Ehrenberg said he agrees with "those on Capitol Hill who say the system is broken."

"But it's broken in many directions," he said. He said the prosecution of Tate was motivated more by political pressure than by the evidence.

"Don't use my client to advocate for your cause when you don't have a case," he said.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, another lawmaker who has pushed to take prosecutions out of the chain of command, said the academy case showed "a military justice system in dire need of independence."

"When survivors and defense attorneys both agree we need to reform the system — it should tell us the system needs reform," the New York Democrat said.

Critics also condemned the sentence handed Thursday to Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair.

A veteran of more than 27 years and five combat tours, Sinclair was accused of threatening to kill an Army captain and her family if she exposed their three-year affair, forcing her to perform oral sex, and engaging in "open and notorious" sex in a parked car and on a hotel balcony.

If convicted of the most serious charges, he could have been sentenced to life in prison and would have had to register as a sex offender. In a deal with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to improper relationships with two female Army officers, violating orders and conduct unbecoming an officer. He received a reprimand and was fined $20,000. He will be allowed to retire and receive a pension.

Nancy Parrish, president of the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders, said the sentence "sends one more chilling message to victims that are thinking about coming forward."

"It provides a clear example of why nine out of 10 sexual assault victims never report their attacks," she said. "The military's promises of 'zero tolerance' for sexual offenses continues to ring hollow as yet another high-ranking official is let off the hook."

In the Naval Academy case, Daugherty said he was unable to determine from the evidence whether the woman was too intoxicated to consent to sex or if she was so traumatized by "rude, disgusting and vulgar" social media postings that her recollection of the events was colored.

Daugherty said that amounted to reasonable doubt that prevented a conviction.

He said the case presented difficult questions such as "how drunk is too drunk" to consent, and whether one person can tell when another has crossed that threshold.

Daugherty said the investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service was hampered by the unwillingness of the alleged victim to cooperate and by lies told by midshipmen who were interviewed.

In testimony this week, the woman acknowledged that she had initially urged Tate to lie to investigators. But after an encounter with a sexual assault victim, she said, she had a change of heart. She said she decided to pursue charges in part to find out what happened.

Baltimore attorney Susan Burke, who has represented the woman, said the midshipman had "done her patriotic duty."

"Her courage has led to the reform of the Article 32 process," said Burke, who has represented hundreds of service members in sexual assault claims against the military. "That's a pivotal piece of getting this broken system fixed."

The Article 32 hearing, sometimes compared to a civilian grand jury, is used by the military to investigate charges and help commanders determine whether to refer a suspect for court-martial.

After the woman in the Naval Academy case was subjected to a broad range of questions by three defense teams over five days, Speier introduced a bill to change the rules.

Her legislation limits the scope of the proceeding to determining probable cause and allows alleged victims to decline to testify. Congress approved the measure in December.