Outraged lawmakers look to change military justice

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By DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers outraged over an Air Force officer's decision to overturn a jury's guilty verdict in a sexual assault case are promising to do something about it by changing the military justice system.

Congress repeatedly has challenged the Pentagon's lack of resolve in combatting sexual assault in its ranks. The offense is considered far more prevalent than the 3,192 reported cases in 2011, the most recent figure available. Officials estimate the real number is closer to 19,000 assaults annually.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel earlier this month proposed largely stripping the authority of commanding officers to nullify jury verdicts. Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate see Hagel's proposal as an opportunity to change the decades-old Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Final legislation is likely in June.

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