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Specialists In Sexual Assault & Harassment

He-Said-She-Said Cases

A common military prosecution in sexual misconduct cases is what is called a “He-Said-She-Said” case. This is known as a fact pattern where two individuals engage in sexual activity and one of the involved parties claims that the act was, in fact, not consensual. These types of cases are difficult to defend because the situation commonly involves parties behind closed doors, without other witnesses. Because these cases only involve two parties, it is vital to receive the best representation and advice on how to defend these accusations. A professional is needed to navigate the court martial system in cases where it’s the accused’s word against the accuser’s.

Consequences of Sexual Assault Offenses

The consequences of a sexual assault conviction are among the most serious in the Military Justice System. The maximum punishment for a rape conviction is life in prison, dishonorable discharge, and total forfeitures.  Additionally, most convictions under UCMJ Article 120 will require the servicemember to register as a sex offender. Again, because of the gravity of these cases, it is very important that you have a team of experienced defenders on your side. 

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Explanation of the Sexual Assault Litigation Process

Investigation & Interview

Once a person alleges sexual misconduct, the investigation agency of the respective service branch (CID, OSI, NCIS, CGIS) will launch an investigation.  They will take the complainant and their claim at face value, no matter how unbelievable or far-fetched their claim might be. The agency will make contact with the accused and push them for as much information about the incident as possible.  While this seems like the most fair way to proceed, it is actually a veiled attempt at a confession. Oftentimes, the agents will tell the accused they are just trying to find the truth, but the reality is that they are using sophisticated tactics and are looking for a confession – whether it is the truth or not.  Under Article 31 of UCMJ, a servicemember has the absolute right to remain silent and consult an attorney. This is where Military Trial Defenders comes in.  We highly recommend the subject of any type of sexual assault investigation never consent to an interview without consulting with an attorney first, and if possible having an attorney present for the interview. Because a majority of these cases are He-Said-She-Said scenarios, our strategy is to address the allegation head-on.  To do that, we meet with the accused to thoroughly prepare for the interview. We believe that the accused cannot leave that interview with any questions unanswered – this is the time to address both sides.  It is important to have a level playing field so the overseeing Commander can make an honest assessment when deciding on pressing charges.

Pressing Charges

Once the investigative agency finishes interviewing all parties and witnesses, a Report of Investigation (known as ROI) is filed.  After reviewing the ROI, and with input from the servicing legal JAG office, the Commander will decide whether to prefer (or press) charges against the servicemember.  Once the charges are preferred, it is almost guaranteed that the servicemember will face trial by Court Martial.

Data Collection & Subject Matter Experts

The use of Subject Matter Experts (known as SMEs) to defend sexual assault trials is of vital importance.  Oftentimes we use expert forensic psychologists and toxicologists to consult on the case and add to the accused’s defense.  We have worked with hundreds of SMEs over the years and have successfully used their knowledge in our overall defense strategy.

Court Appearance and Trial

The accused (just like any civilian) has the right to trial by members (jurors) or to face a Military Judge alone.  No matter the Military Judge’s track record, we advise our clients to never face a Military Judge alone. We believe the accused should not leave their life in the hands of a single person, but rather a jury of peers.

Verdict & Outcome

Like any other civilian trial, after both sides have presented and argued their case, the jury or judge will decide on a final verdict.  In the case that the final verdict is guilty, the judge or jury will sentence the accused. While no attorney can guarantee legal success, we have a nearly flawless track record in sexual assault cases. Our firm specializes in defending servicemembers of sexual assault allegations and will never shy away from taking these cases all the way to trial so that we can guarantee your true story is told.

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Fighting Sexual Assault Charges

There are a few common defenses for fighting sexual assault charges.  While these allegations can be fabricated and malicious, these allegations have career-ending consequences that cannot be taken lightly.  It’s important to remember that you are fighting the system, and not necessarily the accuser.

Raising Reasonable Doubt

The prosecution must prove every element of every offense beyond a reasonable doubt – this is the highest burden of proof in our judicial system.  Because the attorneys at Military Trial Defenders started out as prosecutors, they know how to attack the government’s case so that they cannot prove their case beyond reasonable doubt.  What this means is that if we are able to poke holes in just part of the accuser’s defense, the jury may choose to return a finding of not guilty.

Intent to Lie & Fabricated Testimony

A time-tested way to attack sexual assault allegations is to undermine the credibility of the accuser.  Oftentimes we find that the accuser has a motive to make up a story of sexual assault because they are looking for a way out of their current personal situation.   Sometimes they are married, have a significant other, or just want to be moved from their current base to a more desirable location. The first step in defending against a sexual assault allegation is to identify if there’s a motive of the accuser and then attack that motive.  

Presence of Alcohol

A great number of these allegations involve alcohol, which can affect the complainant’s ability to recall what really occurred.  Again, we employ the use of a forensic psychology and toxicologist to explain to the jury that difference between “black out” and “pass out.”  This distinction is critical in cases involving alcohol, and the ability to understand these nuances and to explain it to the jury is paramount to securing a not-guilty verdict.  

Next Steps

If you’ve been formally accused of sexual assault or misconduct, the very first thing you should do is contact an experienced lawyer.  You have rights that are difficult to navigate on your own and the best way to ensure success is to have a lawyer on your side to help you through the details.  Before you speak to investigators or agree to an interview, make sure you contact the pros at Military Trial Defenders.

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