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Carman: “Code of silence” around Tailhook, Kavanaugh is keeping justice at bay

Let’s start with the facts.

Walker Stapleton’s running mate, Lang Sias, had to have known what he was getting into when he flew his commanding officer to Las Vegas in a fighter jet to attend the Tailhook Symposium in 1991.

Reports going back to at least 1985 had described the dubiously branded “symposium” as “a rambunctious drunken melee” and “grossly appalling.” It’s ridiculous to imagine that a fighter pilot smart enough to earn a law degree could serve in the Navy for five years and still be utterly oblivious to the tales of Tailhook.

On that night in Vegas after his boss received an award, Sias and his commanding officer attended a party on the third floor of the hotel, where hospitality suites offered such amenities as pornographic movies, strippers, male streakers and rivers of alcohol, including drinks served from a dispenser shaped like a rhinoceros penis.

Post-symposium investigations reported that 83 women and seven men were assaulted that night, and taxpayers were left on the hook for $23,000 to pay for damage to the hotel on top of the $190,000 cost of the three-day bacchanal.

Stunningly, Sias insists he didn’t see anything noteworthy at the orgy.

He told The Sun, “I was never accused of doing anything wrong ever by anybody at any time.”

He said, “I didn’t do anything improper or illegal, nor did I witness that sort of activity from my fellow aviators.”

So, since his vision was deemed sufficiently acute to pilot an F/A-18, we can only assume that means he considered what happened on the third floor that night to be perfectly normal symposium activity.

Among the things that happened, according to government reports, were dozens of women being forced to run a gantlet as the lines of Navy officers groped them, tore off articles of their clothing and exhibited various demonstrations of what was delicately referred to as “lewd” behavior.

Thanks to the code of silence upheld by Sias and the rest of the 1,500 officers attending the convention, investigators were frustrated at every turn. The complaints to hotel security from civilian women dragged off the elevator into the melee and the reports of an admiral’s aide who was assaulted by the lunatic mob vanished like a contrail in the desert sky.

According to Sias and the other officers, nobody saw anything.

Ultimately, after a couple years of digging by investigators, discipline was handed down for the atrocity, though it was half-hearted, narrow in scope and way too late. None of the accused could even be tried. The code of silence rendered evidence gathering impossible.

That’s what happens when men consider sexual assault a form of entertainment and a reward for hard work instead of a crime.

And that’s why Christine Blasey Ford is believable.

Ford is the college professor who says that a drunken 17-year-old Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her at a high school party in Maryland. Kavanaugh denies that it ever happened.

Sure, I’d like to see a thorough investigation of Ford’s accusation before the Senate Judiciary Committee votes on Kavanaugh’s nomination for the Supreme Court. I’d like to hear from others who were at the party, people she may have confided in over the years or someone who was with Kavanaugh that night.

It would be terrific if every sexual assault could be investigated thoroughly and fairly without cover-ups and persecution of the victims.

But that’s impossible when the code of silence rules, which is all the time.

It rules when coaches call members of the football team together the morning after a gang rape to tell them how to answer questions from the cops. Or when fraternities vow to defend a brother who says the woman passed out in the front yard gave consent.

And it rules when senators fail to call corroborating witnesses before the Senate Judiciary Committee as they did in 1991 when Anita Hill testified about then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas’s sexual harassment in the 1980s.

The male-only Judiciary Committee imposed the code of silence back then simply because they could.

As the #MeToo movement has emboldened women to reveal secrets long concealed about the outrageous behavior of so many powerful men, refrains about the importance of due process are common. How can these brilliant careers be destroyed by mere accusations?

How indeed.

If due process is so important (which it is), we should compel all the enablers, the protectors, the dissemblers and all those who obstruct justice by maintaining the code of silence to quit stonewalling and tell the truth.

And, incidentally, you can’t get away with saying you didn’t do anything “improper or illegal” if you covered up a crime.

Just for the record.

Diane Carman is a Denver communications consultant. Twitter: @dccarman