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The push from the top to punish sex abusers seems to be seeping into the justice system.

In the infamous case of Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, who was accused of violating military ethics and sexual assault in Afghanistan, the military judge ruled that “unlawful command influence” tainted the prosecution.

Outside political forces, including an advocate for the accused, behind the scenes urged a top general not to accept a plea bargain, which he then rejected. Gen. Sinclair pleaded guilty to lesser charges of improper relations with two female officers and conduct unbecoming an officer.

“The Obama administration is wrong in trying to redefine ‘justice’ to mean that a person’s guilt can be proven by accusations alone,” said Elaine Donnelly, who heads the Center for Military Readiness. “The Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair case was no different from many others, except for his rank. The judge was correct in suspending proceedings when a meddlesome ‘victim advocate’ tried to inject political considerations into the courtroom, egged on by politicians, the media, and nervous Pentagon officials.”

“The ultimate long-term goal should be justice based on truth, not politics,” Ms. Donnelly said.

Defense lawyers across the country have filed motions to dismiss charges based on public statements made in 2012 by Marine Commandant Gen. James F. Amos. During a series of speeches to Marines known as the “heritage brief,” he urged them to “get rid” of sex offenders. Lawyers have argued that the speeches were tantamount to an order to convict.

Promoting victims’ rights

During a Senate debate on whether commanders should be removed from decision-making on serious sex abuse cases, senators seemed to demand convictions.

“Since 2004, I have been sounding the alarm over the military’s ineffective response to the growing crisis of sexual assault in the military, including the need to ensure appropriate punishment for the perpetrators, to provide adequate care for the survivors of such reprehensible crimes, and to change the culture across the military so that sexual assault is unthinkable,” said Sen. Susan M. Collins, Maine Republican.

“Looks like we have lost our bearings for the sake a political cause,” said Mr. Dowd, the defense attorney. “And all of the hysterics and condemnations by the senior officials creates the poison which corrupts the process and leads to unlawful command influence.”

The Pentagon says it is taking the rights of defendants seriously.

“The objective of the department is to achieve high competence in holding offenders appropriately accountable,” said Army Lt. Col. Catherine Wilkinson, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

“The department is committed to providing a fair and equitable system of accountability that promotes justice, assists in maintaining good order and discipline in the U.S. armed forces, and promotes efficiency and effectiveness in the military establishment, thereby strengthening the national security of the United States,” Col. Wilkinson said.

The focus remains on victims.

Col. Wilkinson said the just-passed Defense Authorization Act reformed the Uniform Code of Military Justice by enhancing victims’ rights and limiting the discretion of convening authorities — the senior officers who oversee judges and attorneys in a legal proceeding.

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