Air Force won’t in­ves­ti­gate McSally’s rape dis­clo­sure

The Buffalo News - - FRONT PAGE - By He­lene Cooper and Richard A. Oppel Jr. NEW YORK TIMES

WASH­ING­TON – The Air Force said Fri­day that it had no plans to open an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Sen. Martha McSally’s rev­e­la­tion that she was raped by a se­nior of­fi­cer while serv­ing in the Air Force.

In a state­ment, Ann Ste­fanek, chief of me­dia op­er­a­tions, said the Air Force could not be­gin an in­quiry un­til McSally agreed to par­tic­i­pate in one or new in­for­ma­tion came to light.

“Given the sen­a­tor’s de­sire to not par­tic­i­pate in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the Air Force will re­main ready to in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther if the sen­a­tor’s de­sire changes or other in­for­ma­tion is pre­sented,” Ste­fanek said.

She said the Air Force “takes ev­ery al­le­ga­tion of sex­ual as­sault se­ri­ously, no mat­ter when the al­le­ga­tion is made.”

In pow­er­ful pub­lic tes­ti­mony Wed­nes­day, McSally, R-Ariz., the first wo­man in the Air Force to fly in com­bat, told a Se­nate hear­ing room that she had been raped by a su­pe­rior of­fi­cer, one of mul­ti­ple times she was sex­u­ally as­saulted while she served her coun­try.

In a Con­gress with a his­toric num­ber of women, McSally’s rev­e­la­tion was an­other ex­am­ple of a fe­male law­maker com­ing for­ward to share a per­sonal story of sex­ual as­sault. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said in Jan­uary that she had been raped while she was in col­lege, and had been emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally abused by her hus­band. Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., has spo­ken openly of the do­mes­tic abuse she said she suf­fered in her mar­riage.

Any at­tempt by the Air Force to pros­e­cute McSally’s at­tacker would now ap­pear to be im­pos­si­ble be­cause of a rul­ing made by the mil­i­tary’s high­est court last month, just two weeks be­fore McSally dis­closed the rape pub­licly at the hear­ing on Capi­tol Hill.

On Feb. 22, the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the Armed Forces threw out the con­vic­tion of an Air Force lieu­tenant colonel who had sex­u­ally as­saulted a fe­male en­listed sub­or­di­nate be­cause the case had been brought long after the ex­pi­ra­tion of the five-year statute of lim­i­ta­tions on mil­i­tary rape cases that was still in ef­fect in 2005, when that as­sault oc­curred.

While Con­gress amended the Uni­form Code of Mil­i­tary Jus­tice in 2006 to elim­i­nate the statute of lim­i­ta­tions on rape cases, the ap­peals court ruled that the case against the lieu­tenant colonel was re­quired to have been brought within the statute of lim­i­ta­tions in ef­fect at the time.

Noth­ing in the 2006 amend­ment or its leg­isla­tive his­tory sug­gested that Con­gress in­tended to make the change to the code ap­ply retroac­tively, the court wrote.

The net ef­fect: Only rapes that oc­curred after Con­gress changed the mil­i­tary law in 2006 do not have a statute of lim­i­ta­tions for pros­e­cu­tion. Those that oc­curred be­fore the change are still sub­ject to the five-year win­dow. McSally has not said when she was raped.

But based on other de­tails she pro­vided – that she con­fided to peo­ple what had hap­pened only later in her ca­reer, after she had been in the mil­i­tary for 18 years, which would have been about 2006 – it ap­pears that the as­sault she dis­closed most likely oc­curred be­fore Con­gress changed the law.

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