iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Cattle ranchers and law enforcement in the American West are fighting a tough new battle to protect the herds -- keeping meth addicts from stealing their cows and selling them to finance their drug habit.
Cattle rustling is a crime straight out of a John Wayne western, combined with a modern Breaking Bad twist.
Law enforcement says meth addicts will sneak onto ranches and farms to steal cows, worth around $1,000 a head, and then sell them at auction for money.
In one instance, caught on surveillance footage at a ranch in Missouri, thieves backed up a big rig to the cow pen, and one by one, coaxed the cattle onto a trailer. The thieves cleared the pen, except for one lone cow.
Cattle theft is a serious crime. These days the penalty can carry up to 10 years in jail.
Chief agent Jerry Flowers of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture's law enforcement division and his nine special agents make up a crack unit dedicated to taking down cattle thieves, patrolling Oklahoma's vast prairies and cattle ranches.
Selling stolen cattle is not relatively hard to pull off, police say. Livestock markets can move thousands of cattle in a week, and many of them aren't branded.
"I've had people call me up and say 'Hey Jerry, I've had a couple steers stolen.' I say 'what do they look like?' 'Well they're 500 pounds and black steers,'" Flowers said.
Recently, Flowers and his agents were tracking two suspects, one-time ranch hands David Wallace and Larry "Snag" Smith. The two men were accused of stealing 100 cows from Oklahoma rancher Jet McCoy of The Amazing Race fame.
McCoy said his cattle were taken gradually and it took a while before he noticed they were gone. It wasn't until he took a plane up to survey his land, to make sure they hadn't just wandered off onto a neighboring property. For McCoy, $100,000 worth of stolen cattle is serious business.
"It's no surprise to me that in the old days when they found somebody stealing cattle and horses that they'd just strung 'em up," he said.
Eventually, Flowers said he and his agents learned Wallace and Smith had taken cattle to a livestock market in Atoka, Okla. Police said the two suspects left a paper trial at the stockyard, and the agents quickly caught up with them.
Both men now are in custody but have yet to enter a plea.
For Flowers and his agents, these sort of modern-day American cowboy heroes, being on the job is more than just a whiff of a bygone era.
"It'll never end," Flowers said. "I still enjoy every morning, getting up pulling my boots on and enjoy the thrill of the hunt, when we go out and chase these outlaws."
Watch the full story on Nightline Friday night at 12:35 a.m. ET.
iStock/Thinkstock(FRESNO, Calif.) -- Martin Medellin received a Purple Heart for an injury that he received as a solider in World War II.
Some 69 years, two months and six days after being shot by a German sniper on a French battlefield in World War II, Martin Medellin, 88, got a long-awaited surprise.
Medellin went to his local VFW post for a fundraising dinner. When it was over, Medellin was pinned with a Purple Heart for an injury he sustained during the war.
Medellin was injured while he rescued 283 soldiers trapped by machine gun fire.
The ceremony would not have happened if not for his longtime friend, Michael De Cesare, who was determined to get his friend the honor he deserved. “I was working to help him out, writing different letters to different people and not getting much results,” De Cesare told ABC News. “But I kept pushing forward.”
Medellin has waited a long time for this special honor. Since he had been treated by a medic and not at a hospital, there was no official record of his injuries.
“He (Martin) was extremely emotional over this, he’s very grateful and very happy,” said De Cesare.
Medellin is well-known in the community. De Cesare says he is referred to as “The General” around the VFW.
“He’s the first guy to put his step forward and help anybody out,” De Cesare told ABC News.
The ceremony was kept a secret from Medellin and his family. De Cesare, however, is not looking for any recognition. “I just wanted to help him and his family and if I could do that, that is a satisfaction in itself,” said De Cesare. “I was just helping out a fellow friend and a fellow veteran.”
iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Facial specialist to some of Hollywood’s celebrities Dawn DaLuise has been arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder, officials told ABC News.
DaLuise, 55, the owner of Skin Refinery, is being held at the West Hollywood Police Station. Her bail has been set at $1 million, officials said.
“As of today she remains there,” an official from Los Angeles County Jail said.
“On Tuesday, March 4, 2014, detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau, received information on a cyber stalking case which started from the West Hollywood area,” according to a statement from police.
