CAAFlog » Argument Previews

CAAF will hear oral argument in the Army case of United States v. Smith, No. 18-0211/AR (CAAFlog case page), on Tuesday, January 22, 2019, at 9:30 a.m. The first of two cases to be argued that day (both involving the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule), Smith involves an appellate-stage challenge to the admission of the fruits of a search of electronic devices.

CAAF granted review of two issues:

I. Whether the military judge abused her discretion in denying a defense motion to suppress evidence obtained from Appellant’s cellular telephone because access to the contents of the iPhone would not have been available but for the government’s illegal search and the good faith doctrine would be inapplicable under the circumstances.

II. Whether the Army Court of Criminal Appeals erred in deeming the insufficient nexus issue waived because there was no deliberate decision not to present a ground for potential relief but instead only a failure to succinctly articulate the grounds upon which relief was sought.

Warrant Officer One (W01) Smith was convicted of two specifications of indecent recording in violation of Article 120c(a) (2012) and sentenced to confinement for two months and a dishonorable discharge. The allegations arose after a young woman saw Smith take a photograph under her dress using an iPhone. She sounded the alarm, Smith was quickly apprehended, and the iPhone was seized. Military investigators then sought authorization to search the iPhone and also to seize and search any other Apple product in Smith’s residence under the theory that the iPhone could synchronize with the other devices. The authorization was granted, several other devices were seized, and all of the devices were sent for examination.

The examination found no incriminating evidence on the devices seized from Smith’s home, and the examiners were initially unable to access the iPhone because it was locked. But because Smith previously synced his iPhone with one of his other devices, the investigators were able to use that prior connection to access the iPhone. After doing that, they discovered incriminating videos on the iPhone. Smith’s defense counsel moved to suppress the videos, arguing that the iPhone was unlawfully seized (at the time of the woman’s complaint) and that the search authorization of the iPhone was not supported by probable cause. The motion was overruled, the videos were admitted, and Smith was convicted.

On appeal, Smith renewed his objection to the admission of the videos, but with a new argument: that the search of the devices from his home – that made it possible to search the iPhone – lacked probable cause. The argument was based on CAAF’s opinion in United States v. Nieto, 76 M.J. 101 (C.A.A.F. Feb. 21, 2017) (CAAFlog case page), part of the #7 Military Justice Story of 2017, and claimed an insufficient nexus between Smith’s phone and other devices. The Army CCA refused to consider Smith’s new argument and also concluded that the good faith exception applied (while noting that the military judge also determined that the inevitable discovery doctrine applied).

CAAF then granted review of two issues that embody a plethora of questions about the trial and appellate proceedings. The first issue presumes that the search of the devices seized from Smith’s home was unlawful (something no court has said), it presumes that the incriminating videos on Smith’s iPhone would never have been discovered but-for the search of the other devices (a question of technological capabilities), and it challenges the application of the good faith exception under the facts of this case. The second granted issue challenges the Army CCA’s refusal to consider Smith’s new suppression argument based on Nieto, and it suggests that the argument isn’t so much new as it is just a clarification of the trial stage objection that was not succinctly articulated.

It’s a complicated case that is made even more complicated by the briefs, because Smith offers a second new basis for suppression (that investigators exceeded the scope of the search authorization) and the Army Government Appellate Division makes numerous concessions.

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CAAF will hear oral argument in the Navy case of United States v. Forbes, No. 18-0304/NA (CAAFlog case page), on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. A single issue questions whether a guilty plea to sexual assault should be reversed:

Whether the Navy court erred in holding that appellant was provident to sexual assault by bodily harm due to his failure to inform his sexual partners of his HIV status.

Aviation Maintenance Administrationman Second Class (E-5) Forbes pleaded guilty to various offenses, including four specifications of sexual assault by causing bodily harm in violation of Article 120 (2012) that were related to Forbes intentionally hiding his HIV-positive status from his sexual partners.

The theory that failure to inform a sexual partner of HIV status constitutes bodily harm was based on CAAF’s holding in United States v. Gutierrez, 74 M.J. 61 (C.A.A.F. 2015) (CAAFlog case page) (the #7 Military Justice Story of 2015), in which the court unanimously held that:

Appellant’s conduct included an offensive touching to which his sexual partners did not provide meaningful informed consent. See R. v. Cuerrier, [1998] 2 S.C.R. 371, 372 (Can.) (“Without disclosure of HIV status there cannot be a true consent.”). He is therefore guilty of assault consummated by battery.

74 M.J. at 68. Applying Gutierrez to Forbes’ guilty plea the Navy-Marine Corps CCA explained:

Gutierrez’s conduct—engaging in otherwise-consensual sexual activity without telling his partners that he had HIV—included an “offensive touching to which his sexual partners did not provide meaningful informed consent” because “‘[w]ithout disclosure of HIV status there cannot be a true consent.'” Id. (quoting R. v. Cuerrier, [1998] 2 S.C.R. 371, 372 (Can.)).

