Commentary

April 25, 2014

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: The Legal Perspective

Air Force graphic by Naoko Shimoji

All sexual assault allegations are taken very seriously by members of the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps, including those of us at Edwards Air Force Base.

In recent weeks, you have read articles from other base organizations that investigate and provide assistance to victims of sexual assaults.

While the legal office works closely with those organizations, we are the organization responsible for advising commanders regarding UCMJ actions and ultimately prosecuting sexual assaults.

JA is one of the first organizations notified anytime there is an unrestricted report of sexual assault.

The Staff Judge Advocate assigns an attorney and a paralegal to begin working on a sexual assault case as soon as we are notified. JA coordinates closely with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations from the outset of any investigation.

The ultimate goal for JA as the government representative is to seek justice, which may involve prosecuting offenders in courts. All our actions revolve around the basic premise that any given case may end up being decided in a court of law.

The attorney and paralegal assigned to the case review evidence, interview witnesses and prepare for trial should a trial become necessary based on the evidence.

While it is difficult to describe the entire courts-martial process in a short article, it is important to understand that in sexual assault cases the victim is an extremely critical witness for the government.

When a victim testifies at court, he or she has the opportunity to provide their side of the story. A victim’s testimony is a key piece of the justice puzzle that enables the ultimate fact finder, whether that is a judge or a panel of members, to determine questions of guilt and appropriate sentences.

If you have any questions about the courts-martial process, or the legal office in general, do not hesitate to stop by the 412th Test Wing legal office in Bldg. 1.




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