National Guard sex assault: No charges for mishandled cases

Prosecutors have not filed criminal charges for about 30 sexual assault cases mishandled by the Wisconsin National Guard following an 18-month investigation, the state Department of Justice said Thursday, Aug. 19 in releasing its findings and recommendations.

The state justice department reviewed the cases for 18 months and determined that while no criminal charges have been filed, the cases involved conduct that was "degrading, harassing, and highly inappropriate in any setting."

"Sexual assault is a violent crime that must always be taken seriously," Attorney General Josh Kaul said in a statement. "This process ensured that reports submitted during the time period when the Wisconsin National Guard was found to have mishandled reports were reviewed by an experienced prosecutor, investigator, and victim services specialist."

Three of the cases reviewed had already been prosecuted. In seven cases, the district attorney declined to bring charges. In at least 12 cases, the statute of limitations had expired. Three cases were not referred due to requests by survivors, in one case there was not sufficient information to conduct a review and in seven the department determined a prosecution was not likely.

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The federal National Guard Bureau in 2019 found more than 30 cases that were mishandled by the Wisconsin National Guard, leading to the state justice department review.

The federal agency found the Guard allowed internal investigations in defiance of federal law as well as Department of Defense and bureau policy; investigators falsely presented themselves as working for the federal bureau; case records were mismanaged; and Guard sexual assault response policies were not in compliance with federal regulations for more than five years.

In the wake of the report, Gov. Tony Evers fired former Wisconsin Guard chief Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar in 2019 and directed the Guard to make a series of reforms. The state justice department review only included cases prior to 2019, not any changes implemented since then.

Its recommendations include reducing alcohol consumption among soldiers, clearly stating what romantic relationships are prohibited and the consequences for violations, promptly conducting sexual assault investigations keeping the victim at the center, updated on the status of the probe and able to ask questions and offer input.

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