(U.S. Army)

Army criminal investigators conducted a flawed probe into a Virginia woman’s rape allegations, treating her with a “derisive and dismissive” attitude, and failing to thoroughly investigate before dismissing the case as unfounded, according to a report by the Defense Department Inspector General.

According to the report, “the alleged rape offense was improperly categorized as unfounded (CID did not determine through investigation that no crime occurred).”

Further, the IG found, the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command — known as CID — did not follow policies to keep the woman informed about the case or report possible lesser charges of adultery and conduct unbecoming an officer to the alleged perpetrator’s commander.

The IG began investigating the handling of the case early this year at the behest of Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. He had first contacted CID to inquire about his constituent’s complaints and was told that “CID personnel properly and thoroughly investigated the victim’s complaint in accordance with prescribed regulations and reported the findings to the subject’s commander for appropriate action.”

Warner wasn’t convinced. And the IG investigation, released this month, found the contrary.

The report recommended that CID re-open the case against the unnamed former Army reservist, who was honorably discharged last year.

CID has declined. “It is important to point out that three separate attorneys, two of whom are Special Victim Prosecutors and one who spoke extensively with the complainant, have all opined that the facts and circumstances associated with this particular investigation do not meet the elements of proof for a sexual assault,” said CID spokesman Christopher Grey. “A civilian law enforcement agency also looked into the complainant’s allegation and came to the same conclusion, that it did not meet the elements of proof for a sexual assault. It is CID’s position that the investigation reached the proper conclusion and that reopening the case would in no way change the outcome of the investigation.”

The IG rejected that argument. “The recommended additional investigation, which is required by DOD and CID policy, might disclose additional information that the prosecutors should have received, prior to rendering legal opinions,” the report said.

Accordingly, the IG requested that the CID commander respond again, a response due at the end of November.

Grey said that the case was not indicative of a wider problem with sexual assault investigations, pointing to a previous DOD IG report that found 99 percent of more than 500 sexual-assault investigations across the military had been conducted properly.

But Don Christensen, formerly the Air Force’s top prosecutor, now president of Protect Our Defenders, said the advocacy group routinely hears similar complaints from victims.

“What the case illustrates is the DOD’s historic failure to take crimes seriously. They have a revolving door of inexperienced investigators and prosecutors that is a recipe for failure,” Christensen said. “It is particularly troublesome that the Army is refusing to reopen an investigation when advised to do so by the DOD-IG. Their inability to admit they are wrong and to take allegations seriously is another reason victims have no faith in the system.”

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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