Service Reputation Can Trump Military Justice-Former Colonel In Virginia Explains Fairfax

I once represented a U.S. Navy officer in an expungement petition on a domestic violence charge. I observed to him that he was very lucky his former spouse took her unfounded accusation to the local police rather than to his chain of command.  He bristled at this, certain that his superiors would never sacrifice a valuable and qualified officer like himself over false allegations by a disgruntled spouse.I admire this officer’s faith in the Naval service. Having devoted nearly 25 years of my life to the United States Army, I appreciate his faith in the Service.  But I also know that his faith and loyalty is not reciprocated.  The military services cherish their public image and reputation above nearly anything else – and certainly more than justice for an individual Service Member.

Justice to You May not be “Good” for the Service

The sad fact is that given a choice between doing justice for a Soldier or protecting its own reputation, the Military will often sacrifice the Soldier in a second flat.  This is profoundly important for any Service Member accused of a crime.  The Military Services are facing intense political, media, and public pressure to eradicate sexual assault, sexual harassment, bias crimes, and similar offenses.  Whether these problems really are the epidemics in the Military they are depicted as is open to doubt.  That the Military is under tremendous pressure over them, however, is not.

If you are Service Member accused of sexual assault; domestic violence; bias crimes based upon sexual orientation or other protected category; if you are under investigation for involvement in the ARNG G-RAP program; or if you are accused in any other hot-button issue, you face a war on two fronts: the Military authorities are not merely deciding whether probable cause exists that you committed the offense, and whether they can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. They are also deciding, at least implicitly, whether prosecuting you is necessary to protect the reputation of the Service. If the answer to that question is yes, they are likely to proceed against you in some form or fashion even if the case is questionable. If you face this situation, you need the assistance of aggressive defense counsel immediately.

The tragedy of Captain Charles Butler McVay III

To understand how the military’s obsession with protecting its reputation can corrupt the Military Justice system, consider the tragedy of the U.S.S. Indianapolis. On July 30th, 1945, the U.S. Navy cruiser Indianapolis was struck by two torpedoes fired by the Japanese submarine I-58. The Indianapolis suffered catastrophic damage and sank almost immediately, leaving nearly 900 Sailors floating in the water.  After almost five harrowing days of shark attacks, dehydration, and untold misery in other forms, the 317 remaining survivors were finally discovered. Shockingly, they were found by chance by a passing Navy plane – the Indianapolis had never been reported missing.

Over 350 U.S. Navy vessels were lost in combat during the Second World War and not a single one of their captains was prosecuted for the losing his vessel. Yet the Navy decided to make an example of Captain Butler McVay III, CO of the Indianapolis. He was charged, court martialed, and convicted for the loss of his ship. Though allowed to serve out his career and retire in 1949, McVay never recovered. Wracked with guilt and dogged by a shattered reputation, he shot himself in 1969.

The loss of the Indianapolis was the culmination of oversights, errors, and blunders having nothing to do with Captain McVay.  These mistakes were deeply embarrassing to the Navy, and in order to divert attention away the Navy’s own culpability, Fleet Admiral Ernest King, Chief of Naval Operations, convinced Navy Secretary James Forrestal to Court Martial Captain McVay.Only decades later was the truth finally brought to light, by the efforts of a 12 year old boy named Hunter Scott, that the had charged McVay for political reasons to protect its own reputation, that the charges were based upon inaccurate or false information, and that information tending to exonerate McVay was not presented at trial.

Get Help

Human nature has not changed since World War II.  If you are being investigated for allegations of sexual assault, domestic violence, hate crimes, discrimination, bullying, G-RAP allegations, or any other hot-button issue, you need help now. Contact the SRIS Law Group, PC, for a consultation immediately.  We are as committed to defending your rights and vindicating your honor as you are to defending our great Republic.  Call us today.

Our law firm has client meeting locations in Virginia and Maryland. We regularly assist service members with military related issues, including but not limited to: allegations of sexual assault, domestic violence, hate crimes, discrimination, bullying, G-RAP allegations, military divorce, etc. B

Scroll to Top