The statement said that while investigating the cyber stalking allegation, “separate information was obtained regarding an alleged solicitation for murder… Dawn DaLuise, was arrested and booked at West Hollywood station.”
“The investigation is still on-going relative to the male allegedly contacted by DaLuise to perform murder for hire,” the statement continued. “The motive for the alleged crime is over a business dispute with an esthetician competitor.”
DaLuise is scheduled to be arraigned at Airport Court in Los Angeles.
The sheriff’s office did not disclose the intended target of the alleged murder plot and did not know whether DaLuise had a lawyer.
On her West Hollywood salon’s website DaLuise said that she specializes in the galvanic facial, which includes electronic muscle stimulation to treat the skin.
She also said that her celebrity clients include Christian Slater, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., Alicia Silverstone and Christina Ricci.
Skin Refinery was profiled in various publications including Ladies Home Journal and LA Magazine.
“A few years ago I went to Spain for the first time, and like many I was surprised by how late is dinner,” Maggiolo writes on his blog. “The first night I dined almost alone in a restaurant at 8 p.m., going away just as people were starting to come in. Of course this can be mostly explained by cultural reasons, but the clearly later-than-usual summer sunsets must also have played a role in shaping the Spanish days.”
Maggiolo, an engineer at Google, color-coded a map of the world, showing locations where the clock is behind the solar day in red and places where it is ahead of the clock in green. The more ahead or behind, the deeper the color.
More than70 countries now observe Daylight Saving Time, but the beginning and ending dates often differ from the U.S., which has itself changed the schedule a number of times over the years.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 extended the dates of Daylight Saving Time by about a month to its current schedule in 2007, starting on the second Sunday in March and ending on the first Sunday in November.
Some states in the U.S. do not observe DST, including Hawaii and most of Arizona.
And if you’re mourning the loss of that hour on Sunday, don’t fret -- it isn’t gone forever. We get it back when Daylight Saving Time ends on Nov. 2.
Kuzma/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Approximately 48 hours after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled state law did not prohibit secretly photographing under a woman’s skirt, Gov. Deval Patrick signed legislation to make so-called upskirting illegal.
Lawmakers responded with uncharacteristic speed after the decision revealed the existing peeping tom statute outlawed such voyeurism only when the person being photographed was nude or partially nude.
The new law, which takes effect immediately, makes the secret photographing or videotaping of another person’s sexual or other intimate parts a crime, “whether under or around a person’s clothing or when a reasonable person would believe that the person’s intimate parts would not be visible to the public.”
Violators would be subject to prison time and a $5,000 fine.
On Wednesday, the state’s highest court ruled Michael Robertson, who took cellphone photos up the skirts of female passengers on the subway in 2010, did not violate the law as it had been written.
“The two women the defendant is alleged to have attempted to secretly photograph on the MBTA were not "partially nude," the decision said.
Prosecutors immediately called on the legislature to rewrite the law.
“Every person, male or female, has a right to privacy beneath his or her own clothing,” Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley said.
Robertson was arrested by MBTA Transit Police on Aug. 12, 2010, one day after riders reported seeing him taking pictures using a phone positioned near women’s crotches. Detectives boarded a Green Line train with Robertson and watched him aim his camera-enabled cell phone toward one detective’s crotch from a distance of about two to three feet. Detectives also saw that a red light on the camera was illuminated, denoting a video recording in progress.
Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When Katheryn Deprill was just a few hours old, she was abandoned inside a Burger King restaurant in Allentown, Pa., in 1986.
Now married and a stay-at-home mother of three children, the 27-year-old woman who became known nationally as “the Burger King baby” is on a mission to find her birth mother.
Even though Deprill was adopted, she always had questions about her birth family. Five days ago, her adoptive mother suggested that she take her search to Facebook.
She did, posting a photo of herself holding a sign that read, in part: “Looking for my birth mother. Please help me find her by sharing my post.”
In an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America, Deprill said it “just didn’t register” in her head that she was abandoned.
“Everyone wants to know where they came from,” she said. “I really want to know. …I want to see someone who looks like me. Maybe I have brothers and sisters. That would be so neat.”
She also wants to know more about her family’s medical history.
Deprill was found in the bathroom of Burger King on South Fourth Street in Allentown on Sept. 15, 1986. Someone heard her crying and told staffers, who came in and found her lying on the floor.
As a child, Deprill always knew that she was adopted, but it wasn’t until she was 12 years old that her parents handed her a scrapbook with newspaper articles about her.
