Commentary

August 3, 2012

My job is prosecuting sexual assault

Commentary by Col. Don M. Christensen
Chief, government trial and appellate counsel

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Here’s a simple truth…sexual offenders reject our core values of integrity, service and excellence, in favor of following their own base, undisciplined, criminal desires. Most sexual assaults committed by Airmen are “blue on blue,” or Airmen victimizing other Airmen. So in addition to rejecting our core values, these undisciplined Airmen reject the Wingman concept that we prize in the Air Force. They represent a direct threat to unit morale, good order, and discipline. They degrade combat readiness but with the combined efforts of command, law enforcement, and our team of prosecutors, they will be held accountable. Together, as a team, we will protect other Airmen and protect our strength and combat readiness as the world’s greatest Air Force.

Detecting and prosecuting sexual assault is our priority. Recently, we posted on the internet significant Air Force sexual assault prosecutions. The posting may be found here: http://www.afjag.af.mil/sexualassaultprosecution/index.asp. As you can tell from a quick review of this information, we will prosecute sexual offenders anywhere they are found. From reviewing these cases, you can see sexual assault in the Air Force carries substantial penalties.

Our partners in AFOSI thoroughly investigate each allegation to provide commanders with timely, accurate, and prosecutable evidence. They pass the ball to commanders, who call upon my team to prosecute the offender to the maximum extent allowed under law.

Our team of prosecutors is better than any you will see in the civilian community or on TV. I have 17 highly skilled senior trial prosecutors, who are selected from among hundreds of judge advocates for their top notch trial skills. They have the very best trial skills in the Air Force JAG Corps. They prosecute the Air Force’s most serious courts-martial. Seven of my senior trial prosecutors have been identified as “Special Victim Unit (SVU)” prosecutors, due to their training and experience in combating sexual assault. They are dedicated to bringing justice to victims of sexual assault and ensuring commanders are able to appropriately hold offenders accountable.

In the typical case we prosecute, the accused Airman exploits his victim’s intoxicated state to commit the sexual assault. We are very effective in prosecuting these offenders, and the law encourages us to prosecute Airmen who use alcohol to facilitate sexual assault of substantially incapacitated victims. Prosecuting this kind of case is one of our core specialties.

The Air Force has done a great job training Airmen about respecting other Airmen and not sexually abusing their fellow Airmen. Training can reach many Airmen who might be tempted to commit this crime. For others, who cannot be persuaded by training, my team, the Senior Trial Prosecutors – Special Victims Unit, stands at the ready to vindicate the victims.




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