WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is recommending that military commanders be largely stripped of their ability to reverse criminal convictions of service members, a move that comes in response to a congressional uproar over an Air Force officer’s decision to overturn a guilty verdict in a sexual assault case, the Pentagon said Monday.
Hagel has asked his staff to draft legislation that would require that cases go through the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, and that senior officers no longer have the authority to set aside guilty findings, except in limited, minor offenses that ordinarily don’t warrant a court-martial. The commanders would, however, retain their ability to participate in plea bargains and to reduce sentences, but they would have to defend the lesser sentence in writing.
In a written statement Monday, Hagel said that, if enacted by Congress, the changes “would help ensure that our military justice system works fairly, ensures due process and is accountable.”
Hagel said the new recommendations have the full support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the service secretaries.
Ebert remembered for his connections
CHICAGO – Roger Ebert, one of the nation’s most influential film critics who used newspapers, television and social media to take readers into theaters and even into his own life, was laid to rest Monday with praise from political leaders, family and people he’d never met but who chose movies based on the direction of his thumb.
“He didn’t just dominate his profession, he defined it,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a brief eulogy to hundreds of mourners who gathered at Holy Name Cathedral just blocks from where Ebert spent more than 40 years as the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. Ebert died Thursday at the age of 70 after a yearslong battle with cancer.
It was Ebert who told readers which films to see and which ones they should stay away from, Emanuel said, remembering the influence Ebert had on moviegoers through his newspaper reviews and the immensely popular television show he hosted with fellow critic Gene Siskel.
“Roger spent a lot of time sitting through bad movies so we didn’t have to,” the mayor joked.
In a 90-minute funeral Mass, speakers took turns talking about how Ebert spent his career communicating his ideas about movies, social issues, the newspaper business and finally the health problems that left him unable to speak.
“He realized that connecting to people was the main reason we’re all here and that’s what his life was all about,” said Sonia Evans, his stepdaughter.
Deputy’s wife killed by boy, 4, with gun
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Authorities say a 4-year-old boy grabbed a loaded gun at a family cookout and accidentally shot and killed the wife of a Tennessee sheriff’s deputy.
Investigators said Wilson County Deputy Daniel Fanning was showing his weapons to a relative in a bedroom of his Lebanon home on Saturday when the toddler came in and picked up a gun off the bed. Sheriff Robert Bryan said the weapon discharged, hitting 48-year-old Josephine Fanning.
She was pronounced dead at the scene. The child is not related to her or her husband.
Bryan said the shooting was a terrible accident and that within seconds of Fanning placing the gun on the bed, the toddler picked it up.
The gun was not Fanning’s service weapon, and the sheriff said the deputy’s weapons are normally stored in a safe.