Here, in explicit reliance on the CAAF’s holding in Gutierrez, the government charged the appellant with both assault consummated by battery in violation of Article 128(a), UCMJ, and sexual assault by bodily harm in violation of Article 120(b)(1)(B), UCMJ. In a bench memorandum, the trial counsel explained that since “failure to disclose an accused’s HIV status constituted an offensive touching because the accused’s partners did not provide informed meaningful consent, ‘the appropriate charges would be either 1) sexual assault by bodily harm; or 2) assault consummated by battery.'”

United States v. Forbes, 77 M.J. 765, 769 (N-M Ct. Crim. App. 2018) (discussed here). The CCA also noted:

We make no distinction between the appellant’s failure to inform his sexual partners that he was HIV-positive and any affirmative statement denying that he was HIV-positive or intimating that he was not HIV-positive. Gutierrez does not address the situation where an HIV-positive individual engages in sexual activity after denying his positive status. It is enough, under Gutierrez, that the appellant simply did not tell his partners that he was HIV-positive.

77 M.J. at 772 n.20. Now CAAF will determine if that’s correct.

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CAAF will hear oral argument in the Army case of United States v. Stout, No. 18-0273/AR (CAAFlog case page), on Wednesday, December 4, 2018, at 11 a.m. (after the arguments in Cooper and Briggs). The court granted review of one issue questioning whether changes to three specifications were proper:

Whether the Government made major changes to the time frame of three offenses, over defense objection, and failed to prefer them anew in accordance with Rule for Courts-Martial 603.

In 2012, Staff Sergeant (E-6) Stout pleaded guilty to abusive sexual contact with a child, indecent liberties with a child, and wrongful possession of child pornography, in violation of Articles 120 and 134, and was sentenced to confinement for eight years, reduction to E-1, and a bad-conduct discharge. As part of a plea agreement various other charges were dismissed. But on appeal Stout challenged his pleas and his pleas were reversed by the Army CCA in an opinion discussed here.

A rehearing was authorized, but Stout did not plead guilty again. Instead, he contested the charges. A general court-martial composed of a military judge alone convicted him of committing many more offenses than he originally pleaded guilty to committing: three specifications of abusive sexual contact with a child, two specifications of indecent liberties with a child, sodomy with a child, and assault with intent to commit rape, in violation of Articles 120, 125, and 134. Stout was then sentenced to confinement for 18 years, reduction to E-1, and a dishonorable discharge (the new convictions involved things not included in the original convictions, avoiding the sentence limitation in Article 63).

The charges at the rehearing, however, were not identical to the charges at the original trial. Instead, there were “dozens of amendments to the charge sheet.” App. Br. at 4. Many of the amendments were minor (such as correcting spelling mistakes), but three changes “expanded the timeframes of Specifications 1 and 6 of Charge I, and the Specification of Charge II.” App. Br. at 4. Specifically:

For Specification 7 of Charge I,the dates were changed from “between on or about 14 January 2009 and on or about 28 January 2009” to “between on or about 7 August 2008 and on or about 3 June 2009.” (JA 126). For the Specification of Charge II, the dates were changed from “between on or about 14 February 2009 and on or about 22 March 2009” to “between on or about 7 August 2008 and on or about 3 June 2009.” (JA 126). For the Specification of Charge III, the dates were changed from “between on or about 1 November 2009 to on or about 31 December 2009” to “between on or about 7 August 2008 and on or about 3 June 2009.” (JA 126).

Gov’t Div. Br. at 7. Stout objected, asserting that the expanded time periods were a major change, but the military judge overruled the objection and the Army CCA affirmed. Argument over that objection now continues at CAAF.

Last year, in United States v. Reese, 76 M.J. 297, 300 (C.A.A.F. 2017) (CAAFlog case page), a unanimous CAAF explained that a major change is one where an “additional or different offense is charged … [or] substantial rights of the defendant are not prejudiced.” It further explained that because R.C.M. 603(d)  – which prohibits such changes – does not discuss prejudice, when there is a major change “there is no charge to which jurisdiction can attach” and reversal is required. 76 M.J. at 301-302. Accordingly, if Stout can convince CAAF that the military judge and Army CCA got it wrong, the affected charges will be dismissed.

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CAAF will hear oral argument in the Air Force case of United States v. Briggs, No. 16-0711/AF (CAAFlog case page), on Tuesday, December 4, 2018, after the argument in Cooper. The case was remanded to CAAF by the Supreme Court in August for review in light of CAAF’s decision in United States v. Mangahas, 77 M.J. 220 (C.A.A.F. Feb. 6, 2018) (CAAFlog case page), which reinterpreted the statute of limitations for the offense of rape of an adult. CAAF will consider two issues involving the application of the new rule in this case:

I. Does the 2006 amendment to Article 43, UCMJ, clarifying that rape is an offense with no statute of limitations, apply retroactively to offenses committed before enactment of the amendment but for which the then extant statute of limitations had not expired.

II. Can Appellant successfully raise a statute of limitations defense for the first time on appeal.

In 2014, Lieutenant Colonel (O-5) Briggs was convicted contrary to his pleas of not guilty, by a general court-martial composed of a military judge alone, of one specification of rape in violation of Article 120 (pre-2007). The rape was alleged to have occurred nine years earlier, in 2005. The military judge sentenced Briggs to confinement for five months, a reprimand, and to be dismissed.

