Alaska Statute 26.05.300 gives the state of Alaska jurisdiction in any criminal matter that is not a purely military charge involving a member of the Organized Militia. The militia in Alaska consists of the National Guard, the Naval Militia and the Alaska State Defense Force.
AS 26.05.300, "Statement of Policy on Military Justice," reads:
An offense committed by a member of the militia, organized or unorganized, shall be tried in civil courts and prosecuted by civil authorities except offenses of a purely military nature. This policy shall be executed and carried into effect at all times and applies to all encampments, armory drill periods, and parade periods in addition to any duty performed by the militia under AS 26.05.070.
Any offense committed by a member of the militia, organized or unorganized, shall have the case investigated, prosecuted and tried by civil authorities in Alaska criminal courts with any charges filed falling the under Alaska Criminal Code.
Sexual assault definitely falls under the state's criminal code. Therefore, given that allegations of sexual abuse and rape have been made against fellow soldiers by the victims, at the time of the alleged offenses against them, all serving Alaska National Guard personnel, it certainly appears that AS 26.05.300 gives the state all the authority it needs to assume the leadership role in the investigation of any criminal charges. The big 900-pound gorilla in the room is why has this not been so ordered by the governor?
The recent disclosure of the report to the governor by the guard's Office of Complex Investigations has painted a very uncomplimentary picture of the the adjutant general and his chain of command and their attitude and outlook regarding the treatment of female soldiers. Further, the bureau's investigation was not criminal in nature and had no authority to press criminal charges. Allegedly, the report identified issues and merely made recommendations. The second question then becomes, why did the governor ignore his authority and AS 26.05.300 in encumbering the process by allowing the National Guard Bureau to interrupt and to cause to be suspended ongoing police investigations at the time?
Contained in the bureau report is a compelling paragraph that might lend some illumination to an otherwise paradoxical situation of men and women in high places in our state government ceding their authority in defending our state constitution and the rights of the victims by subordination of that authority and those rights in favor of a non-criminal NGB investigation. The following paragraph from the bureau report demonstrates the attitude of Katkus's regime and the chain of command in the guard regarding the rights of the victims.
2) The Team found that all of the victims that have reported assault through the Alaska National Guard Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program since 2012 ... have been referred, when permitted, to law enforcement entities for investigation.
"When permitted"? What does that mean? That these women had no rights to simply go to the civil police with their complaints?
There are no such regulations in the guard or the U.S. military that would deny an individual their rights under the law, civil or military. Yet, that is exactly what has happened. And, the governor left the guard chain of command responsible for the current mess largely intact.
Trust by the organized militia soldier in Gov. Parnell and his appointees at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has been lost in the atmosphere of corruption, coercion, intimidation and leadership failures that this governor, who still refuses to let the state criminal justice system do its job in this matter, has allowed to exist.
This governor has made Alaskans much less safe in his failure to do his job with this mess. How can this governor expect Alaskans to trust him or his guard? Do we need to arm ourselves against the potential abuse of our wives and daughters or the theft of our property by troops when the guard is called to active duty for disaster response in the state?
This travesty is not something that should await the outcome of an election to resolve. Gov. Parnell should do his duty by announcing the formation of a task force headed by a special prosecutor, an empaneled grand jury, and the Alaska State Troopers acting as the investigating agency into the criminal allegations ... or lose this election.
Larry Wood is a 60-year resident of Palmer, and former member of the Army National Guard, Alaska National Guard, U.S. Army Reserve and Alaska State Defense Force.
The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.
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