Coast Guard Cadet Sentenced for Extortion, Sodomy, and Indecent Assault
Coast Guard cadet Webster Smith, 23, was sentenced yesterday to six months in prison for extortion, sodomy, indecent assault, and other charges. He was also expelled from the Coast Guard Academy. Smith is the first Coast Guard cadet to be court-martialed in the history of the academy.
Smith was accused by four female cadets of sexual misconduct, including rape, in addition to the charges of extortion, sodomy, and indecent assault, but was acquitted of the sexual misconduct charges. The extortion, sodomy, and indecent assault charges were based on the testimony of one of the female cadets, who claimed that Smith knew a secret about her that would threaten her military career. The female cadet was afraid that Smith would reveal her secret if she said no to his requests, according to the Associated Press.
Though Smith is the first to be court-martialed from the Coast Guard, sexual assault and harassment at military academies is a well-documented problem. The Department of Defense Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies studied the issue at the US Naval Academy and the Military Academy at West Point and released its findings in a report issued in August of 2005. The report found that “harassment is [a] prevalent and corrosive problem, creating an environment in which sexual assault is likely to occur.” The report concluded that procedures for sexual assault in the military academies were ineffective and called on Congress to bring military sexual assault codes more in-line with current civilian laws.
8/31/2015 Chicago Activists Continue Hunger Strike to Save Predominately Black Public High School - Chicago residents have entered the second week of their hunger strike protesting the closure of Dyett High School, in the predominately African-American Bronzeville neighborhood located on the South Side of Chicago.
Parents and community members are calling on the Chicago Board of Education to keep Dyett - the only open-enrollment, neighborhood school in its area - open and accept a community plan to revitalize the school with a focus on science and green technology. . . .
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .