltreatment, and hazing of another Soldier while they were both stationed in Iraq. There were two other Soldiers accused who had already been convicted. Sgt. Brian S. Cornell was reprimanded, reduced in rank to a private first class, and sentenced to 120 days in confinement. Sgt. Josue Nunez-Byers was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison and a dishonorable discharge. In other abuse allegations by other Soldiers in the same unit, two other NCO's were convicted in other incidents against two more Soldiers who were victimized in the same manner. One of the accused was granted immunity in exchange for testimony against the other Soldier who stood accused. The Soldier he testified against was eventually acquitted.

The specifics of the crimes that were allegedly committed against Spc. Jared Wright are too graphic to post here. The gist of the specifics were that two of them held him down while another grabbed his genitals, and sodomized him, then each took a turn. This activity was apparently some type of initiation, hence the “hazing” portion of the charges against Hill. The unit these incidents all allegedly occurred in calls itself, “Crazy Troop,” while its' official Army designation is C Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment. I have to speculate that probably the only reason this ever made it to trial is because Spc. Wright went to the media and told his story. Many reporters from the local area around Ft. Hood had been subpoenaed to testify in the court martial. It appears to me the judgements following his reports to the media reflect how the judges and the Army felt about his turning to the media to draw attention to this matter. Might I say, I consider Spc. Jared Wright, the victim of this assault, to be a man of incredible honor and courage, because he has not only reported, but stood publicly to do so.

Judge Lewis' reasoning was based on this particular technicality, the Army had failed to bring charges within the allotted 120 days. The charges had already been dismissed on March 8, 2012, by a previous Judge, Col. Kirsten Brunson, but that ruling was reversed by her three weeks later on appeal. I have been unable to find what the “regulation” was that she cited for this reversal, but the reason the reversal did not stick was Judge Brunson didn't make her decision on the reversal for three weeks. In the mean time, Judge Brunson had already authenticated a court record of the dismissal, thus eliminating the Ft Hood court's ability to overturn the previous dismissal which Brunson so efficiently had authenticated. So, the timely authentication pushed the charges being brought a second time past the 120 day requirement. The Army prosecution in this case, is appealing yet again to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals. These monkey business court decisions stand a dark stain on the Army's honor in my opinion.

Spc. Hill currently lives down the hall from Spc. Wright, as they are both serving in the same unit, and Hill is not under any confinement, as they both await their day in court. Another Soldier convicted in this matter, is already out of jail and back in the same unit. There other two victims of similar assaults are still serving in “Crazy Troop” as well.

Concerning this whole sexual assault problem in the military, as the old saying goes, “it speaks for itself.” The two cases in particular juxtapose how manipulable toward injustice the Uniform Code of Military Justice can be in the control of people without honor. Lack of leadership, and a justice system which is routinely “worked” because of the flaws and loopholes which allow this, are the cancers eating away at our military. Those who were convicted of this crime served less time than Lt. Gossom faces as a mandatory sentence if she is tried and convicted for her transgression, or as Maj. Moore said, breaking “the rules.” If you ask me, current Army leadership breaks the rules every day, or “tolerates those who do”. I consider Capt. Amandad Dodd and Maj. Carl Moore a disgrace to the Army; will probably both have long and glorious careers.

Now for my question… since substantially more than a 120 days have passed in the case of the married couple whose story I first told, how can they be charged with, and face court martial for, “fraternization?” It must involve some other technicality…

I am the grand-daughter of a WWI Soldier, the daughter of a WWII Soldier, the wife of a Veteran of the Global War on Terror, the mother of a daughter who served in the Army, and the mother-in-law of two Soldiers who have served in the Global War on Terror, one of whom received a purple heart and can no longer serve. The many sacrifices, challenges, and rewards of military service, and the support of each of the branches of service, and those who serve, and their families who stand behind them in their own acts of valor and sacrifice, are the subject for many of my posts.

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