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Democratic senator considering shifting military sexual assault cases to state prosecutors

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee says Congress is considering stripping the military of its authority to prosecute sexual assault cases and shifting the responsibility to state prosecutors.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday that the status quo is unacceptable as the military deals with an epidemic of sexual assaults.

Leahy said members of his committee are considering taking this responsibility away from the military chain of command.

Hagel assured Leahy that changes will be made to deal with sexual assaults. He said a specially appointed panel would be meeting in two weeks to consider reforms.

Congress is moving ahead with several changes, including stripping commanders of the authority to overturn convictions for sexual assaults.