Senators Gillibrand and Ernst call House defense legislation “inadequate” for military prosecutions

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Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) was also part of the Women Rule panel. Ernst, a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel, said Guillén’s murder was the moment she realized “enough is enough”.

“We gave the military enough time. Now it’s time to be very aggressive on the moves we make, ”she said. “If the military does not make the necessary changes, then I will partner with Senator Gillibrand, I will work with her on this legislation, and we will be the ones to make the difference.

Prosecutors say another soldier killed Guillén then tried to get rid of his remains. Army Spc. Aaron Robinson, 20, was charged with Guillén’s murder in July 2020, although he committed suicide days before the charge was publicly announced.

Robinson’s girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, was arrested in July 2020 in Killeen, Texas. According to Judicial documents from the Ministry of Justice, Robinson told Aguilar, a civilian, that he hit Guillén on the head with a hammer several times, killing her. The two then attempted to dismember and burn Guillén’s remains, according to court documents.

Aguilar was charged with 11 counts relating to document forgery and an indictment by a grand jury in Waco, Texas in July. she pleaded not guilty of all counts.

The annual defense policy legislation approved in July by the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which Gillibrand and Ernst are members, includes senators’ legislation aimed at removing power from military commanders to prosecute all serious crimes, including assault sexual intercourse, and hand them over to independent military prosecutors. .

In July, President Joe Biden said he supports changes in the way military sexual assault cases are prosecuted. Under the changes, commanders would have no influence over the prosecution of sexual assault cases, and all decisions on such cases would be entrusted to a special prosecutor for victims. However, he did not extend these procedures to all major crimes, which is included in Gillibrand and Ernst’s bill.

The current Senate bill was incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act. However, Gillibrand began work on changing the military sexual assault prosecution eight years ago. Ernst was previously a holdout on the concept, but recently teamed up with Gillibrand on the bill.

The House version of the bill due to pass Thursday night revises the way the military services prosecutions for sex crimes, but does not include Gillibrand’s proposal to drop prosecutions for all serious crimes in the chain of command.

“We believe this change will change who gets pursued and what the outcome of these cases is,” Gillibrand said Thursday. “And that sends a message to the military, that these crimes will not be tolerated. “

Ernst said removing all non-military crimes from the chain of command would prevent women from feeling isolated by having sexual assault cases reviewed only by an outside prosecutor.

Although there are male survivors of sexual assault, “usually when you think of sexual assault you think of women, and there are a lot of women who are sexually assaulted in the military,” said Ernst.

“What we want to do is remove the most heinous crimes, including murder, kidnapping, from the chain of command,” Ernst said. “The commander can always focus on issues of military good order and discipline. They still have authority over other types of crimes, but we take anything that could jail a military person for a year or more and transfer them to that special prosecutor.

Gillibrand said they would call on Biden to support reform, since he had previously declared his support.

“He said, during his campaign, when asked, ‘Would you keep sexual assault, rape, murder and child abuse down the chain of command? “He said, ‘Yes, yes, yes, I would take it all,'” said Gillibrand. “And so he’s with us, and he’s the commander-in-chief. If necessary, we hope that President Biden will engage on this issue so that he can let his committee chairs know how important it is to him. “


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