Detroit Free Press: Michigan congresswoman doesn’t want ‘legal technicality’ to let military rapists go free

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, is helping push legislation that could stop military courts from releasing rapists under certain conditions.

Stevens said Tuesday that she has signed onto a bill sponsored by U.S. Reps. Brian Mast and Bill Posey, both R-Fla., that is intended to restrict military courts from releasing rapists in the wake of a decision the legislators say misinterprets the statute of limitations mandated by Congress.

Here’s an explanation of what led to the bill and what it would do:

  • More than a year ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces decided to apply a five-year statute of limitations for sexual assault cases brought between 1986 and 2006 after it was previously argued that there was no time limit to bring those cases.
  • As a consequence, dozens of sexual offenders are appealing their convictions in cases that were filed outside that five-year window. According to Stevens’ office, two convictions have already been overturned and hundreds more could qualify.
  • That prompted the legislation, which would make clear that Congress, which in 2006 said no statute of limitations applies to military rape accusations, does not believe the court should apply the earlier five-year limit to cases after 1986.
  • It would also authorize the House Office of General Counsel to represent the interests of Congress in any cases related to a military court’s decision and make clear there is no statute of limitations for sexual offenses in the military against children.

Stevens said she was glad to cosponsor the legislation.

“I am appalled that through a legal technicality, victims who were assaulted while serving our country may see their attacker walk free,” she said.

In recent years, the Pentagon has been wrestling with how to respond to an increased number of sexual assault reports involving service members.

Last May, a report said the almost 6,800 reports of sexual assault made in the previous year had increased by nearly 10%, even as scientific surveys had shown fewer service members experiencing sexual assault in recent years.

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