In the midst of a flurry of court cases and Senate activity over sexual assault in the military, the news that the Army's top sexual assault prosecutor assaulted a woman himself is probably not the kind of thing Army officials are excited about having to address. Well, whoops – here we go anyway.
Stars and Stripes reports that a female lawyer who worked for Lt. Col. Joseph "Jay" Morse recently alleged that Morse "groped her and tried to kiss her," most appropriately, at a sexual assault legal conference in 2011. While sources say no official charges have been filed against Morse, he was suspended from his position as Chief of the Trial Counsel Assistance Program (a position he was appointed to after the incident in question) when the woman came forward with her claim. An Army official revealed to Stars and Stripes that the case is currently being investigated.
According to his bio on the military's Response Systems to Sexual Assault Panel website, Morse oversaw "twenty-three Special Victim Prosecutors, all criminal law experts focusing on the prosecution of crimes involving sexual assault, domestic violence, and children as victims" in his role.
This is unfortunately not the first time a case involving someone whose job it was to prevent sexual assault was found doing just that has come up in the military. In November, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, who was head of the Air Force's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, was acquitted of allegedly groping a woman outside a bar. He was removed from his position after the allegations were revealed. In December, Master Sgt. Brad Grimes was convicted of conspiring to form a prostitution ring among his fellow soldiers. The man who allegedly started that ring, Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen, was in charge of battalion's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program but has not been charged yet. And on Thursday, Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair pled guilty to adultery, admitting that he had cheated on his wife with the younger officer who claims Sinclair abused her, and that had "inappropriate relationships" with two other women. Additionally, he admitted to possessing pornographic materials while overseas in Afghanistan (that's against orders because it's a conservative Muslim country). Reports indicate that Sinclair's legal counsel hopes that by admitting he is guilty on a few of the charges, he'll be able discredit the younger officer with whom he had the relationship with on the most serious count of sexual assault. He's expected to be sentenced on these lesser charges on Friday and will plead not guilty to the following charges: forced sodomy, threatening to kill this officer and using his higher rank to force her to continue sleeping with him.
Just last week, the Army revealed that hundreds of soldiers had been removed or demoted from their "positions of trust" because of past criminal activity that, in many cases, was related to sexual assault. On Thursday, the Senate continued to debate whether Senator Kirsten Gillibrand or Senator Claire McCaskill's sexual assault in the military bills were the right way to go, before the vote on Gillibrand's bill was blocked after not receiving the necessary 60 votes. The Senate voted to allow McCaskill's bill to move forward. That vote will take place Monday.
Image via LM Otero/AP