New Coast Guard decision

The CGCCA has decided United States v. Molena.

Before this Court, Appellant has assigned the following four errors:
I.
Appellant was denied effective counsel when his attorney erroneously informed him that he would not need to register as a sex offender.
II.
The bad-conduct discharge is an inappropriately severe sentence.
III.
Defense counsel’s failure to submit evidence regarding SA O’s character resulted in ineffective assistance of counsel.
IV.
Appellant’s plea was involuntary due to a failure by the Convening Authority to adhere to a material term of the pretrial agreement.
We grant relief on Assignment of Error IV (AOE IV) by setting aside the findings of guilty to Charge IV and its specification, indecent exposure.

By setting aside the charge on IV the court mooted the allegation of IAC.

This case highlights once again the complications that can arise when the parties must consider the potential for sex offender registration.  Here the prosecution and defense was involved in pretrial negotiations to reach an agreement where the appellant would not have to register.  So the negotiations on the charge were critical to the appellant accepting the plea.  The court found that a plea to a charge for which he would not have to register was a material term of the agreement.  Ultimately everyone was mistaken as to the requirement for registration.  It should be noted that everyone seemed to make an effort to research the law, even though ultimately they were wrong.

While we find that the military judge conducted a thorough Care inquiry, the issue of sex offender registration never came up during the providence inquiry. This was due to the mistaken belief, on the part of both trial counsel and defense counsel, as to the requirements of California law to register with the police as a sex offender for any indecent exposure offense, even in a military court.