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Marine's sex assault conviction tossed; appeals court says leader's remarks influenced trial

Reported by: Associated Press
Reported: Thursday, June 5, 2014 11:06 AM EDT

A military appeals court says the Marine Corps' highest-ranking officer illegally influenced a jury with a series of talks about cracking down on sex assault cases and has overturned the conviction of an enlisted man.

In its May 22 ruling, the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals says commandant Gen. James Amos' push against sexual assault was unlawful command influence. The court set aside the 19-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, handed down to Staff Sgt. Stephen P. Howell in October. He was convicted in a South Carolina military court of rape and other charges against a Lexington woman.

The ruling comes as the military and Congress seek to crack down on sexual assaults in the ranks. In Amos' 2012 remarks, he said court-martial panels were becoming soft on such cases.


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