The Army's Top Sexual Assault Lawyer Accused of Sexual Assault—at a Sexual Assault Legal Conference

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 6 2014 1:53 PM

The Army's Top Sexual Assault Lawyer Accused of Sexual Assault—at a Sexual Assault Legal Conference

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The Senate will hold up-or-down votes on competing sexual assault bills authored by GOP Senator Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Here's Stars and Stripes with the head-slapping scoop:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

The top Army prosecutor for sexual assault cases has been suspended after a lawyer who worked for him recently reported he’d groped her and tried to kiss her at a sexual-assault legal conference more than two years ago.
Two separate sources with knowledge of the situation told Stars and Stripes that the Army is investigating the allegations levied against Lt. Col. Joseph “Jay” Morse, who supervised the Army’s nearly two dozen special victim prosecutors — who are in charge of prosecuting sexual assault, domestic abuse and crimes against children.
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According to one of the paper's sources, the Army removed Morse from his job once it learned of the allegations, an account the Army Times likewise confirmed through its own sources. To date, however, no charges have been filed in the case.

In his role as chief of the Trial Counsel Assistance Program at Fort Belvoir, Morse was responsible for Army prosecutorial training and assistance across the globe. According to the report, however, Morse had not yet been appointed to that position at the time of the alleged incident, which is said to have occurred at a hotel room at a "2011 sexual assault legal conference attended by special victims prosecutors" in Virginia.

The allegations come at a time when the military is publicly struggling to deal with rising reports of sexual assault within its ranks, and with the increased media attention that has come with that. Morse's suspension comes only weeks after the Army announced that it had suspended 588 people in "positions of trust" for suspected offenses, including sexual assault.

Last month an Associated Press investigation found what the wire called a "pattern of inconsistent judgments and light penalties for sexual assaults" at American military bases in Japan. And recent studies suggest that as many as 26,000 service members were the targets of unwanted sexual contact in 2012, yet only 3,342 such incidents were reported to military officials, according to the Washington Post. [Update: Meanwhile, the Senate on Thursday voted down bipartisan legislation that would have removed military commanders from decisions over the prosecution of sexual assault cases in the armed forces.]

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This post has been updated.

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