The Air Force CCA affirmed the findings and sentence in 2016. The case then became one of many trailer cases to Ortiz v. United States, 585 U.S. __, No. 16-1423 (June 22, 2018) (CAAFlog case page), in which the Supreme Court held that an appellate military judge may properly also serve as an assigned judge of the Court of Military Commission Review. Prior to the Court deciding Ortiz, however, CAAF decided Mangahas.

In Mangahas, CAAF reversed 20 years of precedent and reinterpreted the statute of limitations for rape of an adult. CAAF had previously held that under the UCMJ, rape qualified as an offense punishable by death and so was exempt from the 5-year statute of limitations in effect prior to a 2006 amendment that extended the statute of limitations for rape indefinitely. But in Mangahas CAAF clarified that rape (without aggravating factors) is not constitutionally punishable by death and so the statute of limitations was five years (until it was changed in 2006). CAAF’s decision in Mangahas resulted in the dismissal of a then-pending rape charge for conduct alleged to have occurred in 1997, and it also led the Air Force CCA to reverse a 2017 conviction for a rape alleged to have occurred in 2000, in United States v. Collins, 78 M.J. 530 (A.F. Ct. Crim. App. Jul 23, 2018) (discussed here), certified, 78 M.J. __ (C.A.A.F. Nov. 5, 2018) (noted here).

While Mangahas, Collins, and Briggs are all Air Force cases, that is not the only service to use military law to prosecute decades-old allegations of sexual assault. The Army, for example, dismissed such charges against a retired two-star general earlier this year in the wake of Mangahas.

Briggs presents questions that are closely-related to the Mangahas decision: whether the extension of the statute of limitations enacted in 2006 applies to conduct alleged to have occurred before the enactment of the 2006 change, and how to address that issue when the defense fails to raise it at trial.

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CAAF will hear oral argument in the certified Navy case of United States v. Cooper, No. 18-0282/NA (CAAFlog case page), on Tuesday, December 4, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. Four issues related to Cooper’s choice of defense counsel were certified to CAAF:

I. Did the lower court err not finding waiver of the right to request individual military counsel where Appellee was advised of his right to request an individual military counsel, agreed he understood the right but wanted instead to be represented by trial defense counsel, and made no motion for individual military counsel?

II. Did the lower court err in not applying the Strickland ineffective assistance test where the government and trial judge played no part in the defense’s failure to request individual military counsel, and if so, did Appellee suffer ineffective assistance of counsel?

III. If Strickland does not apply, did the lower court correctly find Appellee was deprived of his statutory right to request individual military counsel?

IV. Did the lower court err in it’s prejudice analysis for Appellee’s asserted deprivation of his statutory right to individual military counsel when Appellee did not preserve the issue at trial, raised the issue for the first time on appeal, and has alleged no specific prejudice?

Persons accused of criminal offenses in the civil courts are generally appointed an attorney to represent them only if they are indigent. Every accused at a court-martial, however, is detailed a military defense counsel free of charge, without regard to indigence. The accused may even request a specific individual military defense counsel (however that person must be reasonably available as determined by service regulations that generally narrow the choice considerably).

Yeoman Second Class (E-5) Cooper was convicted, by a general court-martial composed of members with enlisted representation, of three specifications of sexual assault and one specification of abusive sexual contact. He was sentenced to confinement for five years, reduction to E-1, total forfeitures, and a dishonorable discharge.

Cooper was represented by two detailed military defense counsel: Lieutenant (LT) JB and Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) NG. At trial, the military judge asked Cooper who he wanted to represent him (a standard question), and Cooper said that the wanted to be represented by LT JB and LCDR NG and by nobody else. But Cooper also wanted to be represented by individual military defense counsel (IMC), and on appeal Cooper claimed that his detailed defense counsel failed to request one of the three people Cooper identified as potential IMC. The Navy-Marine Corps CCA ordered a post-trial factfinding hearing, concluded that Cooper was denied his statutory right to IMC, and reversed Cooper’s convictions.

The Judge Advocate General of the Navy then certified the case to CAAF, challenging the CCA’s findings that Cooper did not waive his right to IMC when he failed to make his desire known to the military judge, that Cooper was denied his statutory right to IMC, and that reversal is warranted as a result.

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CAAF will hear oral argument in the Army case of United States v. Nicola, No. 18-0247/AR (CAAFlog case page), on Wednesday, November 7, 2018, after the argument in Bodoh. The court will determine:

Whether the evidence of indecent viewing in violation of Article 120c, UCMJ, was legally sufficient.

The offense of indecent viewing occurs when a person, without legal justification or lawful authorization, “knowingly and wrongfully views the private area of another person, without that other person’s consent and under circumstances in which that other person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.” Article 120c(a). The statute also defines private area as the naked or underwear-clad genitalia, anus, buttocks, or female areola or nipple. A conviction is legally sufficient if, considering all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, a rational fact-finder could have found all essential elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

Staff Sergeant (E-6) Nicola was convicted of violating a general regulation, abusive sexual contact, and indecent viewing, by a general court-martial composed of officer members, and he was sentenced to reduction to E-1 and a bad-conduct discharge. Nicola’s convictions relate to his conduct with a junior female soldier – identified as Corporal (CPL) AA – during a night of drinking with other soldiers both on and off post. CPL AA overconsumed and Nicola took her back to her barracks room, where her next memory was sitting naked on the floor of her shower with the water running. She also accused Nicola of committing a sexual act upon her in the shower, but he was acquitted of that.

