• Tue
  • Sep 16, 2014
  • Updated: 5:32pm
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UNITED STATES

Top US Army sex case prosecutor suspended … for sexual harassment

Top prosecutor who allegedly assaulted and tried to kiss lawyer at sex abuse conference is suspended in latest embarrassment for US military

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 9:54pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 9:54pm

The US Army's top prosecutor overseeing sex assault cases has been suspended over allegations he groped a woman lawyer who was working for him. It is also alleged he forcibly tried to kiss her.

Both alleged acts occurred during a legal conference on sexual abuse.

The suspension of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Morse marks the latest embarrassing setback for the US military.

It is battling a sex assault crisis that has led to calls for a radical overhaul of its judicial system.

The allegations were first reported by the Stars and Stripes newspaper and confirmed on Thursday by military officers.

No charges have been filed against Morse, who supervises the army's special victim prosecutors handling cases of sex assault, domestic abuse and crimes against children.

The woman army lawyer alleges Morse groped her and attempted to kiss her against her will.

The alleged incident took place in 2011 in a hotel room at a legal conference in Alexandria, Virginia, before Morse was appointed to his current job.

A defence official said: "We can confirm that this matter is currently under investigation and that the individual in question has been suspended from duties, pending the outcome of the investigation."

A proposal that would have stripped military commanders of the authority to decide if sexual assault cases should go to trial was defeated in the US Senate on Thursday.

Top military leaders argued it would have undercut commanders' ability to crack down on sex assaults in their units.

Reports of sex assaults in the US military jumped 60 per cent last year, though officials say the increase shows victims have more confidence that their cases will be taken seriously.

About 5,400 cases were reported in the last financial year, compared to 3,374 reports in 2012, according to the Pentagon.

There has been a spate of high-profile cases in the past two years, leading to a series of initiatives and causing President Barack Obama to express his outrage over the problem.

Court martial proceedings opened this week against a US Army general who is accused of forcing a woman officer to perform a sex act against her will. Brigadier Jeffrey Sinclair, a former deputy commander with the 82nd Airborne Division, pleaded guilty to adultery - which is prohibited under the military's legal code - and several other charges on Thursday.

But his lawyers said he would be fighting the sexual assault charges. At a courtroom in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Sinclair admitted the affair with the captain and "inappropriate relationships" with two other women, as well as possessing pornography.

Last year, the chief of the Air Force's sexual assault prevention programme was charged with assaulting a woman outside a bar in Crystal City, Virginia, and grabbing her buttocks.

The case caused an outcry in Congress and among victim advocacy groups, but the officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, was acquitted by a jury in November.

Additional reporting by The Washington Post

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