“I opened up the first page, and there’s a picture of me,” she said. “Then I turned to the next page and there it was, all the newspaper articles -- the Burger King baby. My mother who adopted me saved all of the newspaper articles.”
People are responding to her plea. More than 15,000 people have already shared the photo on Facebook, helping Deprill expand her search across the globe.
Deprill said she isn’t angry about what happened to her. In fact, she wants to thank her birth mother.
“I am so thankful that my birth mother didn’t throw me away. She didn’t put me in a dumpster,” Deprill said. “She could have been very young and felt very scared. …I can’t even imagine being in her shoes and being alone and have to walk away from her baby.”
Trisha Leeper/WireImage(ANAHEIM, Calif.) -- "Batkid" may have missed out on the chance to appear on the Oscars telecast with Andrew Garfield, but he did get to spend time with The Amazing Spider-Man star Monday at Disneyland.
Five-year-old leukemia survivor Miles Scott had taken part in a rehearsal for an Academy Awards segment with Garfield last Saturday. However, he and his family reportedly learned the next day his segment had been cut from the show.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences explained in a statement released Thursday, "Due to the nature of a live show, hard decisions sometimes must be made which require the Academy to cut segments due to the logistics of production."
The statement continued, "Andrew Garfield understood that his segment had to be omitted, and he drove to Disneyland on Monday to spend time with 5-year-old Miles Scott (Batkid) and his family."
Disneyland is located in Anaheim, Calif., approximately 33 miles southeast of the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, where the Oscars were held.
While the Academy hasn't been more specific regarding why the segment was nixed, it appears a New York Post report claiming Garfield objected to the script and threw a tantrum is inaccurate.
His rep tells E! News, "In full collaboration with the Academy and the show writer, Andrew prepared a segment for the Oscars to honor Miles Scott as the true hero that he is. At some point overnight on Saturday/Sunday morning, it was decided by those running the show that the segment didn't work in the ceremony. They decided to pull it -- Andrew and Miles were equally upset."
The rep also declares, "Andrew did the right thing for Batkid and anyone saying otherwise is flat out lying."
TMZ has posted a cute picture of a faux Oscars segment that Garfield put on for Miles on Monday in the child's hotel room. They're both wearing tuxedos, as Garfield laughs toward the camera.
Chris Reed/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Jurors heard the voice of accused murderer Pamela Phillips for the first time Thursday in a series of phone conversations the Aspen socialite had with her onetime boyfriend, convicted hit man Ron Young.
Phillips is accused in her former husband's 1996 car-bomb death.
Young recorded the conversations after their relationship soured. The exchanges between Phillips and Young start out sweet but grow increasingly desperate.
“You know, I’m just aggravated…just leave me alone. Just leave me alone,” Phillips says in one recording played in court Thursday.
“I’m bothering you?” Young responds.
“Right now you are. I’ve got to go. I got kids down at the pool. I have to be back for company at 4.”
“Well, you bothered me for some help, so you could get rich.”
“Leave me alone. Goodbye.”
On another recording, Phillips and Young bicker.
“When you sit in a woman’s prison for murder…you are going to be really sad,” Young says.
“I’m going to be back at 4,” Phillips responds.
“No, you are going to be in prison for murder.”
Prosecutors say Phillips, 56, agreed to pay Young $400,000 to kill her former husband, Gary Triano. Young kept his part of the bargain: He’s serving life in prison for planting a pipe bomb in the real estate developer’s car at a Tucson, Ariz., country club in 1996. But the jurors are not allowed to consider his case.
Even though Phillips received Triano’s $2 million life insurance policy, with a new home in Aspen and vacations in the south of France, those millions didn’t last. The monthly payments to the hit man dried up.
Phillips never admits to committing a crime on the tapes, and she has pleaded not guilty to the charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
The key for the prosecution is linking Phillips to Young, ABC News chief legal affairs Anchor Dan Abrams says.
“It’s a very powerful case,” Abrams said. “You’ve got witnesses in this case who say she’d talked about killing [Triano]. The most important aspect is that she was paying his insurance policy. And now they are looping it back to the connection with Young.”
