CAAFlog » October 2016 Term » United States v. Carter

CAAF decided the certified Air Force case of United States v. Carter, 76 M.J. 293, Nos. 17-0079/AF & 17-0086/AF (CAAFlog case page) (link to slip op.), on Monday, June 5, 2017. In a short opinion issued less than a month after oral argument, CAAF agrees with the Air Force CCA’s “interpretation of its own holding . . . the AFCCA did not authorize a rehearing.” Slip op. at 4. The CCA’s decision dismissing the charges with prejudice is affirmed.

Judge Ryan writes for a unanimous court.

Back in 2010, Master Sergeant (E-7) Carter was convicted of indecent liberties with a child in violation of Article 120(j) (2016), and of child endangerment and indecent acts with a child, both in violation of Article 134, and sentenced to confinement for 4 years, reduction to E-1, total forfeitures, and a dishonorable discharge. The convening authority disapproved the conviction of violation of Article 120(j) and reduced the sentence to confinement to three years, but approved the remainder of the findings and sentence.

The Article 134 specifications, however, failed to allege a terminal element and so therefore failed to state offenses. See United States v. Fosler, 70 M.J. 225 (C.A.A.F. 2011) (discussed here). The CCA reversed the findings in 2013, the JAG certified, and CAAF summarily affirmed. The case was remanded and two specifications under a new charge were preferred and referred to a new general court-martial. Carter made numerous objections (including objecting based on the statute of limitations), but the trial proceeded and Carter was again convicted. The second sentence included confinement for 40 months, total forfeitures, and reduction to E-1 (but not a punitive discharge).

The Air Force court, however, reversed again. In a 2016 decision discussed here, a three-judge panel of the Air Force CCA split 2-1 to conclude that the court’s 2013 decision did not authorize further proceedings and that the charge should be dismissed with prejudice. The dissenting judge found that the second trial was an independent proceeding based on a totally new charge. The Judge Advocate General of the Air Force then certified the case to CAAF challenging the CCA’s dismissal, and CAAF granted review of five additional issues.

Judge Ryan’s opinion, however, only discusses the certified issue, because CAAF finds that “under these circumstances, the convening authority was not authorized to order any further proceedings.” Slip op. at 2.

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Audio of today’s oral arguments at CAAF is available at the following links:

United States v. Claxton, No. 17-0148/AF (CAAFlog case page): Oral argument audio.

United States v. Carter, Nos. 17-0079/AF & 17-0086/AF (CAAFlog case page): Oral argument audio.

CAAF will hear oral argument in the certified Air Force case of United States v. Carter, Nos. 17-0079/AF & 17-0086/AF (CAAFlog case page), on Tuesday, May 9, 2017, after the argument in Claxton. The case involves one certified issue and five granted issues (but three of the granted issues are Ortiz trailer issues). The issues arise from convictions of child endangerment and committing indecent acts with a child, both in violation of Article 134, that were reversed on appeal by the Air Force CCA because the specifications didn’t allege a terminal element, then re-preferred, re-referred, and re-tried, but then reversed again by the CCA (and dismissed with prejudice) in a split decision (discussed here) that found that the CCA’s first reversal did not authorize the second trial:

Certified Issue: Whether the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals (AFCCA) erred by finding that the convening authority exceeded the scope of AFCCA’s remand when he referred Appellant’s case to an “other” trial under R.C.M. 1107(e)(2) following AFCCA’s original remand decision.

Granted Issues:
I. The Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the charge and specifications in this case in 2013 and again in 2016. But it exceeded the eighteen-month presumption of unreasonable delay before doing so each time. Has Appellee been denied due process where he completed his sentence to three years of confinement 158 days before this court affirmed the lower court’s first dismissal of this case on August 2, 2013?

II. Whether Appellee’s prosecution for child endangerment was barred by the statute of limitations where more than five years had elapsed and Appellee was not brought to trial within 180 days of this court’s affirmance of the lower court’s dismissal of that specification

III. Whether United States Court of Military Commission Review Judge, Martin T. Mitchell, was statutorily authorized to sit as one of the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals judges on the panel that decided Appellant’s case.

