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Army sex crimes prosecutor accused of groping

WASHINGTON — The Army is investigating its top sex crimes prosecutor on allegations that he groped a female lawyer at a sexual assault conference in 2011, Army officials disclosed Thursday.

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Morse, who supervises 23 other special-victims prosecutors for the Army, was recently placed under criminal investigation after the female lawyer made the accusation of the 2011 incident, officials said. The case was first reported Thursday by Stars and Stripes, a newspaper that covers military affairs.

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Morse has not been charged, but the revelation is the latest blow to the Pentagon as it struggles to cope with what some leaders have acknowledged is a epidemic of sexual assaults in the ranks.

Victim advocacy groups and some lawmakers have said that the armed forces are too lax on sex crimes and that major legal reforms are necessary. But other lawmakers, and many commanders, say giving more power to prosecutors won’t fix the problem.

The Army declined to comment publicly on the Stars and Stripes report. But two Army officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Morse was under investigation after a female lawyer who once worked for him reported that he groped her in a hotel room during a sex assault conference in Alexandria, Va.

Morse is chief of the Army’s trial counsel assistant program, which is based at Fort Belvoir, Va., and trains prosecutors throughout the Army. Morse also oversees nearly two dozen special-victim prosecutors who focus on sex crimes, domestic violence, and crimes against children.

He did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Last year, the chief of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention program was charged with assaulting a woman outside a bar in Crystal City, Va., and grabbing her buttocks. That case also ignited an outcry in Congress and among victims advocacy groups. The officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, was acquitted by a jury in November.

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