The Army fired a general and lawyer picked to be the service’s first sexual assault prosecutor after a decade-old email surfaced in which the officer appeared to minimize victims’ claims, the Associated Press reported.
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth removed Brig. Gen. Warren Wells from the job on Friday, hours after she received the 2013 email in which he complained about what he characterized as false accusations by alleged victims, the AP reported. Wells underwent Senate confirmation in December 2022 as the lead special trial counsel for sexual assault and other major crimes after Congress, thinking that the military justice system unfairly weighted cases against those accused of sexual assault, called for an overhaul of the system.
“You and your teams are now the ONLY line of defense against false allegations and sobriety regret,” Wells said in the email sent to his staff, the AP reported. At the time, Wells was a lieutenant colonel and defense counsel for the Great Plains region in Kansas. (RELATED: ‘That’s Just Not True’: GOP Senator Slams Military Officials For Blaming ‘Discrimination’ For Recruiting Problems)
Wells told his staff they were the only people remaining to defend those accused of sexual assault “even when all signs indicate innocence,” the AP reported.
“Congress and our political masters are dancing by the fire of misleading statistics and one-sided, repetitive misinformation by those with an agenda,” he reportedly said.
In the email, Wells pointed out that the Army sacked a tw0-star general in Japan after he failed to properly investigate an allegation of sexual assault in his command, the AP reported.
Wormuth’s decision to fire Wells was “based on a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to lead” the nascent Army office, Col. Randee Farrell, a spokesperson for Wormuth, told the AP.
The emails “negatively characterized developments in sexual assault response at the time and was dismissive of the principle of civilian control of the military exercised by both the executive branch and Congress,” Farrell said.
The new office was expected to be operational by the end of 2023, according to the AP.
Wells admitted his comments were inappropriate after being fired.
“My intent was to reinforce that defense counsel were a critical protection for soldiers accused of wrongdoing,” Wells said in a statement the Army provided to the AP. “I do not want my comments to divert attention from the excellent work being done by the new Office of Special Trial Counsel to prosecute special victim crimes and care for victims.”
The Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program provides commanders with the tools to prevent sexual assault, sexual harassment, and associated retaliation in the Army.
Together, we can end this.
— U.S. Army (@USArmy) April 11, 2021
Col. Robert Rodrigues will be the acting lead counsel, while Wormuth transferred Wells to a different assignment in Army staff, the AP reported.
Members of Congress have grown increasingly frustrated with the military’s handling of sexual assault and has legislated changes in the justice system to rectify perceived deficiencies, the AP reported. One change involves hiring independent attorneys for reviewing and prosecuting cases rather than commanders, who may be torn between acting on a victim’s allegations and the pull to avoid drawing negative attention to the unit.
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