A military judge in Hawaii has ruled that two defendants in sexual assault cases cannot be punitively discharged because comments by President Obama were “unlawful command influence,” Stars and Stripes reports.
Navy Judge Cmdr. Marcus Fulton ruled that remarks by Obama on sexual assault could unfairly affect sentencing in the cases, according to court documents obtained by Stars and Stripes.
In a pre-trial ruling, the judge denied a motion to dismiss, but ruled that the defendants cannot be discharged if they are found guilty.
The ruling could have a serious impact on military sexual assault cases, as well as on lawmakers who have been contemplating changes to the military judicial code.
The judge wrote that Obama’s comments at a news conference “would appear to direct a particular result from the military justice system, namely that service members who commit sexual assault be ‘court-martialed’ and ‘dishonorably discharged.’”
Obama’s quote came from a news conference last month where he said he had “no tolerance” for sexual assault in the military.
“If we find out somebody’s engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable: prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period,” Obama said.