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WASHINGTON — When President Obama proclaimed that those who commit sexual assault in the military should be “prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged,” it had an effect he did not intend: roiling legal cases across the country.
In at least a dozen sexual assault cases since the president’s remarks in May, judges and defense lawyers have said Obama’s words as commander in chief amounted to “unlawful command influence,” tainting trials as a result. Military law experts said those cases were only the beginning and that the president’s remarks were certain to complicate almost all continuing prosecutions for sexual assault.
“Unlawful command influence” refers to actions of commanders that could be interpreted by jurors as an attempt to influence a court-martial.