Did the the U.S. military's laissez-faire attitude toward punishing a sexual offender result in the shooting deaths of two California police detectives? Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo (San Francisco Bay Area) wants to know why the U.S. Army dropped rape charges against the man who went on to murder two Santa Cruz police detectives who were questioning him on a sexual assault charge:
WASHINGTON -- A member of the House Armed Services committee on Monday called for a full investigation into the Army's dropped rape charges against Santa Cruz cop killer Jeremy Peter Goulet.
A prominent critic of the military's handling of sexual assault cases, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said she wants a Capitol Hill hearing on why two Army court-martials brought against Goulet in 2006 were dropped in exchange for an "other than honorable" discharge.
On February 26th, Goulet shot and killed Santa Cruz police detectives Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker and detective Elizabeth Butler, who went to his home to follow up on a sexual assault complaint by a neighbor. The detectives spoke to Goulet through his closed front door. Goulet left the apartment through another door, walked around and surprised the officers and shot them both dead.
A neighbor had complained to Santa Cruz police about Goulet the previous weekend. Goulet had gone out on Friday evening with 3 other people, including the female neighbor and she had rebuffed his advances during the evening. Later that night she awoke and found that he had broken into the apartment and had climbed into bed with her.
It turns out that Goulet has had a string of incidents of a sexual nature that got him in trouble with the law, including a peeping tom case in Portland, Oregon where his gun discharged during an altercation with a Portland man after Goutlet had been peeping through a window at the man's girlfriend taking a shower. Because he was not convicted of a felony, his right to own guns was not restricted after he served time in jail. Goulet moved to Berkeley where he had other brushes with the law involving sexual assaults and eventually moved to Santa Cruz.
It's just both sad and maddening that none of these assaults and convictions, including the weapons charge in Oregon could be compiled in a background check to keep him from owning guns.
But equally as frustrating as the lack of coherent gun laws in this country, is the fact that the military's lax attitude toward enforcing sexual assault violations may have contributed to the deaths of the Santa Cruz detectives.
Goulet was accused of rape shortly after arriving in Hawaii, according to his then-defense attorney. Instead of being locked up in a brig, Goulet was confined to base, where several months later he allegedly raped a second female officer.
Yet he was discharged in early 2007 ...
If pursued, the Army court-martial could have sent Goulet to prison for life. Instead, he left Hawaii for Portland, serving two years in jail there for peeping and unlawfully carrying a concealed firearm.
When released, Goulet headed to Berkeley and then Santa Cruz.
Last Thursday, Leon Panetta, who represented the Santa Cruz area in Congress before moving on to jobs in the Clinton and Obama administration, spoke at the memorial service for the officers and didn't pull any punches:
SAN JOSE -- Some U.S. military officials "looked the other way" rather than aggressively pursue rape charges against a sexually troubled soldier who ended up killing two Santa Cruz police officers last week, former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said at the officers' funeral Thursday.Last September, Panetta, while still at Defense, ordered that rape victims be allowed to quickly transfer out of units where they were assaulted, and that their cases must be handled by senior officers and not the unit commanders. "He also moved to create special investigative units and called for prosecuting more sex offenders."
Experts say Panetta's unusually strong words -- which implied that the military justice system might share some blame for the officers' deaths -- highlight the ongoing push to change a military culture that has given rise to an epidemic of sexual assault.
Panetta, who just left the top job at the Pentagon last week, acknowledged Thursday that military sex offenders were not always prosecuted for the offenses they committed. "And at some point, somebody pays a price," Panetta added
And Speier has introduced a bill along to set up an independent council outside of the Defense Department chain of command to oversee sex-crime policy in the U.S. military.
The council would appoint and advise an office responsible for investigating, preventing and reducing sexual assaults, and a director responsible for overseeing all military sex-crime prosecutions.In a related move, today in press conference, Speier announced new legislation which would prevent military commanders from being able to overturn convictions and sentences. The legislation was prompted in part by a sexual assault case at Aviano Air Base in Italy.
Speier said the existing appeal process is sufficient and that giving commanders authority to overturn convictions encourages miscarriages of justice.While we're all trying hard to rally our elected representatives to the cause of putting sensible gun control in place, let's not forget the egregious conduct and miscarriages of justice occurring in the US Military.
Last month, the commander of 3rd Air Force, Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, threw out the sexual assault conviction of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, overruled his sentence and reinstated Wilkerson into the Air Force. Wilkerson had been found guilty of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced by jury to a year in jail, forfeiture of all pay and dismissal from the service.
Speier said that under the UCMJ, no one — not even Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel or President Barack Obama — has the authority to overturn Franklin’s decision.
The case “makes a mockery of the Pentagon’s so-called zero-tolerance policy on sexual assault,” said Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, one of the legislation’s co-sponsors.
A fish rots from the head down.
On a personal note, I'd like to add that the noise I've observed in the letters-to-the-editors and on talk radio in the Monterey Bay Area and Santa Cruz has been filled with conservatives blaming everything under the sun for the murder of these two detectives. People are clamoring against needle exchange, illegal immigrants and gangs, Santa Cruz's liberal attitude and on and on. These are valid concerns to a certain extent, but some are using the incident of the killings to attack all the things they've wanted to get rid of for years. The words and actions of both Speier and Panetta have been some of the most realistic solutions offered toward solving the problems of violence in our community.
(Update: I should add that the city and county have been discussing gun legislation and have re-looked at procedures since before this incident and in the wake of the Connecticut school shootings)
Update: Meant to include this originally. For those who are so inclined: Donate to the Santa Cruz Officers' Memorial Fund