The American military is struggling right now with the issue of sexual assault in its ranks. The lax moral standards of our society make it rather difficult to distinguish between morning-after regret and genuine sexual assault. When you add to the mix the chain of command in the military and the culture of the military, things don’t always seem to be sorted out correctly.
The Wall Street Journal posted an article yesterday which illustrates this problem. The incident in the article deals with Raymond Cromartie. Raymond Cromartie entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 2010. In 2011 he was charged with sex crimes against a female cadet. He was acquitted of those charges, but now faces expulsion from the military.
The article reports:
The alleged attack turned out to have occurred during an academy-sponsored ski trip to Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, in January 2011. The 180 cadets on the trip had been told they were permitted to drink, but only if they were over 21 (Quebec‘s drinking age is 18) and only in public places like bars and restaurants. Both those limits were widely flouted.
…He also acknowledges a sexual “hookup” with the accuser, which occurred in the hotel bedroom she shared with three other female cadets. But while her account and his agree on some of the physical details, he denies her claim that he forced himself on her.
…Although the accuser waited half a year to file charges, on the night of the incident she did phone Second Lt. Scott Wright, a young Army officer she described as a family friend. After hearing her version of events, Lt. Wright assumed the role of white knight. He demanded that she file a formal complaint. She demurred, so the next day, over her objection, he alerted the academy. “What that bastard did to you is vile and unforgivable,” he texted her. “You can’t let this go. I did what I had to do; what I knew in my heart to be right.”
It seems that there were some other connections here. In July 2011, Mr. Cromartie was summoned to the campus military police station after completing a grueling three-day combat simulation field training exercise in 90-degree summer heat. At that point, without fully understanding what he was doing, he signed a waiver of his right to counsel.
The article further reports:
Mr. Cromartie was acquitted of all the accuser’s charges. A few days later, he sent a brief no-hard-feelings email to now First Lt. Wright, who responded with a long, effusive apology. Lt. Wright wrote that after learning the facts of the case, “I was shocked and appalled. I felt as though I had been used and manipulated.” When he heard of the acquittal, “I thanked God that I didn’t play a part in sending an innocent man to prison.”
The article then explains the problem of unlawful command influence (UCI):
In addition, in October 2011 the accuser’s father sent an inflammatory three-page handwritten letter to the commandant, Gen. Martin. The father asserted that his daughter had been “raped” and repeatedly referred to Mr. Cromartie as a “rapist.” (This was not in fact a rape case; even the accuser said the sexual activity stopped well short of intercourse.) The letter began “Dear Ted.” The father and Gen. Martin were classmates at the academy 30 years ago, and West Point classes are famously tightknit.
Perhaps the clearest indication of UCI came in April 2012, when the defense counsel asked Maj. Jeffrey Pickler, Mr. Cromartie’s company tactical officer, to write a letter attesting to the cadet’s good character. Maj. Pickler agreed, then sought advice from his superior, Lt. Col. John Vermeesch, who discouraged him from writing the letter. Maj. Pickler testified that Col. Vermeesch prefaced his recommendation with a pre-emptive denial: “Just to be clear, this is not UCI.”
The military command is a tight-knit group. Generally speaking, they look out for each other, and generally speaking, that is a good thing. However, the father of the accuser could not be expected to be objective about this case and should not have gotten involved.
Because Mr. Cromartie revised some of the details of his original statement, he is now facing perjury charges, which could get him court-martialed from the Army.
The article concludes:
After the court-martial panel read its verdict, Mr. Cromartie took the stand in the proceeding’s sentencing phase to show remorse for the misstatement: “I should have reviewed my statement thoroughly. I just skimmed it and it was my fault,” he testified. “I should have asked for a lawyer.”
If that is the most important lesson a young man can learn at West Point, it is an indictment of both the academy’s leadership and the country’s.
It is unfortunate that we may lose a good leader over an unprovable charge because politicians have decided that they need to meddle with the military’s sexual assault policies. It seems to me that the guilt over this incident is shared by both parties–it’s just that one of those parties shared her regret in ways that were destructive to the other. If Mr. Cromartie is to be discharged because of this incident, the other party should also be discharged. This is much more a reflection of the sexual morals we have taught our young people than it is a crime.