IV. Whether Judge Martin T. Mitchell’s service on both the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals and the United States Court of Military Commission Review violated the appointments clause given his status as a principal officer on the United States Court of Military Commission Review.

V. Whether Judge Martin T. Mitchell was in fact a principal officer following his appointment by the President of the United States Court of Military Commission Review in light of the provisions of 10 U.S.C. § 949b(b)(4)(C) and (D), authorizing reassignment or withdrawal of Appellate Military judges so appointed by the Secretary of Defense of his designee.

Back in 2010, Master Sergeant (E-7) Carter was convicted of indecent liberties with a child in violation of Article 120(j) (2016), and of child endangerment and indecent acts with a child, both in violation of Article 134, and sentenced to confinement for 4 years, reduction to E-1, total forfeitures, and a dishonorable discharge. The convening authority disapproved the conviction of violation of Article 120(j) and reduced the sentence to confinement to three years, but approved the remainder of the findings and sentence.

The Article 134 specifications, however, failed to allege a terminal element and so therefore failed to state offenses. See United States v. Fosler, 70 M.J. 225 (C.A.A.F. 2011) (discussed here). Because there was no objection at trial, the Air Force CCA applied CAAF’s decision in United States v. Humphries, 71 M.J. 209 (C.A.A.F. 2012) (CAAFlog case page). Nevertheless, the CCA reversed the findings in 2013, the JAG certified, and CAAF summarily affirmed.

The case was remanded and new charges were preferred and referred to a new general court-martial. Carter made numerous objections (including objecting based on the statute of limitations), but the trial proceeded and Carter was again convicted. The second sentence included confinement for 40 months, total forfeitures, and reduction to E-1 (but not a punitive discharge).

The Air Force court, however, reversed again. In a 2016 decision discussed here, a three-judge panel of the Air Force CCA split 2-1 to conclude that the court’s 2013 decision did not authorize further proceedings and that the charges should be dismissed with prejudice. The dissenting judge found that the second trial was an independent proceeding based on a totally new charge – analysis that I found (and still find) to be persuasive.

CAAF will now review that decision and also determine whether the statute of limitations prohibited the second trial and whether delays in the CCA’s review deprived Carter of his right to speedy appellate review.

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CAAF granted review in two cases yesterday. The first grant is in a case that was certified by the Judge Advocate General of the Air Force back in November (discussed here):

No. 17-0086/AF. United States, Appellant/Cross-Appellee v. Patrick Carter, Appellee/Cross-Appellant. CCA 38708. 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 issues:

I. THE AIR FORCE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS DISMISSED THE CHARGE AND SPECIFICATIONS IN THIS CASE IN 2013 AND AGAIN IN 2016. BUT IT EXCEEDED THE EIGHTEEN-MONTH PRESUMPTION OF UNREASONABLE DELAY BEFORE DOING SO EACH TIME. HAS APPELLEE BEEN DENIED DUE PROCESS WHERE HE COMPLETED HIS SENTENCE TO THREE YEARS OF CONFINEMENT 158 DAYS BEFORE THIS COURT AFFIRMED THE LOWER COURT’S FIRST DISMISSAL OF THIS CASE ON AUGUST 2, 2013?

II. WHETHER APPELLEE’S PROSECUTION FOR CHILD ENDANGERMENT WAS BARRED BY THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS WHERE MORE THAN FIVE YEARS HAD ELAPSED AND APPELLEE WAS NOT BROUGHT TO TRIAL WITHIN 180 DAYS OF THIS COURT’S AFFIRMANCE OF THE LOWER COURT’S DISMISSAL OF THAT SPECIFICATION.

