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WASHINGTON – A federal judge has unwittingly given the best endorsement yet to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s bill to reform the military’s way of burying sex abuse cases.

Ruling on the U.S. Naval Academy’s latest rape case, Judge Ellen Hollander refused last week to remove the academy’s superintendent from controlling all of the action’s procedures over at Annapolis.

“I think for me to stick my nose in the Navy’s business right now would be a far cry from appropriate,” the Associated Press quoted Hollander as saying.

To review, the New York Democrat is campaigning for passage of her legislation to remove all direct military chain of command from making decisions on whether and how to prosecute cases of sex abuse, which is epidemic in our fighting forces. She and a near majority in the Senate want a separate military agency to do this.

The military’s status quo is right out of the Middle Ages – something resembling the Catholic bishops’ handing of pederasty scandals. Each military commander operates as his (usually) own secret prosecutor, grand jury and judge of scandals during his watch.

The current super at Annapolis is Vice Admiral Michael H. Miller, presiding for the last three years while Navy football players maintained their own off-campus rumpus room, this after a male midshipman in 2011 was convicted of raping a female student.

After warnings from President Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Miller has allowed the newest rape case to go forward to court-martial. But his subordinates spent months trying to sweep the case under the rug.

Miller’s investigators, according to the Washington Post, subjected the accuser to more than 20 hours of grilling about her medical history and motivations, her dance moves and her underwear. The unnamed complainant was persuaded by friends to bring charges. While partying off campus in 2012, she became drunk and passed out. Friends and social media later told her three midshipmen football players bragged about sexually assaulting her.

Last week, a panel under Miller’s command dismissed all charges against one of the future officers, but advanced sexual assault charges against two other midshipmen, Josh Tate and Eric Graham. The accuser’s attorney, Susan Burke, said Miller has been “hostile to my client” because “he’s angry at her for speaking out.” Under Gillibrand’s bill, all cases involving the military would be referred to an independent Pentagon panel for evaluation. Under pressure from the brass’s old boy system, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., trashed the measure, with a couple of machine Democrats like Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri backing him up.

Gillibrand hasn’t yielded, recruiting flag officers and members of the judge advocate general corps to her side. She now has 46 senators, including Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the chamber’s No. 3 Democrat, publicly endorsing the amendment to the Defense Authorization Act containing the reforms. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a 1958 Annapolis graduate, is not among seven Republicans supporting Gillibrand.

Don’t call it a women’s bill. It reaches to the very heart and soul of our armed forces, to their sense of decency, obedience and honor – to our war fighters’ ability to win conflicts.

With the Annapolis football program now vying with Penn State University as a cave where sexual scandal found a home, the issue isn’t going away any more than the federal debt ceiling.

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s tax-cutting commission: Why would a man who had worked at his father’s elbow for a decade and was attorney general need a panel to tell him the state is bloated with freeloaders in redundant levels of government and useless authorities and boards?

email: dturner@buffnews.com