Nicola testified in his own defense at trial and said that after he brought CPL AA back to her room, he told her to take a shower to help her sober up. He said that she then spontaneously removed her clothes and he saw her in her bra before he could look away. She then went into the shower where she remained for a long time, and Nicola admitted to checking on her at one point (after she didn’t respond when he shouted to her) during which he saw her naked. The prosecution argued that Nicola committed an indecent viewing when he saw CPL AA in her bra as she disrobed and then again when he saw her naked in the shower.

Nicola’s appeal doesn’t challenge that he viewed CPL AA’s private areas, but rather that her “reasonable expectation of privacy was relinquished by taking her own clothes off in front of another person, or superseded by placing herself in harm’s way when she was unresponsive in the shower.” App. Br. at 7.

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CAAF will hear oral argument in the Army case of United States v. Bodoh, No. 18-0201/AR (CAAFlog case page), on Wednesday, November 7, 2018, at 9 a.m. (earlier than the normal 9:30). The court granted review of a single issue:

Whether the military judge plainly erred by allowing the trial counsel to misstate the law and argue that the panel should base its verdict on SHARP training

Private (E-2) Bodoh was convicted contrary to his pleas of not guilty, by a general court-martial composed of officer members, of one specification of sexual assault and one specification of assault consummated by a battery. He was sentenced to confinement for five years, reduction to E-1, forfeiture of $1,546.80 per month for 60 months, and a bad-conduct discharge.

Bodoh’s convictions involve sexual acts with the civilian wife of another soldier, at the home of the other soldier, while all three of them (plus a fourth person) abused alcohol and cold medicine. During voir dire the prosecution asked the members questions that referenced the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program. The questions involved the effect of the SHARP program and whether the members could be impartial despite receiving SHARP program training. The voir dire questions did not draw an objection, a comment from the military judge, or a challenge to any member.

Bodoh testified in his own defense. He admitted that sexual acts occurred, but he claimed that they were consensual. During pretrial questioning by law enforcement, however, Bodoh did not admit to the sexual acts, and at trial his defense counsel asked him to explain that earlier omission. Bodoh responded that he was “very frightened when they told me that [the alleged victim] pulled the SHARP defense.” Gov’t Div. Br. at 13 (quoting record).

Once Bodoh mentioned the SHARP program, the prosecution ran with it. On cross-examination the trial counsel asked numerous questions about Bodoh’s understanding of the meaning of consent based on SHARP program training he had received, eventually drawing objections from the defense that the military judge sustained. Later, during closing arguments, the trial counsel repeatedly referenced the SHARP program when arguing that there was no consent, that the alleged victim was vulnerable and incapable of consenting (due to the alcohol and cold medicine), and that her behavior during and after the sexual acts did not support Bodoh’s claim of consent. In particular, the trial counsel argued that the SHARP program demonstrated that the defense theory of consent was based on myths:

Also she’s fearful with everything he’s done and never having any consequences, never anyone doing anything to him, no one, the command, no one doing anything to him. She simply didn’t fight back. She froze. Everyone would wish she would have fought back. Everyone would wish she would have yelled and screamed. And those myths that [defense counsel] said aren’t that common anymore, that’s all that [defense counsel] cross examined her on. That’s all your Soldiers learn in the SHARP program every day about those myths. It’s not that common.

Appp. Br. at 10-11 (quoting record). Bodoh’s defense counsel did not object.

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CAAF will hear oral argument in the Army case of United States v. Kohlbek, No. 18-0267/AR (CAAFlog case page), on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, after the oral argument in King. A single granted issue questions whether the general prohibition in Mil. R. Evid. 707 against evidence of polygraph examinations applies to a defense request to introduce into evidence the fact that a confession was preceded by a polygraph:

Whether the military judge erred by misconstruing Mil.R.Evid. 707 and prohibiting Appellant from presenting evidence relevant to Appellant’s post-polygraph statement.

Specialist (E-4) Kohlbek was tried by a general court-martial composed of a military judge alone. He pleaded guilty to three specifications of assault consummated by a battery upon a child under sixteen years old, in violation of Article 128, as lesser included offenses of sexual abuse of a child in violation of Article 120b. The prosecution then proceeded to trial on the greater offenses, resulting in Kohlbek’s conviction of four specifications of sexual abuse of a child. The military judge sentenced Kohlbek to confinement for 15 months, reduction to E-3, and a bad-conduct discharge.

Kohlbek’s convictions related to an encounter with a girl identified by the initials AH. AH was a friend of Kohlbek’s step-daughter and spent a night at Kohlbek’s home. While she was there, Kohlbek over-consumed alcoholic beverages while celebrating his recent graduation from the Army’s Warrior Leader Course. Then, while AH slept, Kohlbek entered the room and sexually touched her. She immediately reported the incident and military police apprehended Kohlbek. A breathlyzer administered later the next morning showed Kohlbek’s blood alcohol concentration as .165 and .163.