III. WHETHER UNITED STATES COURT OF MILITARY COMMISSION REVIEW JUDGE, MARTIN T. MITCHELL, WAS STATUTORILY AUTHORIZED TO SIT AS ONE OF THE AIR FORCE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS JUDGES ON THE PANEL THAT DECIDED APPELLANT’S CASE.

IV. WHETHER JUDGE MARTIN T. MITCHELL’S SERVICE ON BOTH THE AIR FORCE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS AND THE UNITED STATES COURT OF MILITARY COMMISSION REVIEW VIOLATED THE APPOINTMENTS CLAUSE GIVEN HIS STATUS AS A PRINCIPAL OFFICER ON THE UNITED STATES COURT OF MILITARY COMMISSION REVIEW.

V. WHETHER JUDGE MARTIN T. MITCHELL WAS IN FACT A PRINCIPAL OFFICER FOLLOWING HIS APPOINTMENT BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF MILITARY COMMISSION REVIEW IN LIGHT OF THE PROVISIONS OF 10 U.S.C. § 949b(b)(4)(C) AND (D), AUTHORIZING REASSIGNMENT OR WITHDRAWAL OF APPPELLATEMILITARY JUDGES SO APPOINTED BY THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE OF HIS DESIGNEE.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25 on Issues I and II only.

The second involves a specified issue in a Coast Guard case:

No. 17-0143/CG. U.S. v. Ernest M. Ramos. CCA 1418. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue specified by the Court:

WHETHER APPELLANT WAS ENTITLED TO ARTICLE 31(b), UCMJ, WARNINGS AT ANY POINT DURING HIS INTERROGATION BY CGIS, AND IF SO, WHETHER HE WAS PREJUDICED BY THE ADMISSION OF ANY OF HIS STATEMENTS.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The Coast Guard CCA’s opinion is available here and reveals that:

On the morning of 8 April 2014, Appellant, stationed in Seattle, Washington, reported to his division officer that a civilian with whom his wife had a business had made threats against Appellant and his wife and had said he knew where Appellant worked. Appellant mentioned that the business involved recreational marijuana, but that his name was not on the paperwork of the business. Appellant’s division officer called upon his superior, the operations officer, to whom Appellant repeated his story. The operations officer called upon his superior, the executive officer, to whom Appellant repeated his story in the presence of the operations officer.

The executive officer took steps to notify security officials of the threat, including calling Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS). CGIS requested to talk with Appellant. Thereafter, Appellant was interviewed by CGIS agents, to whom he repeated his story with further details.

The military judge concluded, and the CCA affirmed, that the appellant’s interrogation by CGIS was not for a law enforcement or disciplinary purpose.

Military law recognizes three types of re-trials: a rehearing, a new trial, and an other trial. See R.C.M. 810. A rehearing (on findings, sentence, or both) may be ordered when findings or sentence are set-aside, and is a continuation of the former proceedings; a new trial may be ordered when new evidence or a fraud on the court is discovered; an other trial can occur after the original proceedings are declared invalid due to lack of jurisdiction or failure to state an offense. Separate from these – perhaps – is the possibility of a totally separate court-martial involving new charges based on the same allegations after the original charges are dismissed.

These possibilities are at the heart of a case recently certified to CAAF by the Judge Advocate General of the Air Force:

No. 17-0079/AF. United States, Appellant v. Patrick Carter, Appellee. CCA 38708. Notice is hereby given that a certificate for review of the decision of the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals was filed under Rule 22 on this date on the following issue:

WHETHER THE AIR FORCE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS (AFCCA) ERRED BY FINDING THAT THE CONVENING AUTHORITY EXCEEDED THE SCOPE OF AFCCA’S REMAND WHEN HE REFERRED APPELLANT’S CASE TO AN “OTHER” TRIAL UNDER R.C.M. 1107(e)(2) FOLLOWING AFCCA’S ORIGINAL REMAND DECISION

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A couple of interesting items off the Daily Journal over the last few days.  First a grant.

