Article 120(b)(1)(B) (2012) prohibited sexual assault by causing bodily harm, and the definition of bodily harm included a nonconsensual sexual act or sexual contact. Since nonconsensual sexual activity is generally considered to be the definition of sexual assault, the statute functionally prohibited sexual assault by causing sexual assault.
Congress repealed that offense in Section 5430 of the Military Justice Act of 2016 (that became effective on January 1, 2019), replacing it with a new Article 120(b)(2)(A) that prohibits “commit[ting] a sexual act upon another person without the consent of the other person.”
In neither offense, however, did Congress identify a specific mens rea. Put differently, Congress didn’t say whether – to be guilty of the offense – an accused must actually know that the other person didn’t consent (actual knowledge), or recklessly disregard evidence of lack or consent (recklessness), or just fail to discover that the other person didn’t consent (negligence). Congress also could have said (but didn’t say) that the accused’s knowledge doesn’t matter (strict liability). Accordingly, the mens rea applicable to the offense is an open question. And mens rea is a pretty hot topic these days (it was the #8 Military Justice Story of 2017).
CAAF already granted review to decide the issue, in the Army case of United States v. McDonald, No. 18-0308/AR (grant of review discussed here). The Army CCA also just issued a published decision on the issue, holding that the minimum mens rea applicable to the offense is recklessness, in United States v. Peebles, __ M.J. __, No. 20170044 (A. Ct. Crim. App. Jan 10, 2019) (discussed here).
But last week CAAF granted review in another case involving the same issue:
No. 19-0051/AR. U.S. v. Korey B. Kangich. CCA 20170170. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue:
WHETHER THE MILITARY JUDGE ERRED IN APPLYING A NEGLIGENT MENS REA TO MAKE OTHERWISE LAWFUL CONDUCT CRIMINAL.
Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.
The CCA summarily affirmed without a written decision. Specialist (E-4) Kangich was convicted contrary to his pleas of not guilty, by a general court-martial composed of a military judge alone, of sexual assault by causing bodily harm, in violation of Article 120(b)(1)(B), where the bodily harm was two nonconsensual sexual acts. He was sentenced to confinement for 24 months, reduction to E-1, and a dishonorable discharge.