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Tim Bilecki

The Case of Marine Corp Recruiter Nicholas Howard

The press in Alaska is upset over a recent military rape case. Marine Corp recruiter Nicholas Howard was convicted by the Marine Corp justice system of first-degree sexual assault. He was dishonorably discharged but did not receive any jail time. It is now being said that the victim did not receive justice and this is being used as further evidence that the military justice system cannot adequately deal with sexual assault. But, the facts in the media report actually illustrate why this might have been an appropriate sentence.

Howard, the victim, her boyfriend and others were partying at Howard’s house. They had all been drinking. The report states that Howard carried the woman from a hot tub to a camper where she was supposed to spend the night with her boyfriend. That is when the sexual assault is supposed to have occurred. Howard’s DNA was found on the victim. She was found later by her boyfriend and she was crying. What happened inside the camper? The report is consistent with a sexual assault. It is also consistent with consensual sex and a woman who was crying after realizing that her boyfriend caught her cheating. It is a classic he said/she said.

What is supposed to happen in these cases? Everyone wants the military to assume that the woman is telling the truth and to punish the man harshly. That sounds good to people in the abstract, but does it do justice in the individual case? They seem to think so in Alaska as they are considering prosecuting Howard in civil court. So much for double jeopardy. So much for allowing a court to decide an appropriate punishment after hearing the facts.

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