“At Fort Hood, Juvenile Crimes That Go Unprosecuted”
November 08, 2015
Military, county and federal officials are taking steps to plug a jurisdictional gap at Fort Hood that had allowed numerous alleged sexual assaults committed by juveniles to go unprosecuted since at least 2001. That is a direct result of an Austin American-Statesman investigation. Statesman investigative reporter Jeremy Schwartz teamed with Rose L. Thayer, who formerly was military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald, to reveal a prosecutorial no-man’s land at Fort Hood, which like many military installations, sits in an area of exclusive federal jurisdiction. That means the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Waco handles most civilian crimes on Fort Hood, but federal courts are ill-equipped to handle all but the most serious juvenile crimes. Federal prosecutors can refer juvenile cases to their county counterparts, but that has been a rare occurrence at Fort Hood. An internal legal memo obtained by the Statesman detailed 39 incidents of sexual assault committed by juveniles on Fort Hood between 2006 and 2012, with just a “handful” referred for prosecution. The Statesman investigation centered on the story of a 10-year-old boy sexually abused by his 13-year-old stepbrother over a series of years. The boy’s mother spoke with the newspaper after federal and local prosecutors declined to take up the case. After the newspaper pointed out this gap that was allowing crimes to go unpunished, U.S. Rep. John Carter and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn urged the Pentagon to fix the problem. The U.S. Army officials then requested that Army installations nationwide re-examine their handling of juvenile crime. At Fort Hood, a member of the post’s Staff Judge Advocate office met with U.S. Attorney’s Office officials and Bell and Coryell county prosecutors to discuss the handling of juvenile offenses. County officials expressed optimism that the discussions will lead to more regular prosecutions. We are proud to nominate this investigation for the Showcase Award.
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Submitted by John Bridges.