Unlawful Command Influence Rears its Ugly Head

person holding out a book while another person signs paperwork

How many of you have sat through mandatory military training on sexual assault or sexual harassment? How many of you think your commanders are going to treat you fairly if you are accused of either of these things, even falsely?

Unlawful Command Influence Defined

Nothing threatens the fairness of our military justice system more than the scourge of Unlawful Command Influence (UCI) that has become so pervasive when people make allegations about sexual misconduct. It is so bad that even military JAGs have been infected by it. And while most military lawyers, including many I personally worked with on active duty, are ethical and professional patriots of the highest character, the recent finding by an Air Force Military Judge that the Navy JAG himself, Vice Admiral (VADM) James Crawford III, the highest-ranking uniformed attorney in the Naval Service, was caught committing UCI against a Navy SEAL Senior Chief (E-8) accused of sexual assault (See Carl Prine, “Court: Top Navy lawyer’s unlawful influence tainted SEAL’s San Diego rape case, The San Diego Union Tribune, Oct. 24, 2017, http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/military/sd-me-unlawful-influence-20171024-story.html), validates any suspicions you have that uniformed attorneys and commanders may not be best-placed to fight the politics threatening the fairness of your case. Vice Admiral Crawford is ultimately responsible for the fitness reports and detailing of every JAG in the service. Therefore, his actions compromise all of his subordinates, which includes every uniformed military lawyer in the Navy.

The fact is, powerful politicians in Washington DC, led by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, have made military and college campus sexual assault their pet political issue, and they are less interested in your rights and a fair system than in advancing their own brand of identity politics. Senator Gillibrand has the power to stop flag and general officers’ promotions single-handedly – and she has used it when their sexual assault statements or opinions displease her – and she has the power to strip powers from military leaders that they are desperate to hold onto. With the kind of power to pressure the Judge Advocate General of the Navy, a 3-star Admiral, to break the law (UCI is illegal under Article 37 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and punishable under Article 98, UCMJ), it is hard to be confident anyone in uniform is immune to that kind of political pressure.

Who Does This Affect?

That should scare you if you are accused of a sexual offense, because the ultimate question in these cases is whether you think your commanders would put your rights over their own careers.

UCI affects service members of every branch – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast guard – and of all ranks. It does not matter what rank you are, you deserve fairness and integrity if you are accused of a sexual offense. You signed up to fight for the Constitutional rights of all Americans, and you deserve someone in your corner who will fight for your own rights, independently and just as fiercely.

In my military career, I stood up to Senator Gillibrand, writing a 37-page UCI motion addressing her meddling in a case that helped dismiss all charges against a Navy O-4 falsely accused of sexual assault. I’ve successfully stood up to the Secretary of the Navy and to flag officers. I’ve worked with nonprofit organizations like Save Our Heroes (http://www.saveourheroesproject.com/) to fight UCI, which is the natural-born enemy of military justice. I’ve brought in experts and defended everyone from junior enlisted service members to senior officers, from special operators to fighter pilots, to infantrymen and mechanics. Now that I am a civilian attorney, I am determined to continue that fight, to ensure that anyone who raised their hand to protect the Constitution and the freedoms and rights it stands for is not deprived of those rights, which the civilians they defend enjoy, simply because of current political headwinds.

Are You Involved in a UCI case? Contact Us or call (843) 202-4714.

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