On Tuesday CAAF granted review in this Air Force case:
No. 17-0405/AF. U.S. v. Sean C. Mooney. CCA 38929. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue:
WHETHER THE CONVENING AUTHORITY’S ACTION IS VOID AB INITIO WHERE IT PURPORTS TO ORDER APPELLANT’S ADJUDGED COURT-MARTIAL SENTENCE TO RUN CONSECUTIVE TO HIS PREVIOUSLY ADJUDGED FEDERAL SENTENCE INSTEAD OF CONCURRENTLY AS REQUIRED BY ARTICLE 57, UCMJ.
Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.
The CCA’s opinion is available here and is published at 76 M.J. 545. The appellant pleaded guilty before a federal district court and at a general court-martial to separate offenses all related to a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old. The federal plea (and sentence of imprisonment for six years) came first, and the court-martial plea (and approved sentence including confinement for two years) came second. The plea agreements made no provisions for whether those sentences would run concurrently or consecutively, but the convening authority ordered that they run consecutively (first the civil, then the court-martial). The Air Force CCA approved this decision, concluding that:
Given the support for this disposition in DoD and Air Force regulatory guidance and the absence of conflicting authorities within the UCMJ, we find the convening authority’s action was sufficient to toll the effective date of confinement under Article 57(b), UCMJ, and thereby require Appellant’s military sentence to confinement be served consecutively with his federal sentence.
76 M.J. at 549-550, slip op. at 7-8. The regulatory guidance is DoD 1325.7-M and Air Force Regulation 125-30, which suggest that court-martial sentences should be served consecutively with civil court sentences. The UCMJ, however, does not include a provision allowing consecutive sentences under the circumstances of this case (where a federal civil conviction is followed by a court-martial conviction). But the Code does address all other possible scenarios, permitting consecutive sentences where a court-martial conviction is followed by a civil conviction (Article 14), and where there is a court-martial sentence and one adjudged by a state or foreign court (Article 57a).
The Air Force CCA interpreted that silence as a grant of discretion:
In the case sub judice, Appellant’s sentence to confinement by a federal district court is not covered by the provisions of Article 57a. As such, we must determine whether the absence of guidance restricted the convening authority’s discretion in directing the running of Appellant’s military sentence to confinement. We hold, contrary to Appellant’s argument, that it did not.
76 M.J. at 548, slip op. at 8.