Military Court Throws Out Rape Conviction

By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 07, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Sailors have their own language -- haul the jib, ease the main, starboard side, coming about!

All that just to say you're turning around. It gets even more complicated when you're in the Navy.

That explains in part what happened when the Navy reversed a rape conviction against a sailor due to "unlawful command influence." It means the Navy's top attorney wrongly meddled in the case.

Judge Advocate General

In United States v. Barry, the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces issued a landmark decision in tossing a court-martial. The military's highest court said Vice Admiral James W. Crawford III illegally influenced the proceedings against a Navy SEAL.

Keith E. Barry was convicted by court-martial in 2014 of "forcing a girlfriend to engage in nonconsensual sexual intercourse," the Navy Times reported. Rear Admiral Patrick J. Lorge considered vacating the conviction, but let it stand with a three-year sentence and dishonorable discharge.

However, Lorge regretted the decision and said later that he felt political pressure on "many fronts" to convict. Crawford gave him "the impression that failing to approve the findings and sentence would place a target on his back."

Vice Admiral Nanette DeRenzi, a former judge advocate general, also told Lorge "there was tension from Congress regarding the military not taking sexual assault accusations seriously," the ABA Journal reported.

"Tension From Congress"

Crawford, who was a two-star general at the time, was later promoted to vice admiral and placed in charge of the Navy's criminal justice system. He is due to retire on Sept. 12.

Barry, in the meantime, always denied the charges. The appeals court, in a split decision, barred any retrial.

"It's the right answer to a longstanding problem," said retired Capt. Lawrence Brennan, a career Navy attorney and now an instructor at Fordham University's School of Law. "It's a well-written and well-reasoned opinion, probably the most significant UCI decision since the Tailhook scandal."

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