Doctor accused of abusing dozens of JBLM patients faces charges

Maj. Michael Stockin, an anesthesiologist at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, faces over 50 counts of abusing patients.
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Joint Base Lewis-McChord
The “Iron Mike” statue at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. Joint Base Lewis-McChord Facebook page.

An Army doctor accused in one of the largest sexual abuse cases in military history appeared in court for the first time late Friday. 

The Army preferred court-martial charges against Maj. Michael Stockin, an anesthesiologist at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in August for abusive sexual contact and indecent viewing. In statements obtained by Task & Purpose, soldiers claim Stockin forced them to be naked for routine exams and groped their genitals.

Prosecutors believe Stockin may have victimized dozens of men at JBLM from late 2019 through the spring of 2022.

“This case is one of the largest in regards to the number of victims for a case of this type,” said Michelle McCaskill, spokesperson for the Army’s Office of Special Trial Counsel, which is prosecuting the Stockin case.

On Friday, Stockin appeared in a 6th Judicial Circuit court at JBLM for an arraignment hearing in which a military judge explained his rights during the court-martial, including whether to plead guilty and the option to be tried by a panel of officers or the judge alone. 

The 52 charges referred by Army prosecutors cover 41 victims. Stockin faces 47 counts of abusive sexual contact with each carrying a maximum punishment of 7-years confinement and five charges of indecent viewing, each of which carry a maximum punishment of a year confinement. One charge previously referred was withdrawn and dismissed by prosecutors after reviewing the evidence. There is no mandatory minimum penalty, according to the Army.

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“At this time the government does not intend to pursue pretrial confinement,” McCaskill said.

Stockin’s lawyer Robert Capovilla said in a statement that his client planned to plead not guilty and that they will fight every allegation in front of a jury. However at the trial, Stockin deferred entering a plea until the next session.

“We sincerely hope that the United States Army is fully prepared to respect Major Stockin’s Constitutional rights at every phase of this process, both inside and outside of the courtroom,” Capovilla said in emailed statement to Task & Purpose. “We understand, without exception — that in today’s political culture — the media will continue to condemn Major Stockin and render judgement before a jury or judge even hears the evidence. We urge everyone to keep an open mind, to remember Major Stockin is presumed innocent, and understand that this fight is just getting started.”

The case will be one of the first major trials for the Army’s Office of Special Trial Counsel, which began taking cases Jan. 28. Special trial counsel offices were stood up within each service branch with specially trained lawyers to handle criminal cases involving sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse and murder, regardless of where they occur.

The office represents a major change for the military justice system which historically left cases of troops accused of serious crimes to be investigated and prosecuted by legal teams under local chain of command. That system was often accused of creating conflicts of interest in which commanders went soft on defendants. Those cases are now handled by independent prosecutors in the OSTC who will decide what actions a case requires, ranging from a court martial to dismissal.

Following Friday’s hearing, the prosecution and defense will have opportunities to litigate pre-trial motions April 17-18, July 9-11, and Aug. 15-16. 

“Through close collaboration with the criminal investigators, OSTC thoroughly evaluated the evidence and carefully considered all the facts before referring charges in this case,” McCaskill said in an emailed statement after the trial. “We are confident that the facts and evidence support a conviction and that will be demonstrated when the case goes to trial on Oct. 7.”

UPDATE: (2/24/2024); Updated story with changes to the number of charges referred by prosecutors, Stockin’s plea deferment and next steps in the military justice process.

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