Kohlbek did not deny wrongdoing (rather, he pleaded guilty to assaulting the girl), but he did claim no memory of the incident. In turn, Kohlbek’s defense counsel asserted that Kohlbek’s degree of intoxication prevented him from forming the specific intent required for the charged sexual offense. But the defense had a problem: Kohlbek confessed.

Specifically, Kohlbek agreed to be questioned by military investigators and he agreed to take a polygraph examination. A polygraph machine measures physiological responses (like blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing) during questioning, under the theory that such things have something to do with the truthfulness of the responses to the questions. Kohlbak submitted to a polygraph and was (quite predictably) told that he failed. Then, during post-polygraph questioning by law enforcement, Kohlbek said:

Fine. I did it. I will write whatever you want. I’ll write a sworn statement to it. Just let me get out of here.” (JA 86).

Gov’t Div. Br. at 5. His confession followed.

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CAAF will hear oral argument in the Air Force case of United States v. King, No. 18-0288/AF (CAAFlog case page), on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. A single granted issue challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to prove that King wrongfully viewed child pornography:

The military judge found Appellant guilty of viewing child pornography. But all of the alleged child pornography appellant allegedly viewed was found in unallocated space or a Google cache. Is the evidence legally sufficient?

Unallocated space is a computer storage term that refers to unused space on the storage device (hard drive, thumb drive, etc.). Though unused, the space can nevertheless contain data. Deleted items, for example, are in unallocated space (because the process of deleting a file is more synonymous with forgetting than with removing).

A cache is a storage area for data. Applications (like web browsers) often use cache files to speed up the browsing process. A cache is created on a user’s device when a user accesses data that is stored somewhere else. When the user wants to access the data again, some of the content is provided by the local cache (rather than re-downloaded from the remote site).

Contrary to his pleas of not guilty, Airman First Class (E-3) King was convicted by a general court-martial composed of a military judge alone of one specification of attempting to view child pornography, one specification of viewing child pornography, and one specification of violating a general regulation. He was sentenced to confinement for nine months, reduction to E-1, and a dishonorable discharge. The Air Force CCA summarily affirmed the convictions.

The prosecution of King began when Photobucket – an image-sharing website – notified authorities of a suspected image of child pornography uploaded to the service by an account linked to King’s military email address. King was questioned by Air Force criminal investigators, and he seemingly confessed to searching for and viewing child pornography on his government computer.

But King’s primary brief doesn’t address that apparent confession, and it offers only a passing reference to his statements to investigators. See App. Br. at 37. Instead, King’s brief focuses on the fact that of the images introduced into evidence by the prosecution, the military judge found that only three were actually child pornography. All three were found on King’s personal computer; two in a Google cache and one in unallocated space. The military judge convicted King of wrongfully viewing those three images of child pornography.

The granted issue and King’s brief question whether that conviction can be sustained based only on the images found in the cache and unallocated space. It’s a good question. But CAAF is almost certainly going to be more interested in King’s admissions to military investigators, whether those admissions amount to a confession to wrongfully viewing child pornography, and whether the images (or something else) provide adequate corroboration.

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CAAF will hear oral argument in the Army case of United States v. Tucker, No. 18-0254/AR (CAAFlog case page), on Wednesday, October 24, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. It’s the second time the court will hear argument in this case on substantially the same issue: whether mere negligence on the part of an accused is sufficient for a conviction of violation of Article 134 (the general article that penalizes disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline, conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and other crimes and offenses not capital).

Private Tucker pleaded guilty to multiple offenses including a novel violation of Article 134 based on providing alcohol to a minor. The specification charged that he:

unlawfully provide Private [TG], a person under the age of 21, alcoholic beverages, such conduct being to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces and of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.

Tucker did not know that TG was underage at the time he provided the alcohol. The military judge nevertheless accepted Tucker’s plea after instructing Tucker that his negligent failure to discover TG’s true age made his conduct punishable.

The Army CCA affirmed Tucker’s convictions in a published decision, concluding that the word neglects in Article 134 states a negligence standard. United States v. Tucker, 75 M.J. 872, 875 (A. Ct. Crim. App. Oct. 28, 2016). CAAF then granted review, heard oral argument, and then reversed the CCA 13 days after argument with a per curiam decision. United States v. Tucker, 76 M.J. 257, 258 (C.A.A.F. May 23, 2017) (CAAFlog case page). CAAF concluded that “the term ‘neglects’ simply refers to the failure of a servicemember to perform an act that it was his or her duty to perform. . . . [it] has no connection to the mens rea requirement that the government must prove under the statute.” 76 M.J. at 258. CAAF’s decision contributed to our selection of mens rea as the #8 Military Justice Story of 2017.

The case was returned to the Army CCA where the conviction was again affirmed, with another published decision, on the basis that Tucker’s “admitted mens rea of simple negligence, when combined with the requirement that [his] conduct was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces and of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and his admitted knowledge of the wrongfulness of his actions, sufficiently separates his criminal conduct from otherwise innocent conduct.” United States v. Tucker, 77 M.J. 696, 697 (A. Ct. Crim. App. Mar. 27, 2018) (marks omitted).

CAAF then granted review of one issue:

Whether the Army Court erred in holding that the minimum mens rea required under clauses 1 and 2 of Article 134, UCMJ, to separate wrongful from innocent conduct is simple negligence.

