An Army staff sergeant accused of sexually assaulting a dozen women over the past three years, both in the United States and while deployed in Afghanistan, could face a court martial later this year.
According to charging documents obtained by the Washington Post, Staff Sergeant Angel M. Sanchez, a former drill sergeant, allegedly assaulted the women while serving at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where he appeared at a pre-trial hearing on Wednesday, and in Afghanistan while he was deployed there. Sanchez is also accused of using his position of authority to intimidate his victims into having sex with him.
Several of Sanchez’s alleged victims appeared at the hearing and offered testimony. He is accused of raping a woman in Afghanistan, and of forcing at least two women to perform oral sex, among other allegations.
If the case goes to trial, it will provide another opportunity for the military to prove that its justice system works after more than a year of controversy. Survivors of military sexual assault and members of Congress have been calling for reforms since a report last year estimated that some 26,000 instances of unwanted sexual contact took place in 2012. This year’s report showed an increase in the number of sexual assault reports filed, but there are still questions about whether reforms passed last year will make the situation better.
Two high-profile courts martial both ended in light punishments for the alleged perpetrators. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair took a plea deal after being accused of sexually assaulting a junior officer, and a former Naval Academy football player was acquitted of charges that he raped a female midshipman at an off-campus party.
Lawmakers have pledged to pass more reforms. The Defense Department is in the midst of a comprehensive review of the entire military justice system, which is expected to be completed later this year.