SAN MATEO (KCBS) – It’s being called a step in the right direction as the Pentagon is now pushing for a key change in the way the military deals with sexual assault convictions.

But Peninsula Congresswoman Jackie Speier said the change doesn’t go far enough.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is asking Congress to take away the power of military commanders to reverse court martial verdicts in major crimes like murder or sexual assault. This stems from the decision in February to overturn an Air Force pilot’s guilty verdict for assault and his reinstatement with a clean slate.

That controversial ruling outraged Speier, who has introduced legislation to change military law.

She said that Hagel’s proposal only bans commanders from reversing a verdict, but they can still reduce sentences, which essentially is a pardon.

“We’re talking about a violent felony in the civilian world. Imagine a situation, a conviction and then a pardon on rape cases,” Speier said. “Would any president or any governor survive that? No. But because the military is such an insular environment, that’s why we’ve had the 19,000 rapes a year continue in the military.”

The Pentagon has come under fire from Congress for not doing enough to address those thousands of cases.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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