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CAAF will hear oral argument in the Air Force case of United States v. Hale, No. 18-0162/AF (CAAFlog case page), on Tuesday, October 23, 2018, after the argument in Hamilton. The case involves jurisdiction over offenses committed by a drilling reservist, and CAAF granted review of two issues and specified a third:

Granted Issues:
I. The lower court found as a matter of law that personal jurisdiction does not exist outside of the hours of inactive-duty training. The lower court proceeded to find personal jurisdiction existed over Appellant because he was “staying” with his in-laws. Was this error?

II. Whether the lower court erred when it concluded the military judge correctly instructed the members they could convict Appellant for conduct “on or about” the dates alleged in each specification.

Specified Issue:
III. Whether the lower court erred in concluding the court-martial had jurisdiction over specification 2 of additional charge 1, as modified to affirm the lesser included offense of attempted larceny.

Lieutenant Colonel (O-5) Hale – an Air Force reservist – was convicted of multiple specifications of larceny and attempted larceny, and also of making a false official statement, and sentenced to confinement for one month, total forfeitures, and a dismissal. The convictions relate to Hale’s submission of fraudulent travel claims involving his reserve service. Hale stayed (lodged) with relatives while performing reserve duty, and he submitted fraudulent travel claims for lodging expenses with his in-laws.

The granted issues present fact-specific challenges to some of Hale’s convictions based on a unique facet of jurisdiction over reservists. Members of reserve components are subject to the UCMJ, but only when actually performing reserve duty. For example, Article 2(a)(3) limits jurisdiction to:

Members of a reserve component while on inactive-duty training, but in the case of members of the Army National Guard of the United States or the Air National Guard of the United States only when in Federal service.

Notably absent is the time between periods of inactive-duty training. Such training typically occurs in four-hour blocks, with breaks during lunch and overnight that create jurisdictional gaps. Hale’s convictions cross some of those gaps.

But Congress eliminated those jurisdictional gaps in the Military Justice Act of 2016, amending Article 2(a)(3) to specifically include:

(i) Travel to and from the inactive-duty training site of the member, pursuant to orders or regulations.

(ii) Intervals between consecutive periods of inactive-duty training on the same day, pursuant to orders or regulations.

(iii) Intervals between inactive-duty training on consecutive days, pursuant to orders or regulations.

Sec. 5102, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, Public Law 114-328, 130 Stat. 2894, 2895 (Dec. 23, 2016).

But for Hale those gaps still matter, and CAAF’s review will determine whether some of his convictions involve conduct during periods when he was not subject to the UCMJ.

Case Links:
• AFCCA decision
• Blog post: CAAF grants review
• Appellant’s brief
• Appellee’s (Air Force App. Gov’t Div.) brief
• Appellant’s reply brief
Blog post: Argument preview

CAAF will hear oral argument in the Air Force case of United States v. Hamilton, No. 18-0135/AF (CAAFlog case page), on Tuesday, October 23, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. Last term, in United States v. Barker, 77 M.J. 377 (C.A.A.F. May 21, 2018) (CAAFlog case page), CAAF outlined the requirements for admission of a statement by a crime victim under R.C.M. 1001A (the President’s implementation of the Article 6b right to be reasonably heard) during the sentencing phase of a court-martial. Now CAAF will review whether such statements are evidence that must be evaluated under the rules of evidence, with the following two granted issues:

I. Are victim impact statements admitted pursuant to R.C.M. 1001A evidence subject to the Military Rules of Evidence?

II. Whether the military judge erred in admitting prosecution exhibits 4, 5, and 6.

In a published, en banc opinion (analyzed here), the Air Force CCA reconciled the Article 42(b) requirement for testimony under oath with the Article 6b(a)(4)(B) right to be heard in sentencing and concluded:

unsworn victim impact statements offered pursuant to R.C.M. 1001A are not evidence. See also United States v. Provost, 32 M.J. 98, 99 (C.M.A. 1991) (if an accused elects to make an unsworn statement, he is not offering evidence). Both R.C.M. 1001(c)(2)(C) and R.C.M. 1001A(e) allow facts in an unsworn statement to be contradicted or rebutted. This does not change the character of the right to speak.

United States v. Hamilton, 77 M.J. 579, 583 (A.F. Ct. Crim. App. Dec. 20, 2017). Furthermore, the CCA reasoned, because a victim’s unsworn statement is not evidence, the Military Rules of Evidence (including the balancing test in Mil. R. Evid. 403) “do not apply to victim unsworn statements.” 77 M.J. at 586.

CAAF will determine if that’s right. Maybe.

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CAAF will hear oral argument in the Army case of United States v. Criswell, No. 18-0091/AR (CAAFlog case page), on Thursday, September 13, 2018, at 11 a.m., at the Fordham University School of Law in New York. A single granted issue challenges the military judge’s ruling that allowed the alleged victim to make an in-court identification of the appellant as her assailant:

Whether the military judge abused his discretion in denying a defense motion to suppress the accusing witness’s in-court identification of Appellant.