The tapes end the state’s case, and the defense should begin later Friday. The defense list includes more than 100 possible witnesses, including Ed Kinnear, father of Oscar-nominated actor Greg Kinnear.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Army’s top prosecutor in charge of sexual assault cases has been suspended from his position because he is under investigation for allegedly groping and assaulting a female lawyer on his staff.
The news came on the same day that the Senate voted down a controversial proposal that would have removed the military chain of command from referring sexual assault cases for prosecution to specially trained military prosecutors.
A defense official confirmed that Lt. Col. Joseph “Jay” Morse has been suspended from his post as the chief of the Army’s Trial Counsel Assistance Program, which supervises a team of Army attorneys who prosecute sexual assault cases.
Morse was suspended because he is being investigated by the Army’s Criminal Investigative Command for allegations that two years ago he groped and assaulted a female lawyer on his staff.
The military newspaper Stars and Stripes was first to report the Morse investigation and his suspension from his post.
A Defense official confirmed Stars and Stripes’ account that Morse allegedly attempted to kiss and grope the female Army lawyer against her will while both were attending a sexual assault legal conference in Alexandria, Va. The alleged attack took place in 2011 before Morse took over the Trial Counsel Assistance Program.
Army spokesman Col. Dave Patterson said in a statement to ABC News, ”We can confirm that this matter is currently under investigation and the individual in question has been suspended from duties pending the outcome of the investigation.”
He added that he was precluded from providing any additional information because it is still an open investigation.
Morse is a noted military prosecutor who led the prosecution team in the court-martial of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who killed 16 Afghan civilians in southern Afghanistan in 2012. Bales eventually pleaded guilty in the case.
Last May, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, who headed the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, made headlines when he was charged by Virginia police for alleged assault and battery against a woman in the parking lot of a bar near the Pentagon.
Krusinski was later acquitted in civilian court of the charges filed against him. His case was among several high-profile cases that led Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to order the military services to conduct a review of personnel involved in assisting sexual assault victims.
Last week, the Army acknowledged that a review of 20,000 sexual assault coordinators, recruiters and drill instructors had led to 588 soldiers being dismissed from the positions because of prior instances of bad or criminal behavior. The three other military services conducted narrower reviews that resulted in a handfuls of individuals being disqualified from sexual assault coordinator positions.
Preliminary figures provided by the Pentagon on Thursday showed a 600-percent increase in the number of sexual assault reports filed last year. There were about 5,400 reports in 2013 compared to 3,774 in 2012. Eleven percent of the reports were for sexual assault incidents that occurred before a victim entered military service. That’s a 300-percent increase from 2012, when that amount was approximately 4 percent of 3,374 reports.
Pentagon officials see the increased reporting as a positive step that might be attributable to increased awareness about reporting sexual assaults and better resources available to sexual assault victims.
However, the increased reporting may under-represent the number of sexual assaults that may be occurring in the military.
Last year, the Pentagon released a survey that estimated there could possibly have been 26,000 instances of “unwanted sexual contact” in 2012. That number was derived from a sampling of military service members who were asked if they had experienced some sort of “unwanted sexual contact.” That term includes a range of unwanted behavior, from unwanted touching to rape.
Morse did not immediately return a phone call to his office and and an email seeking comment.
Branko Bogdanov is seen in this undated police photo. (Palatine Police Department)(CHICAGO) -- A family accused of using their minivan to drive across country and steal American Girl Dolls and Furbys from dozens of Toys-R-Us stores has been arrested and charged with stealing more than $7 million worth of goods, authorities said.
Branko Bogdanov, 58, Lela Bogdanov, 52, and their daughter Julia Bogdanov, 34, are accused of stealing mainly from Toys-R-Us and Barnes & Nobles stores across six states and selling the goods on eBay or to another seller to put on eBay.
According to a criminal complaint filed against the three in Chicago federal court, investigators at Barnes & Noble first caught onto the family's scam when they noticed eBay sellers hawking tons of goods from the two companies.
Store investigators brought their information to authorities, who tracked down the eBay user. That person, who has not been identified by authorities, cooperated with law enforcement officials by showing them all of the goods that the Bogdanovs had sold him as well as text messages and photos about future sales.
Though the goods were worth more than $7 million, the family is accused of making more than $4 million by selling them.
The police also conducted surveillance on the family as they traveled across Louisiana and Texas and gathered store reports from locations in Maryland and Florida to help document the family's shoplifting spree, the court papers said.
