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Massachusetts National Guard General Forced to Retire Amidst Sex Scandal

Brigadier General Joseph Carter, the Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard, has announced his retirement. His retirement comes after Governor Duval Patrick relieved the general of his duties – with pay – pending the investigation of a rape allegation, stemming from his time at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in 1984.

A board convened to consider the allegation, and found that they could not convict on a rape charge due to the passage of the statute of limitations. The board did, however, find probable cause that BG Carter did, in fact, touch the woman inappropriately and engage in conduct unbecoming an officer.

At the time of the alleged rape, BG Carter was a lieutenant, and the victim and accuser, a former Soldier named Susan Pelletier of Kentucky, was a private first class. She did not report the alleged rape at the time, but reported it 18 months later to an Army lawyer when she tried to reenter the National Guard after being discharged for unauthorized absences.

BG Carter denied the allegation.

For his part, BG Carter told the Boston Globe that it seemed absurd that the board could conclude the rape charge was unfounded because of the time elapsed since the incident, and still somehow have enough evidence to conclude that he touched her inappropriately and engaged in conduct unbecoming.

Nevertheless, Governor Patrick, who appointed Carter as AG in the first place, issued a statement saying that it was clear that BG Carter “can no longer serve as Adjutant General.”

A Deeper Layer of Intrigue

The investigating officer himself, Mark Murray, was accused of the misuse of government funds. Murray contends that the investigation into his own conduct was in retaliation for Murray’s investigation of the rape case.

In addition to his role in the Massachusetts National Guard, BG Carter was also the Chief of Police for Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts.

Movement to Remove Sex Assault from Command Jurisdiction

The sordid tale of sexual assault and retaliatory investigation at the very top of the Massachusetts National Guard command structure comes just as members of Congress float a proposal to take unit commanders out of the business of investigating and prosecuting sexual assaults within their commands.

Normally, a sex assault allegation goes to the first flag officer in the chain of command, who makes the decision to prosecute, based on the evidence and witnesses available. But 23 percent of women and 26 percent of men who reported a sexual assault within the military report that the attacker is also in the chain of command – a situation that some critics say sets up an inherent conflict of interest.

Supporters of the measure claim that military officers often have little or no formal training in potentially criminal investigations, including handling evidence and managing chain of custody issues.

Opponents argue that the measure would further tie commanders’ hands in managing their units, and it is commanders – no one else – who are ultimately responsible for the health, conduct safety and morale of the men and women in their commands.

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