Christensen left the military earlier this year to become president of Protect Our Defenders after watching a three-star general overturn the sexual assault conviction of a fighter pilot whom Christensen had successfully prosecuted. Christensen's retirement after 23 years of military service was first reported in a New York Times Magazine story Nov. 24.
In a statement released the same day, Christensen condemned the military criminal justice system, describing how he'd watched up close "the abuse and injustice victims of sexual assault face in the military."
Gillibrand plans to reintroduce this month the Military Justice Improvement Act as part of the National Defense Authorization Act after the bill fell short of the votes needed for passage in the Senate in March.
The outcry over Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin's February 2013 decision to overturn the sexual assault conviction of fellow fighter pilot Lt. Col. James Wilkerson at Aviano Air Base, Italy, "has done nothing to quench the zest for commanders from trying to tilt the scales in favor of the accused," Christensen said in the remarks.
The Air Force ultimately reduced Wilkerson to the rank of major and kicked him out of the service after discovering that nearly a decade earlier he'd fathered a child with another woman while married. Franklin, who came under fire again after refusing to send a separate sexual assault case to trial, retired in January.
But Christensen said the changes do not go far enough. Military commanders still decide whether to pursue and prosecute sexual assault allegations.
The former prosecutor compared the current system to a Wal-Mart employee being raped by a fellow worker who is good at his job.
"Now imagine that the police work for the store's corporate headquarters and that the CEO for the store will make the decision on whether the case will be prosecuted," he said. "In making that decision, the CEO will not consult with the local DA. Instead, he will ask his in house counsel whether it is 'in the corporation's best interest' to prosecute a rape allegation that occurred in one of their stores. Imagine that the DA didn't make that decision. Imagine that even if the CEO 'allowed' the DA to prosecute the case that the CEO would tell the DA what the charges would be.
"Imagine that the CEO would tell the DA whether she could call expert witnesses or enter a plea agreement. Imagine if you will that the CEO picked the jury pool for the case and everybody on the jury works for the CEO. And finally imagine that the rapist's co-workers would be allowed to testify about what a great employee the accused is and that the jury would be instructed that being a great employee is enough to raise reasonable doubt. Could that victimized employee have any faith in that system?"