In a Maryland store, company detectives caught the family trying to walk out with American Girl Dolls they had not purchased -- a confrontation ensued and Lela Bogdanov pushed a store employee while Branko Bogdanov began to grab the hood of her jacket and choke her, according to authorities.
The family appeared in a Chicago courtroom Wednesday, according to the Chicago Sun Times. Prosecutors told a federal judge that the Bogdanovs are ethnic Romani immigrants from the former Yugoslavia. They face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Court papers charge the trio with transporting in interstate commerce goods of a value of $5,000 or more.
Their next court appearance will be on Monday.
Michael Falconer, an attorney for Branko Bogdanov, told ABC News that despite federal allegations the family has been stealing for years, they are charged with crimes stemming from only two days in February. He said the defendants will plead not guilty on Monday. They are being held in the meantime.
iStock/Thinkstock(ALEXANDRIA, Va.) -- Alexandria, Va., authorities Thursday said the fatal shooting of a music teacher in February may be linked to two other fatal shootings, signaling that a serial killer could be at work in the Washington, D.C., suburb.
Forensic work on the small-caliber bullets involved in each case found that they had the same general characteristics and were similar in design, police said Thursday. However, police could not say they came from the same gun.
"The similarities and unusual nature of all three shootings occurring in Alexandria required the police department to consider the possibility that all the cases are linked together," Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook said.
In February, longtime neighborhood piano teacher Ruthanne Lodato was fatally shot in broad daylight when she answered a knock at the door.
In November, local transportation official Ronald Kirby was gunned down in his home.
Ten years ago, real estate agent Nancy Dunning, the wife of the sheriff at the time, was shot and killed in her home.
Lodato and the other two victims were involved in their community, were killed in broad daylight and were within two miles of each other when they died.
There was no forced entry in any of the three shootings.
Police said they have gotten more than 500 tips and were getting assistance from the FBI.
Authorities have released a sketch of a bearded and balding white man they said they were seeking in connection with the crime. There have been no arrests.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has nothing but “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” for the women of soul, even if he accidentally misspelled the title of Aretha Franklin’s signature anthem.
In an “oops” moment Thursday night, the president dropped a letter when paying tribute to the one and only Franklin at the White House concert series event, “In Performance at the White House: Women of Soul.”
“When Aretha first told us what R-S-P-E-C-T meant to her, she had no idea it would become a rallying cry for African Americans, and women, and then everyone who felt marginalized because of what they looked like or who they loved. They wanted some respect,” the president said.
Making a “quick public service announcement,” the president explained that when Franklin first walked into Fame Studio in 1967, most of the other musicians had never heard her sing live before.
“When they did, one of them said, ‘The floors rumbled and the walls shook. My brain shook. It was magic,’” Obama said.
“So my advice to everyone tonight is simple: Hang on. The Queen of Soul is in the building. If she blows your mind, it will be OK,” he joked. “That’s what soul music does. It makes us move and it makes us feel.”
Moments later, Franklin rocked the halls of the White House.
The president and first lady were also treated to performances by Melissa Etheridge, Ariana Grande, Patti LaBelle, Janelle Monae, Jill Scott and Tessanne Chin.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off Women’s History Month on a high note on Thursday -- celebrating alongside some of music’s most talented “women of soul” and over 100 students from across the country.
“Today we’re celebrating the kind of music that makes you move no matter who you are or where you come from; music that taps into feelings and experiences that we all share -- love and heartbreak, pride and doubt, tragedy and triumph. It is called soul music,” Obama said at the “I’m every woman: The History of Women in Soul” event.
“Sometimes it makes your hips move. Sometimes it makes you rock your head. Sometimes it helps you just kick back and relax and soak it in. But no matter what form it comes in, you know this music always comes straight from the heart,” she continued. ”You know you’re listening to someone who’s found her own unique voice, and isn’t afraid to show it to the world. And these women are perfect examples of just that.”
Obama was joined by Melissa Etheridge, her “other mother” Patti LaBelle and Janelle Monáe, who she said is now like another child to her.
“We might as well give her a room here because she’s here so much,” she joked.
Thursday’s event is part of the “In Performance at the White House” series and will continue well into the evening with star-studded performances by Aretha Franklin, Ariana Grande, and others, celebrating the “foremothers” of American music who pour both their struggles and their achievements into their songs.