A general court-martial composed of a military judge alone convicted Specialist (E-4) Criswell, contrary to his pleas of not guilty, of one specification of making a false official statement, two specifications of abusive sexual contact, one specification of assault consummated by battery, and one specification of indecent language in violation of Articles 107, 120, 128, and 134, UCMJ. Criswell was sentenced to confinement for two years, reduction to E-1, and a dishonorable discharge.

Criswell’s convictions relate to an allegation by Specialist (SPC) AM that she was sexually touched and harassed by a man during a party at a convention center at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN. SPC AM is a white female; her assailant was a black man. SPC AM did not know her assailant, but she described him to another soldier shortly after the alleged touching, and the other soldier said, “I probably know who this is.” App. Br. at 5 (quoting record). That led to the identification of Criswell as possibly being the assailant.

The following day SPC AM reported her allegation to military authorities, who showed her a picture of Criswell. SPC AM then said that Criswell was her assailant. But that out-of-court identification was not admited into evidence. Instead, SPC AM identified Criswell as her assailant during trial:

The trial counsel asked SPC AM whether she recognized her assailant in the ccourtroom. (JA 75). Specialist AM pointed to SPC Criswell and said, “I recognize his facial features. I recognize, like, the—it’s weird—like, the shape of his head. I recognize the size of his body. I am able to recognize, compared to when he was close to me.” (JA 76).

App. Br. at 12.

Criswell moved to suppress the identification at trial and again challenged it on appeal before the Army CCA. The military judge allowed the in-court identification and the Army court affirmed that decision. CAAF will now determine if those decisions were right.

Case Links:
• ACCA decision
• Appellant’s brief
• Appellee’s (Army Gov’t App. Div.) brief
• Appellant’s reply brief
• Law student amicus in support of appellant
• Law student amicus in support of the appellee (Gov’t Div.)
• Blog post: Argument preview

CAAF will hear oral argument in the Army case of United States v. Eugene, No. 18-0209/AR (CAAFlog case page), on Wednesday, September 12, 2018, at 3 p.m., at the Keenan Ceremonial Courtroom, 500 Pearl Street, New York. The court granted review of two issues involving consent to a search:

I. Whether Appellant’s request to Criminal Investigation Command (CID) that his cell phone be returned was a withdrawal of the third party consent to search given by Appellant’s wife in Appellant’s absence.

II. Whether the Army Court erred in determining the applicability of the inevitable discovery doctrine where (1) the CID agents failed to take any steps to obtain a warrant and (2) the case took a “dead-end” until the warrantless search.

A general court-martial composed of a military judge alone convicted Private First Class (E-3) Eugene, contrary to his pleas of not guilty, of two specifications of attempted viewing of child pornography and four specifications of attempted sexual abuse of a child, all in violation of Article 80, UCMJ. The military judge sentenced Eugene to confinement for 26 months, reduction to E-1, and a dishonorable discharge.

The convictions were based on evidence discovered on Eugene’s cell phone by his wife. Eugene allowed his wife to use his phone, and he left the device with her while he was away conducting field exercises on June 1, 2015. On June 2, 2015, Eugene’s wife used the device and discovered communications between Eugene and other women, some of whom identified themselves as minors. Eugene’s wife then contacted military authorities and authorized them to seize and search the phone. Military investigators conducted a limited, electronic search of the device, but found no evidence. Three days later, on June 5, 2015, they interrogated Eugene and he admitted to exchanging communications with underage girls. At the end of the interrogation, Eugene asked the investigators to return his phone but they did not return it. Instead, military investigators sent the phone for a more detailed electronic search. That search occurred five months later, on November 9, 2015, and yielded incriminating evidence. At no point, however, did the investigators obtain a military search authorization or a civilian search warrant.

Eugene’s defense counsel moved to suppress the fruits of the second search at trial, arguing that the investigators were required to obtain an authorization or warrant. The military judge denied the motion, ruling that Eugene’s wife consented to both the seizure of the phone and its subsequent search, and that Eugene’s request that the phone be returned was at most only a revocation of his wife’s consent to seize the phone. The Army CCA affirmed, finding that Eugene’s request that investigators return his phone was “merely an attempt to regain control over his personal property for personal convenience.” United States v. Eugene, No. 20160483, slip op. at 6 (A. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 28, 2018). The CCA also found that the inevitable discovery doctrine applies because there was “overwhelming probable cause” and the lead investigator “would have contacted a military magistrate to get a search authorization if he believed he did not have consent.” Id. slip op. at 8.

CAAF then granted review of both of the CCA’s findings. Read more »

CAAF will hear oral argument in the Army case of United States v. Christensen, No. No. 17-0604/AR (CAAFlog case page), on Tuesday, May 1, 2018, after the argument in Hendrix. A single granted issue bluntly questions the existence of personal jurisdiction:

Whether Appellant was subject to court-martial jurisdiction.

Private First Class (E-3) Christensen “had a history of being drunk on duty.” App. Br. at 3. That won him an early administrative separation (for alcohol abuse rehabilitation failure). But before he was separated, civilian authorities confined him on suspicion of sexual assault. Then Christensen received his separation orders with an effective date of April 17, 2013, and his DD-214 was mailed to his father on April 23, 2013. After that, Christensen was cut loose: his command stopped visiting him, it advised his father to sell his uniforms, his eligibility for military health insurance ended, and the Department of Veterans Affairs started sending him letters.

