News & Politics

Navy's Top Lawyer Tainted SEAL's Rape Case, According to Court

Navy's Top Lawyer Tainted SEAL's Rape Case, According to Court
The Navy Seal Foundation Los Angeles evening of tribute at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA on Thursday, June 1, 2017 . (Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages) via AP Images

Unlike colleges, the United States Navy has a process in place for making sure people accused of crimes received their due process rights. However, the system is different from most because of the nature of the Armed Forces. This creates some unique difficulties, such as the difficulties one Navy SEAL experienced that have landed him in prison for a rape he may not have committed:

The Navy’s top lawyer, Vice Adm. James W. Crawford III, engaged in unlawful command influence two years ago, possibly sending an innocent Navy SEAL to prison, according to a special military court ruling handed down Tuesday.

Appointed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to probe allegations that high-ranking Navy officers illegally tainted the criminal case of Special Warfare Operator Senior Chief Keith E. Barry, Air Force Col. Vance H. Spath determined that the actions of Crawford and others failed to “engender confidence in the process of this case or the military justice system as a whole.”

Barry was court-martialed and convicted of rape in San Diego in late 2014, in a case that hinged on whether he secured sexual consent from a woman during a month-long relationship between 2012 and 2013.

In 2015, he urged the commander who convened the court-martial to either vacate it or grant him clemency. He claimed that the woman was using the criminal justice system to punish him for ending their relationship.

Barry found a sympathetic ear in Rear Adm. Patrick Lorge. Then-commander of the San Diego-based Navy Region Southwest, Lorge wanted to overturn the verdict saying it lacked sufficient evidence, was overseen by a judge who was not objective and Barry “may not have committed the crime.” Lorge did not overturn the verdict because of unlawful command influence from two admirals in 2015, according to court filings.

Unlawful command influence is basically when a senior officer coerces those involved in a court-martial. This screws up the entire point of due process, and it’s a real problem in the military, where senior officers hold a great deal of sway with junior officers. After all, promotions rely on good evaluations from senior personnel, and a bad word here or there can derail a once-promising career.

Col. Spath found that Crawford pressured Lorge to find Barry guilty so as to ensure the Navy was being seen as taking sexual assault seriously.

In the process, a man who may well be innocent was sent to rot in a cell, all because some politicians wanted to make sure they could say something was being done about a problem.

Senior Chief Keith Barry has served his country for years. He’s become one of the most elite warriors in the world so he could defend this country. What did the Navy — his Navy — do to say thank you for his hard work? Apparently, railroad him for the sake of political expediency.

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