The head of the Army’s new independent office responsible for prosecuting serious crimes, including sexual assault, was ousted Friday, Dec. 1, after a 2013 email surfaced in which he said : “The ridiculousness of sexual assault continues.”

After becoming aware of the 2013 email, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth fired Brigadier General Warren Wells “due to a loss of trust,” an Army spokesman said.

Wells made the comment in an email obtained by CBS News. In it, he referred to the removal of a commander for allegedly failing to investigate allegations of sexual assault. “Do not expect any commander to be able to make objective decisions [sexual assault] Accusations as long as [as] “Congress and our political masters dance in the fire of misleading statistics and one-sided, repetitive misinformation from those with an agenda,” he wrote.

The email continued: “Hopefully a soldier gets a fair trial. You and your teams are now the ONLY line of defense with accusations and sobriety regrets. They are literally the personal defenders of those who no one will now defend, even when all signs point to innocence.”

Brigadier General Warren Wells, U.S. Army Multimedia and Visual Information Division

CBS News has learned that Barbara Snow, who worked under Wells as an Army defense attorney, reported an email to the Army inspector general nearly a year ago accusing him of gender discrimination and emotional and psychological abuse.

The email resurfaced after Snow submitted documents to a Defense Secretary advisory committee.

At a public meeting of the committee on Wednesday, Snow said publicly for the first time that she tried to share this information with the Army inspector general, but her investigation was administratively closed in August, according to a letter from the Army Department’s investigative inspector general reviewed by CBS News.

“I have provided the Army IG’s office with a detailed chronology of my interactions with Brigadier General Wells. Among the many documents I have submitted is cataloging trauma I have suffered as a result of emotional and psychological abuse,” Snow told the committee.

Last year, Wells was confirmed by Congress as the Army’s top lawyer in charge of the branch’s newly established Office of Special Trial Counsel. The position has been touted by officials as key to addressing criticism of the command’s improper influence over whether a case moves forward. The office, set to begin work later this month, puts prosecution decisions on serious crimes, including domestic violence and sexual assault, in the hands of independent prosecutors.

In a statement provided to CBS News, Wells said: “In an email I sent to my senior defense adviser 10 years ago as a regional defense adviser, my comments were inappropriate in my description of policymakers’ concerns about sexual assault. My intent was to emphasize that defense attorneys provide critical protection for soldiers accused of misconduct, particularly when there is external pressure for conviction. I do not want my comments from this time to distract attention from the outstanding work the new Office of Special Trial Counsel is doing in prosecuting special victim offenses and serving victims.”

His firing was first reported by the Associated Press.

Former Army lawyers disagree about Wormuth’s response.

“As head of the Army’s new independent prosecutor’s office, Minister Wormuth acted quickly to protect the position of the Army’s chief prosecutor and the office over which the chief heads. In doing so, she reiterated that there is nothing ‘ridiculous’ or ‘misleading’. about allegations of sexual assault,” said Meghan Tokash, a former Army special victims prosecutor.

Robert Capovilla, a former Army trial defense attorney, didn’t think the email was troubling enough to lead to Wells’ firing, asking, “What message does this send to the Army’s trial defense services?”

Snow, now a criminal defense attorney in Colorado, urged the committee to ensure proper vetting of the remaining senior special litigators across the military.

“It’s a foolish move to remove one and assume there isn’t a larger problem that needs to be addressed with others,” she said.

Tokash, an advisory board member and commissioner of the 2021 Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military, agreed with Snow.

“The lack of transparency from the military about the process by which Wells was selected is notable,” she said in a statement. “Service secretaries must assure both service members and the public that the right people are selected to lead the offices that investigate and prosecute specific victim crimes. Restoring broken trust is critical at this moment.”

An Army spokesman said Wormuth had appointed an acting special process counsel in the meantime and that the special process counsel office was still on schedule to meet its legal obligations and be fully operational by the end of the month.

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Clare Hymes

Source : www.cbsnews.com

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