Army Officer Raped, Civil Courts in Her Favor but Not Military Courts
Military courts are much stricter than civil courts. The trials are basically the same, but the rules and the punishments are more intense. In some cases, justice gets pushed to the back burner when it comes to lawsuits among the service members when a high ranking officer is the alleged guilty party. Captain Erin Scanlon says she was a first lieutenant in the Army’s elite 82nd Airborne Division when she was allegedly raped by another service member.
A 1950 controversial Supreme Court order forbids any service member from suing the government. A civil claim was made when the military took over the case, and Scanlon’s nightmares became worse. The case was a lost cause from the beginning, according to Scanlon.
The man on trial who she accused was a sergeant first class in the elite and highly secretive Delta Force. He denied the claims and, under the military trial, was found not guilty. Scanlon felt betrayed by the military.
The military has a growing number of sexual assault cases, and they are working to helping the victims report any assaults and making the military a safer environment. When these things happen, the victim doesn’t feel they stand a chance at justice. The sergeant was acquitted, and his name is not being released.
Scanlon said, “In my opinion, I really didn’t have a chance at justice from the beginning. I think they went through the motions of giving me a court-martial, but they never planned to prosecute.”
The alleged incident happened on September 10, 2016. Scanlon filed a claim of $10 million in April 2019 against the United States Army for alleging “negligent investigation and handling of sexual assault case by Fort Bragg.”
Here is the problem. In the 1950 case of Feres v. United States, The Federal Torts Claims Act allows private parties but not military members to sue government employees or the government. Scanlon’s attorney decided they could not pursue the case any further.
Scanlon’s current lawyer, Natalie Khawam, took the case to Congress along with another client. The intent was to make it easier for those in the military to file suit when the military is accused of medical malpractice. They won the case before Congress in December of last year.
Khawam told reporters in the recent interview with ABC News, “Why is it that these men and women who served our country are not having the same rights, the same legal recourse, that everyone else enjoys? People have to be held accountable.”
When reporters from ABC News reached out to the military, a request was made to hand over Scanlon’s case with the public records. The request was denied, and a U.S. Army Special Operations Command spokesperson gave the following statement, “U.S. Army Special Operations Command referred the criminal allegation to court-martial June 2018. The court-martial panel returned a finding of not guilty.”
Eventually, the sergeant was indicted by a grand jury and pleaded not guilty to the charges of second-degree forcible rape, second-degree forcible sexual offense, and misdemeanor sexual battery.
A search warrant application from the Fayetteville detective in charge of the case stated he spoke to the friend of the victim who “corroborated the victim’s story and advised the victim told her, ‘I feel like I was just raped.'”
Inside the warrant read Scanlon’s injuries, lacerations to her back, legs, and hands, a contusion to her lower back and a small vaginal tear, corroborated the victim’s statement.”
A few days before the trial, on February 26, 2018, the case was removed from the Cumberland County civil court and handed back to the military. This time on the paperwork, Scanlon noticed a few things were different.
“Defendant is being prosecuted by the military for this offense” was checked off. “There is insufficient evidence to warrant prosecution” was left blank and not checked.
June 25, 2018, Scanlon was in the military court hoping for justice. She had to take the stand as a witness and felt like she was the one put on trial. In the end, the sergeant was acquitted, and she could not receive a transcript of the trial.
Dr. Dwight Stirling, the CEO at Center for Law and Military Policy and a leading scholar on the Feres doctrine, explained that as long as Military courts revert back to the Feres v. United States, the perpetrators will remain above the law. This leaves no hope for the victims. Where is the justice in that?