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SANTA CRUZ -- Following up on comments at last week's memorial for two slain Santa Cruz police officers, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is calling for the release of the killer's court-martial records.
Jeremy Peter Goulet, 35, was brought up on separate rape charges in 2006, only to see the Army drop them in exchange for an "other than honorable" discharge. Rather that be locked in a brig for life, Goulet continued a pattern of mayhem that ended Feb. 26 when he ambushed two detectives before being killed in a hail of gunfire.
"I think, especially in something like this, they ought to be transparent with what took place with this guy," Panetta said in an interview with the Sentinel. "Something allowed him to be able to move on and continue to really threaten people's lives."
The Army has not responded to repeated Sentinel requests seeking comment. On Monday, Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democratic member of the House Armed Services committee, called for a congressional hearing on the matter.
Goulet arrived in Santa Cruz late last year, saying in a Facebook posting he was looking for a fresh start. He recently had been jailed in Alameda County for peeping, after having arrived in Berkeley in 2011 from Portland, where he served two years in jail for peeping and unlawful possession of a gun.
That sentence stemmed from a 2007 incident in which Goulet fought with the boyfriend of his peeping victim. During the struggle, the boyfriend told the Sentinel, he feared for his life and bit off part of Goulet's ear in an effort to end the fight.
Goulet moved to Portland immediately after his Army discharge. His then-defense lawyer told the Sentinel the first rape allegation against Goulet was made about a week after he was stationed in Hawaii.
Despite a decade of service between the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and the Army, Goulet was never sent to a war zone. In 2002, Goulet's reserve unit was called to active duty, but records show he was discharged a few months later.
'OBLIGATION' TO INVESTIGATE
"I think we have an obligation, when something as tragic as that happens, to ask ourselves the 'what ifs' and try to determine what went wrong here and make sure it never happens again," Panetta said.
Panetta spoke Thursday at a funeral service for detective Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker and detective Elizabeth Butler, saying people had "looked the other way" despite years of troubling behavior. Panetta called the shootings "a horrific act of senseless violence."
Adding to those comments this week, Panetta said people should look for "symptoms of trouble" in others. Insularity could lead people to overlook developing problems among community members, he said.
"We live in a society now ... where everybody hangs by their iPhone or their computer, and there's a lot of turning inwards and not enough attention to the people around you," Panetta said.
A Portland jury acquitted Goulet of four serious felonies stemming from the peeping incident and fight, finding him guilty of two misdemeanors. Goulet was ordered to undergo sex offender treatment, but was rearrested after run-ins and threats toward probation officials and sent to jail for back-to-back year-long sentences.
His Hawaii court-martials, however, seem to embody ongoing criticism that military authorities are lax when it comes to sexual violence among troops. Speier has been a critic of military handling of such cases, and as defense secretary, Panetta took steps to improve the military's handling of them.
"Just as we say we leave nobody behind," Panetta said, referring to common military motto, "we've got to be able to say we've got everybody's back."
Announced in April 2012, Panetta's efforts include establishing special units trained to investigate sex assault cases; explaining policies to new active duty members; allowing victims to remain on active duty; requiring and retaining records on sex assault; and improved training.
"When you see (Goulet's) record and the fact that for whatever reason he was not prosecuted, and the decision was made not to do that, it is a problem that we've seen time and time again," Panetta said.
While there was outcry this week over an Air Force general's decision to overturn a subordinate's sex assault sentence, Panetta said he hoped military leaders were beginning to get the message. He also hoped his decision to allow female soldiers onto the battlefield would speed a culture change within the military.
"Having them be able to get into combat and having them get into key positions would, in fact, make people a hell of a lot more sensitive to these kinds of issues," Panetta said. "This is not something that's going to be fixed overnight. It's going to take a dedicated effort to make sure we have a clear message out there that we have zero tolerance for sexual assault."
|Defense Secretary Leon Panetta|