CAAFlog » October 2018 Term » 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).

Case Links:
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

Audio of this week’s oral arguments before CAAF – at the University of Kansas School of Law in Lawrence, Kansas, and at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas – is available on CAAF’s website at the following links:

United States v. Frost, No. 18-0362/AR (CAAFlog case page): Oral argument audio (wma)(mp3)

United States v. Harris, No.18-0364/AR (CAAFlog case page): Oral argument audio (wma)(mp3)

The audio is also available on our oral argument audio podcast.

This week at SCOTUS: The SG waived the right to respond to the cert. petition in King. I’m not aware of any other military justice developments at the Supreme Court, where I’m tracking one case:

This week at CAAF: CAAF will hear oral argument in two cases this week. Both are Project Outreach arguments:

Tuesday, April 9, 2019, at 10:30 a.m., the University of Kansas School of Law in Lawrence, Kansas:

United States v. Frost, No. 18-0362/AR (CAAFlog case page)

Issue: Whether the military judge erred in admitting hearsay statements as prior consistent statements under Mil.R.Evid. 801(d)(1)(B)(i) where the defense theory posited the improper influence or motive preceded the allegedly consistent statements.

Case Links:
ACCA opinion
Appellant’s brief
Appelllee’s (Gov’t Div.) brief
Appellant’s reply brief

Wednesday, April 10, 2019, at 9 a.m., at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas:

United States v. Harris, No.18-0364/AR (CAAFlog case page)

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.

Case Links:
ACCA opinion (78 M.J. 521)
Appellant’s brief
Appelllee’s (Gov’t Div.) brief
Appellant’s reply brief

This week at the ACCA: The Army CCA will hear oral argument in one case this week, on Friday, April 12, 2019, at 10 a.m.:

United States v. Banks, No. 20170261

Issue: Whether the court-martial lacked personal jurisdiction over appellant.

This week at the AFCCA: The Air Force CCA’s website shows no scheduled oral arguments.

This week at the CGCCA: The Coast Guard CCA’s website shows no scheduled oral arguments.

This week at the NMCCA: The Navy-Marine Corps CCA’s website shows no scheduled oral arguments.

On Monday CAAF granted review in this Army case:

No. 18-0364/AR. U.S. v. Michael E. Harris. CCA 20170100. 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 granted on the following 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.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The appellant was charged with child pornography offenses by the State of Florida and released on bond. He then fled to Cambodia. He was eventually returned to Florida and confined pending trial, but Florida authorities dismissed the case because of witness issues. He was then ordered into pretrial confinement and ultimately pleaded guilty at a general court-martial composed of a military judge alone to wrongful possession of child pornography and desertion. The military judge, however, rejected his request for confinement credit for the time spent in custody in Florida.

Army CCA affirmed in a published decision, available here (78 M.J. 521). It concluded:

The state of Florida did not confine appellant until after he fled to Cambodia and failed to appear to face the Florida child pornography charges. Appellant was charged and placed in pre-trial confinement for the offense of fleeing Florida’s criminal process. The state of Florida was not acting on behalf of the Army and he was not being held in confinement at the request of the Army. The fact appellant’s confinement by the state of Florida exceeded his eventual sentence for the crime of failure to appear does not obligate the Federal government to lessen the appellant’s punishment for different offenses against the Federal sovereign.

78 M.J. at 525.