Opinion Analysis: The military judge rightly denied credit for civilian confinement, in United States v. Harris
CAAF decided the Army case of United States v. Harris, 78 M.J. 434, No.18-0364/AR (CAAFlog case page) (link to slip op.), on May 16, 2019. The court finds that the military judge rightly denied 291 days of credit for civilian pretrial confinement, affirming the published decision of the Army CCA.
Judge Ryan writes for a unanimous court.
In 2013, Staff Sergeant (E-6) Harris was arrested by Florida authorities and charged with 44 counts of possessing child pornography. He was released on bond pending trial. He absconded, fleeing to Cambodia.
Eventually, Harris surrendered and was confined by Florida authorities (not at the request of military authorities), and Florida added a felony charge of failure to appear. Ultimately, however, the state prosecutor elected not to pursue a child pornography conviction because the state was unable to secure a key witness. Instead, Harris pleaded no contest to the failure to appear and was sentenced to confinement for 364 days. But by that point, Harris had spent 655 days in pretrial confinement; 291 days more than his state sentence.
After the state completed the prosecution, the Army took its turn. Harris was charged with possession of child pornography and desertion, eventually pleading guilty to both and receiving a sentence of confinement for five years, reduction to E-1, and a bad-conduct discharge. The military judge ordered that Harris receive 191 days of confinement credit for time spent in military pretrial confinement, but he denied Harris’ request for an additional 291 days of credit for the time spent in civilian pretrial confinement in excess of the state sentence. The military judge did so after concluding that those days of confinement were for the charge of failure to appear that occurred after Harris’ desertion and possession of child pornography, meaning that they were ineligible for credit under the applicable DoD regulation. On appeal, the Army CCA agreed with the military judge. CAAF then granted review of one issue:
Whether the Army court erroneously affirmed the military judge’s denial of 291 days of Allen credit for pretrial confinement Appellant served in a civilian confinement facility awaiting disposition of state offenses for which he was later court-martialed.
Judge Ryan’s opinion for the unanimous CAAF is short and to the point, concluding:
The record provides adequate support for [the military judge’s] determination. First, Appellant was only placed in pretrial confinement after he fled to Cambodia while out on bond and was charged with failure to appear after his return to the United States. Second, Appellant was not confined for the child pornography charges prior to his flight to Cambodia. It seems perfectly accurate to say that Appellant was placed in confinement because he fled the country and failed to appear at his hearing and not because he possessed child pornography. The record thus supports the military judge’s finding that Appellant’s confinement in Florida was “for” his failure to appear. Having determined that the military judge’s factual finding was not clearly erroneous, we find no error in his application of the law to that factual finding. The denial of the 291 days of civilian pretrial confinement credit aligns squarely with the plain language of DoDI 1325.07 encl. 2, para. 3.c.
Slip op. at 6 (citation omitted).
• ACCA opinion (78 M.J. 521)
• Blog post: CAAF grants review
• Appellant’s brief
• Appelllee’s (Gov’t Div.) brief
• Appellant’s reply brief
• Oral argument audio (wma)(mp3)
• CAAF opinion
• Blog post: Opinion analysis