No. 13-0518/AF.  U.S. v. Jordan C. PASSUT.  CCA 37755.  Review granted on the following issue:

WHETHER A STATEMENT MADE TO AN AAFES EMPLOYEE FOR THE PURPOSE OF CASHING A WORTHLESS CHECK SATISFIES THE “OFFICIAL” ELEMENT OF A FALSE OFFICIAL STATEMENT.

This was a particularly egregious form of bad check writing according to the facts in the AFCCA opinion.  CAAF to add a nuance to United States v. Spicer, 71 M.J. 470 (C.A.A.F. 2013)?   Spicer is the case that arguably cuts back on what is or isn’t an “official” statement for Article 107, UCMJ, purposes.   The first list of arguments is out, but Passut awaits a date (Sr. J. Effron will sit for the September arguments).  Likely Judge Stucky will write the opinion in Passut?

whether a false statement is official, or capable of perverting authorized military functions, “the critical distinction is . . . . whether the statements relate to the official duties of either the speaker or the hearer, and whether those official duties fall within the scope of the UCMJ’s reach.” Day, 66 M.J. at 174.

And here is a summary judgement.

No. 13-5005/AF.  U.S. v. Patrick CARTER.  CCA 37715.  On consideration of the issues certified by the Judge Advocate General of the Air Force, 72 M.J. 253 (C.A.A.F.2013), we conclude that the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals did not err in finding that Appellee was prejudiced by the government’s failure to allege the terminal element for Specifications 1 and 2 under Charge III alleging child endangerment and indecent acts with the same child, both in violation of Article 134, UCMJ.  SeeUnited States v. Goings, 72 M.J. 202 (C.A.A.F. 2013) and United States v. Gaskins, 72M.J. 225 (C.A.A.F. 2013).  Accordingly, it is ordered that the first certified issue is answered in the affirmative and the second and third certified issues are answered in the negative, and the decision of the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals is hereby affirmed.*

*  Baker, Chief Judge (dissenting):

I dissent based on my dissenting opinions in United States v. Fosler, 70 M.J. 225, 240 (C.A.A.F. 2011) (Baker, J., dissenting), and United States v. Humphries, 71 M.J. 209, 217 (C.A.A.F. 2012) (Baker, C.J., dissenting).

The Judge Advocate General of the Air Force has certified these three issues in United States v. Carter:

I.    WHETHER APPELLEE SATISFIED HIS BURDEN TO DEMONSTRATE THAT THE DEFECTIVE SPECIFICATIONS UNDER ARTICLE 134, UCMJ, MATERIALLY PREJUDICED HIS SUBSTANTIAL RIGHTS WHEN HE WAS PROVIDED ACTUAL NOTICE OF THE TERMINAL ELEMENT THROUGH AN ARTICLE 32 REPORT RECEIVED PRIOR TO TRIAL.

II.   WHETHER THE AIR FORCE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS APPLIED AN ERRONEOUS STANDARD OF LAW WHEN EVALUATING WHETHER THE DEFECTIVE SPECIFICATIONS UNDER ARTICLE 134, UCMJ, MATERIALLY PREJUDICED APPELLEE’S SUBSTANTIAL RIGHTS BY FAILING TO CONSIDER WHETHER THE EVIDENCE ON THE MISSING ELEMENT WAS “OVERWHELMING AND ESSENTIALLY UNCONTROVERTED.”

III.  WHETHER THIS HONORABLE COURT SHOULD APPLY THE FOURTH PRONG OF THE PLAIN ERROR ANALYSIS AS ARTICULATED BY THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT IN UNITED STATES V. OLANO, 507 U.S. 725 (1993), WHEN ASSESSING WHETHER THE DEFECTIVE SPECIFICATIONS UNDER ARTICLE 134, UCMJ, MATERIALLY PREJUDICED APPELLEE’S SUBSTANTIAL RIGHTS IN THIS CASE.

United States v. Carter, __ M.J. __, No. 13-5005/AF (C.A.A.F. Apr. 16, 2013).  AFCCA’s unpublished decision reversing the findings is available here.