I’ve talked with dozens of military men about their experiences of being falsely accused of sexual assault during the four years since the release of my book, Three Days In August. Today, I learned some of their cases were likely tainted by the fact members serving on court-martial panels — the military equivalent of a jury — during their trials had watched “The Invisible War” as part of the Army’s sexual assault awareness and prevention training.
In an article published Monday about the case of former Army Sgt. Todd Knight, I mentioned the fact than an Army lieutenant colonel selected to serve on the court-martial panel during Sergeant Knight’s trial said he had watched a 20-minute clip from the Oscar-nominated documentary, “The Invisible War,” as part of “a sexual assault special briefing” for Army leaders.
In the same article, I mentioned how that colonel, along with other members of the panel, had found Sergeant Knight guilty and sentenced him to one year behind bars and a reduction in rank to E-1, the lowest enlisted rank and a rank he would hold until the end of his sentence when he would be dishonorably discharged from the Army. What I failed to mention is that Knight is out of prison now and living as a convicted sex offender while working through the appeals process, hoping to see his conviction overturned.
Now, back to the documentary/training video.
In an article published three months ago on his firm’s website, Chicago defense attorney Haythan Faraj highlighted several military sexual assault cases he’s handled. It’s the second one, however, that has a link to “The Invisible War.” One of the women featured prominently in the documentary is Ariana B. Klay and, during examination at trial, according to Faraj, she contradicted herself under oath and told many lies.
Below is an excerpt from the aforementioned article:
CASE TWO: CONTROVERSIAL ALLEGATIONS OF RAPE
In another case that has become infamous and a rallying cry for politicians, is a case at Marine Barracks 8th & I, where a female officer alleged she was raped by another officer. In that case evidence revealed that the complainant, Ariana Klay, was cheating on her husband with the officer that she accused of raping her. That evidence is based on her own testimony. The relationship lasted for an 18-month period.
Before she made the allegations of rape, evidence revealed that she was caught in bed naked with a junior Marine from the barracks. During a formal investigation into other allegations made by Klay, the female investigator and former prosecutor came close to discovering the truth of the affair and of the romp with the junior Marine— which could have revealed Klay’s sexual relationship with the officer she later accused of rape. Shortly before the completion of the investigation, she alleged rape again. This alleged offense happened on the same day that her lover found her naked with a junior Marine.
Significant evidence stood in contrast with her claims: also present at the time of the alleged sexual rape was a witness who testified he could hear Klay and her lover in her bedroom laughing and engaged in what sounded like a good time. During examination at trial, Klay contradicted herself under oath and told many lies. She could not explain why she sent my client a nearly naked picture of herself in a bikini on the beach taken by her husband, a week after the alleged rape.
In spite of this information, Klay is featured in an HBO movie called The Invisible War. While I cannot comment about the other women in the Invisible War, I think Klay’s own testimony reveals the film’s lack of objectivity or validity regarding sex assaults in the military, at least with respect to the Klay case.
In addition to the allegations-related content of Klay’s trial testimony, I found it interesting that Klay said her husband, Ben Klay, “works for the White House Budget Office.”
It will be interesting to find out how Army officials justify continued use of this documentary as part of their sexual assault awareness and prevention training.
Stay tuned for updates on this case and other military justice cases I’m following.
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