From The Washington Post:
By Alex Horton | November 6, 2017 | 9:43 PM
The Air Force says it failed to follow policies for alerting federal law enforcement about Devin P. Kelley’s violent past, enabling the former service member, who killed at least 26 churchgoers Sunday in Sutherland Springs, Tex., to obtain firearms before the shooting rampage.
Kelley should have been barred from purchasing firearms and body armor because of his domestic violence conviction in 2014 while serving at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Kelley was sentenced to a year in prison and kicked out of the military with a bad conduct discharge following two counts of domestic abuse against his wife and a child, according to Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.
“Initial information indicates that Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database,” Stefanek said in a statement released Monday. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein have directed an investigation of Kelley’s case and “relevant policies and procedures,” she said.
That was the big part of the story, but the important part is much further down:
(Geoffrey Corn, a former Army lawyer and professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston) said it appears there is confusion within the Air Force, and other military branches, about only reporting violent crimes that result in dishonorable discharges, which are more severe punishments under military law than the bad conduct discharge Kelley received. . . . .
Sky Gerrond, a former Air Force security operations officer who spent seven years in military law enforcement, said a dishonorable discharge may have been a more appropriate punishment for the severity of Kelley’s crime. Had the Air Force court system handed down that punishment, Gerrond said, it is more probable the details of Kelley’s conviction would have reached the FBI’s database.
The Air Force does not operate prisons and instead sends troops convicted of crimes to Army or Navy jails. Kelley served his sentence at a Navy brig in San Diego. Navy regulations do not require a fingerprint card and conviction summary to be forwarded to the FBI following inmate in-processing.
A previous version of the story suggested that the Air Force prefers to use bad conduct discharges over dishonorable ones because there’s a lot more administrative paperwork for a dishonorable discharge; that has been scrubbed from the version — with the same time stamp — now available online.
This is the part that the Commander-in-Chief can address, and he does not need to go through Congress to get it done.
- Military regulations need to be changed to require all such convictions, regardless of the type of discharge, be reported into the civilian database. Procedures must be changed so that the administrative work remains incomplete until all required reporting has been done.
- Paperwork needs to be equalized, so that there is no ‘laziness incentive’ to undercharge.
- Specific violations under the UCMJ need to be properly defined as either felonies or misdemeanors, to have such charges show up properly in the civilian database.
- Orders must be handed down instructing military prosecutors not to undercharge offenses. Devin Kelley struck his infant stepson so hard that he fractured the child’s skull, yet he was not charged with attempted murder or anything of the sort. In cases of violent offenses, sentences must be set to run consecutively, not concurrently.
- Orders must be handed down prohibiting plea bargains for much lighter sentences and charges if the military has sufficient evidence to convict on more serious charges.
We noted, last night, that had Mr Kelley been properly charged by the Air Force, the massacre would not have happened, because he would have still been in jail, and that this is only one of many such instances. Along with the others I mentioned in that article, I noted that Philadelphia Police Officer John Pawlowski is resting in his grave because the criminal justice system blithely released, after minimum sentences, the violent thug who murdered him, a criminal that then Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said was an “unsalvageable” career criminal who “should not have been among us, period.”
The solution is simple: charge criminals to the maximum extent of the law, and keep the violent ones incarcerated for as long as the law allows. Most — not all, but most — criminals don’t commit their most serious offenses first, and the longer we keep the miscreants in prison for their first offenses, the less time they will spend on the streets able to commit more, and worse, offenses.
Some of this President Trump can do on his own: he can issue orders and regulations for the military justice system, and have Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III issue directives to the United States Attorneys to always prosecute to the maximum extent of the law.
But the rest depends on the states, because most violent crimes are state, rather than federal, offenses. States have to start prosecuting fully, and stop accepting minimum sentence plea bargains when there’s sufficient evidence to convict on stronger charges.
There is really no other solution.
Cross-posted on The First Street Journal.