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Monday, March 14, 2016

CHILLING Reminder! – Must See “Fantastic Lies” 30 for 30 on ESPN

Last night I watched the ESPN 30 for 30 program “Fantastic Lies” about the impact of a false rape allegation on three innocent young men and their families, the Duke Lacrosse team, the Duke University campus, the Durham community, and the criminal justice system.  In a word, it was chilling and it’s a must see.  

It was not just chilling to consider it in isolation – all the injustices in that particular case.  It was chilling to be reminded of the case and to consider what happened in that Duke case when looking at the current military justice system, and how rape and sexual assault allegations are being handled in the military justice system.

One of the quotes from last night’s program that was particularly impactful when considering the parallels, was that the rape claim in the Duke case “Fed a narrative for people predisposed to believe that narrative.”

What narratives are we seeing from politicians, military leaders, advocates, the press, and the public when it comes to rape and sexual assault (UCMJ Article 120) allegations in the military justice system today?

“If a rape or sexual assault allegation has been made, it must be believed.”

“Investigating an alleged victim or her story re-victimizes her and should be drastically curtailed.”

“Confronting and defending against an alleged victim and her story re-victimizes her and the defense’s opportunity to do so should be severely limited.” 

These are the false and dangerous narratives that have motived terrible changes to the military justice system and the drum beat for predetermined outcomes in these military cases is as loud as the crowds that gathered in Durham to call for the heads of the innocent young men who were falsely accused of rape in that Duke Lacrosse case. 

This is not the first time I have posted about the Duke Lacrosse case; you can see some of my other posts at:

How the 30 for 30 presented the case just brought it all back, particularly how the public, the press, and the prosecutor in that Duke Lacrosse case got swept up in the narrative that the crime must have happened and guilt must be presumed and harshly punished. 

When the Duke Lacrosse case was over, the State Attorney General declared the young men to be innocent.  At least one reporter publicly apologized for her newspaper articles that condemned the young men and the lacrosse team.  The prosecutor was jailed and disbarred.  Lawsuits by the falsely accused young men were settled.  The complainant is now in prison for having murdered her boyfriend. 

Unfortunately, the lessons of the rush to convict these innocent young men in the court of public opinion and the court of law were either forgotten or ignored by all of those who now attack the military justice system and call for changes detrimental to the accused’s right to defend himself against military rape and sexual assault claims. 

This ESPN 30 for 30 comes on the heels of some very interesting military appellate cases that tell stories with disturbing parallels to the Duke case.  Take for example the Air Force case of United States v. Airman Basic Jane M. Neubauer.  The appellate opinion in that case appears here:

Airman Neubauer was a troubled young female airman who was working as a confidential informant for the Air Force OSI, while herself engaging in various misconduct.  Ultimately, she made a false sexual assault claim which she has now pled guilty to and admitted, under oath, in court, was UNTRUE. 

Before finally pleading guilty and admitting her sexual assault claims were false, however, a long story ran in the Daily Beast in which Neubauer was described as a sexual assault victim and the article states that her case “sheds light” on a “disturbing trend” that the “Pentagon would rather keep quiet”…“a pattern of sexual assaults that lead to retaliation against the victim.”  Here is their story which was written and published before Neubauer’s admission to her own “Fantastic Lies:”

As we consider the actions of the Durham DA in the Duke case, and how he was clearly swept up in the push to convict those innocent lacrosse players, we can also look at recent military cases such as United States v. Stellato and United States v. Bowser, which are just two examples of alleged sexual assault cases in the military in which the prosecutors seemed to get swept up in the drum beat to convict at all costs. 

Here are discussions of those cases with embedded links to the relevant appellate opinions:

Unfortunately, military cases such as Neubauer, Stellato, and Bowser don’t get mentioned by the politicians who seek military justice reform that disadvantages military members accused of these offenses.  Cases such as these don’t get widespread press or public interest either.  Why?  Because they don’t fit the narratives described above. 

It has almost become a national pastime to rush to judge and convict rather than investigating, asking questions, and honoring concepts such as the presumption of innocence, the right to due process, the right to present a defense case, the right to a fair trial, the right to exculpatory evidence, the right to confront your accuser…

I encourage everyone to watch the ESPN 30 for 30 “Fantastic Lies” and don’t just confine your outrage to that particular case, direct your outrage also toward the narratives and the political movements that fan the flames that burn those like the innocent Duke Lacrosse players.

For more information about the military justice system, particularly cases alleging rape and/or sexual assault in violation of UCMJ Article 120, type “rape” or “sexual assault” into the search bar above the blog posts.  Also, see:

We offer free consultations for a case you may be involved in.  Just call us.

Thank you.    

By: Attorney Richard V. Stevens
Civilian criminal defense lawyer and military defense lawyer
Military Defense Law Offices of Richard V. Stevens, P.C.

Blog postscript: Attorney Frank J. Spinner and I (attorney Richard V. Stevens) are former active duty military lawyers (JAG). Our perspectives and advice, therefore, are based upon our experience as military defense lawyers and as civilian criminal defense lawyers practicing exclusively in the area of military law and military justice. This blog addresses issues in military law, military justice, military discipline, military defense, court-martial practice, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and other military and/or legal topics. Nothing posted in this blog should be substituted for legal advice in any particular case. If you seek legal advice for a particular case, please contact The Law Offices of Richard V. Stevens and The Law Office of Frank J. Spinner for a free consultation. These military defense law offices are located in Northern Florida (Pensacola, Ft Walton, Destin, Eglin AFB, Hurlburt Field, Duke Field, Panama City, Tyndall AFB areas) and Colorado Springs, Colorado (FT Carson, Peterson AFB, Air Force Academy, Schriever AFB, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Buckley AFB areas), but our military defense law practices are worldwide – we travel to wherever our clients are stationed or serving and need us.

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