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Court results reflect drug, sex assault issues

Jul. 31, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
The Marine Corps has published courts-martial results for the first half of 2013.
The Marine Corps has published courts-martial results for the first half of 2013. (Sgt. Sean P. Sales)
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For the first time, the Corps has published the results of courts-martial on the home page of its website in an effort to boost transparency in the service’s legal system. An analysis of the data shows Marines are more likely to face trial if they are charged with sexual assault than they were just a year ago.

The results include the outcomes of 219 cases — 75 general courts-martial and 144 special-courts martial — held from January through June. The report includes the names, ranks duty stations and punishments of the the Marines and sailors who were tried.

More than a quarter of the cases are tied to sex-related crimes, including sexual assault, rape, child pornography and adultery. The majority were tried at the biggest Marine Corps installations including Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina; Camp Pendleton, Calif.; and Okinawa, Japan. Camp Lejeune saw the highest number of courts-martial tied to sex-related crimes with more than a dozen held there within the first half of 2013.

Already this year, the Marine Corps is showing a stronger likelihood to court-martial a Marine over allegations of sexual assault. Of the 288 sexual assault cases closed in fiscal 2012, 29 cases went to court-martial, according to data released earlier this year. But already in 2013, 29 went to court-martial for rape, sexual assault, sodomy or abusive sexual contact. And of those 29, all but five were found guilty and sentenced to time in the brig and were discharged from the service.

Also tried were 10 Marines and two sailors for charges relating to child pornography. Each received a dishonorable discharge. They were also sentenced to anywhere from two months to 15 years in confinement.

Members of Congress have come down hard on the military’s service chiefs to address the troubling problem of sexual assault within the ranks. The decision to publish courts-martial decisions on marines.mil came down through a Navy Department decision announced July 18.

But the results aren’t strictly related to sexual assault. This year’s cases also show a troubling number of trials due to the wrongful use of a controlled substance — or drug abuse. Almost 40 enlisted Marines through the rank of sergeant have faced courts-martial for illegal drug use, with 75 percent of them convicted.

California bases saw the highest number of cases with 25 Marines tried between Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Air-Ground Center Twentynine Palms and Marine Corps air station Miramar.

But drug use is an issue being fought across the Corps, with perhaps the biggest campaign occurring in II Marine Expeditionary Force based in North Carolina. In December, nearly 100 Marines popped positive for drugs there when the commanding general ordered MEF-wide drug-screening of more than 38,500 personnel. Marines were testing positive for marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs.

At the time, it wasn’t immediately clear how many of those Marines received disciplinary action. The published courts-martial results show that only 11 Marines from II MEF were tried for drugs in 2013.

Many Marines who faced drug charges were also charged with unauthorized absence or absence without leave. More than 10 percent of the cases published included charges connected to Marines taking leave when they should have been at work.

But just like any crimes, some that Marines committed fell into legal categories of their own. Here are examples of some of the more unusual cases:

■ A captain was convicted of dereliction of duty, orders violation, larceny, fraud against the government and conduct unbecoming an officer. The accused was sentenced to 90 days’ confinement and a fine of $58,386.

■ A lance corporal was convicted of attempting to steal military property, selling military property, receiving stolen property and larceny. The accused was sentenced to six years’ confinement, reduction to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, a fine of $4,750 and a dishonorable discharge.

■ A lance corporal was convicted of fraud against the government, impersonating a staff non-commissioned officer and wearing unauthorized decorations. The accused was sentenced to reduction to E-1 and a bad conduct discharge.

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