The three singers talked about their road to fame, Monáe highlighting her “living room training,” and LaBelle reminisced about her days spent singing in front of the mirror with a broom in hand instead of a microphone. Before performing for the students, they touched on the struggles each faced and offered some advice.
“You’ve got to have a dream, you’ve got to create, you don’t have to be a huge star, but you’ve got to create something in this life every day, that’s what moves you forward,” Etheridge said. “It’s what gets you up in the morning, it’s what keeps you alive. That dream is what we’re all here to do.”
LaBelle, who said she was too shy as a child to even ask her teacher to go to the bathroom, advised the students to embrace both their talents and identity.
“This is the time to realize that I have something that touches people, and it doesn’t matter who you are, what race, what religion, what gender, straight, gay whatever,” she said.
Obama agreed, saying, “At one time or another, we all had to find our own voices and show the world what we have inside. ”
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A bill that would remove the prosecution of military sexual assaults out of the chain of command faced defeat in the Senate on Thursday, falling just short of the 60-vote threshold needed to advance the legislation.
The Military Justice Improvement Act fell five votes short, with the Senate voting 55 to 45 to invoke cloture on the bill Thursday.
The measure was the brainchild of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who spent months lobbying senators to sign onto her bill. The legislation had the support of many groups representing survivors of rape and sexual assault in the military, but it was vehemently opposed by military brass. Gillibrand even drew the support of two unlikely allies – Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky.
“The people who do not trust the chain of command are the victims,” Gillibrand said on the Senate floor Thursday before the vote. “That breach of trust, that fundamental breach of trust has been broken for victims of sexual assault.”
The issue became a high-profile debate as it pit two Democratic women of the Senate against each other – Gillibrand and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. McCaskill led the charge against Gillibrand’s bill, arguing that stripping military commanders of their prosecution powers would undermine the military’s authority.
Joining forces with Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Deb Fischer, R-Neb., McCaskill introduced a bill of her own, which eliminates the “good soldier” defense and allows sexual assault victims to challenge the military if they are discharged from their service. Gillibrand has said she will support McCaskill’s measure.
The vote came shortly after the Army suspended its top prosecutor for sexual assault cases after a lawyer who worked with him recently alleged he groped and attempted to kiss her at a sexual-assault legal conference more than two years ago.
Protect Our Defenders, a group representing survivors of military sexual assaults, expressed disappointment in the vote.
“It is a travesty that this very practical, conservative measure, supported by a substantial majority of the Senate and 60% of Americans was blocked by a procedural filibuster,” Nancy Parrish, president of Protect Our Defenders. “We may have lost this battle due to political maneuverings, but effective reform will be accomplished. It is only a matter of time. We will redouble our efforts to secure the legal rights of American servicemen and women who have been sexually abused while serving their country.”
Before Thursday’s vote, McCaskill said she was disappointed that the disagreement between Gillibrand and McCaskill “overshadowed the amazing work that so many have done this year to enact a different day in the United States military.”
Gillibrand countered, “This is not an opportunity to congratulate ourselves on the great reforms we’ve done.”
Last year, the Senate approved historic reforms that were included as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014. The reforms included stripping commanders of their ability to overturn jury convictions, providing independent counsel to each victim that reports a sexual assault, and requiring a dishonorable discharge or dismissal for anyone convicted of sexual assault.
The legislation also criminalized retaliation against victims who have reported a sexual assault, created a civilian review of cases that are not prosecuted and eliminated the statute of limitations on those cases.
Notably silent in the debate was President Obama, who has stressed the need to deal with sexual assaults in the military, but never weighed in on whether he would support Gillibrand’s proposal.
Even if the Gillibrand bill would have passed the Senate, House Speaker John Boehner seemed unlikely to bring the measure to the House floor.
“The House and Senate have both acted on this issue and I frankly think that the agreement that was struck in the House in the Defense Authorization Bill strikes the correct balance,” Boehner said today during a news conference at the Capitol. “And so I don’t, frankly, see any reason at this point for any further action to be taken.”
The Pentagon updated its sexual assault statistics Thursday, reporting a 60 percent increase in the number of sexual assault reports filed last year. There were about 5,400 reports in 2013 compared to 3,374 the previous year. Last May, a Pentagon survey estimated there were 26,000 instances of unwanted sexual contact, a 37 percent increase from the previous survey released two years prior.