But the Army wasn’t done with him yet.

A week after the effective date of Christensen’s separation orders, the Chief of Justice (senior prosecutor) at Fort Stewart, GA, decided that “we are not quite ready for [Christensen] to be out of the Army yet.” App. Br. at 12 (quoting record). The Chief of Justice then contacted finance personnel and delayed the final accounting of Christensen’s pay (which included a debt to the Government based on Christensen’s civilian confinement prior to his discharge). A Chief of Justice doesn’t ordinarily have the power or responsibility to do this, but he did it nonetheless. It wasn’t until September 30, 2013 – a whopping five months later – that the separation orders and DD-214 were revoked. Then, on December 11, 2013, military authorities went to the residential alcohol rehabilitation program where Christensen was a patient, shackled him, and returned him to Fort Stewart where he was initially denied a uniform, an identification card, quarters, and even access to the dining facility. Christensen’s brief to CAAF explains that:

When appellant tried to eat at the dining facility, the noncommissioned officer in charge of providing a meal card said appellant “wasn’t in the system.” (JA 434–35). The unit then provided appellant with a memorandum to take to the dining facility, but a dining facility employee told him, “I can’t let you in with that.” (JA 434–35). After being rebuffed again, appellant “went back to the company,” and a sergeant major had to call the dining facility before appellant could eat. (JA 434–35).

App. Br. at 7.

That was in 2013 and Christensen was charged with a sexual offense. He challenged the existence of jurisdiction at trial, but lost. Then a general court-martial composed of a military judge alone convicted Christensen of one specification of sexual assault in violation of Article 120(a) (2012), and sentenced him to confinement for eight years, reduction to E-1, total forfeitures, and a dishonorable discharge.

Christensen renewed his jurisdictional challenge on appeal but the Army CCA rejected it, concluding that “the processing of appellant’s pay stopped at a stage similar to that in [United States v. Hart, 66 M.J. 273, 276 (C.A.A.F. 2008)], and we find the reasoning of the Hart court persuasive and controlling.” United States v. Christensen, No. 20140372, slip op. at 9 (A. Ct. Crim. App. June 15, 2017) (link to slip op.). Hart was something of a seminal case in the year of jurisdiction. Airman First Class Hart confessed to numerous drug offenses and was subsequently discharged for physical disability. Hart received his certificate of discharge (DD Form 214) on March 5, 2004, but two days later Hart’s squadron commander moved to stop Hart’s final pay and revoke the DD-214. Within a week Hart was reported as in an unauthorized absence status, and before the end of the month he was apprehended and returned to military control.

Hart mounted aggressive challenges to the existence of court-martial jurisdiction over him, but they were denied based on the provisions of 10 U.S.C. §§ 1168(a) and 1169, which are personnel statutes outlining the requirements for a discharge. §1168 states:

§1168. Discharge or release from active duty: limitations
(a) A member of an armed force may not be discharged or released from active duty until his discharge certificate or certificate of release from active duty, respectively, and his final pay or a substantial part of that pay, are ready for delivery to him or his next of kin or legal representative.

(b) This section does not prevent the immediate transfer of a member to a facility of the Department of Veterans Affairs for necessary hospital care.

(emphasis added). The question in Hart – and in Christensen – was whether the final pay or a substantial part of it was ready for delivery.

A deeply-divided CAAF ultimately affirmed the existence of personal jurisdiction in Hart. The majority concluded that:

The payment process was halted at the command’s request before the twenty days expired. The language of 10 U.S.C § 1168(a) setting limitations on discharge or release from active duty plainly precludes discharge unless “final pay or a substantial part of that pay” is “ready for delivery.” On the facts of this case, these criteria were not fulfilled. Accordingly, Hart was not effectively discharged and remained subject to court-martial jurisdiction pursuant to Article 2(a)(1), UCMJ.

Hart, 66 M.J. at 277. But a footnote to the first sentence quoted above included an important caveat:

This case does not involve any delay in the processing of Hart’s separation pay. We have not had occasion to address the jurisdictional effects if payment were not accomplished within a reasonable time frame established by applicable regulation for completion of the payment process.

66 M.J. at 277 n.5. The dissenters, however, rejected any binding effect of 10 U.S.C § 1168(a):

[Here] we have a case in which the discharge was ordered at the highest level within the military department, the servicemember cooperated in the separation process with no allegation of fraud on his part, the local command did not place a legal hold on the servicemember, the local command issued a discharge certificate to the servicemember, and the command did not seek to revoke the discharge until several days after the certificate was issued. Under these circumstances, Hart’s military status terminated on the date that the command delivered the discharge certificate to him.

66 M.J. at 280 (Effron, C.J., dissenting). Of the five CAAF judges who decided Hart, only two remain on the court: Chief Judge Stucky (who joined the dissent in Hart), and Judge Ryan (who was in the majority).

Now, in Christensen, CAAF will revisit both the underlying holding of Hart (that final pay must be ready for delivery for a discharge to terminate court-martial jurisdiction), and also the caveat from footnote 5 (the effect, if any, of delay) because where Hart involved only days of delay between issuance and revocation of the discharge certificate, Christensen involves a great many months and a plethora of aggravating factors.

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