Try prosecuting the Navy's sexual-assault suspects in civilian courts [Letter]

Nancy J. Parrish, president of the Washington-based advocacy group Protect Our Defenders, said the Naval Academy football players case could deter future victims from pressing charges ("Naval Academy drops sex assault charges against football player," Jan. 11).

I hope she is right, but not in the way she probably meant it. Instead, I hope the case will make women think twice before filing bogus charges like those in this case, both within and without the military justice system.

For victim advocates who claim the military legal system is unduly harsh on sex crime victims, there is a simple solution: Demand that the state's attorney's office bring charges against the three football players, since Anne Arundel County is where the alleged crime occurred. County State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess heads that office, a woman who is not tainted by the military's alleged sexist culture and someone who I am sure will lend Ms. Parrish a sympathetic ear.

It is not double jeopardy for both the state and the military to prosecute people for the same criminal act. A county grand jury hearing would be a cake walk since only a state's attorney will question the victim, and the prosecutor can take testimony from other witnesses as well as use evidence the military already has collected.

The grand jury usually only hears the prosecution's best-case scenario of its evidence. Hearsay and other evidence that would be inadmissible at trial is allowed. And there are no pesky defense attorneys asking the victim questions, which as the military allows. It is a kangaroo court on steroids.

An indictment would be almost guaranteed since the standard for moving to trial is so low. As is often said, a good prosecutor could be get even a ham sandwich indicted. Only a majority of grand jury members must decide there is "probable cause" for the accused to stand trial.

The actual trial would be before a civilian judge and a trial jury. Unfortunately, those pesky defense lawyers and rules of evidence would apply at that trial, but why not waste a few hundred thousand tax dollars in the spirit of political correctness?

The reality is Ms. Leitess will not touch these cases with a 20-foot pool because she knows they are all losers. But that might change if people from the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders start picketing her office.

Wayne L. Johnson, Alexandria, Va.

The writer is a retired officer of the Navy Judge Advocate's General Corps.

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