Articles Posted in Sex Offenses

11 October 2018.  Orders Granting Petition for Review

No. 18-0339/AF. U.S. v. Scott A. Meakin. CCA 38968. 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 issue:

WHETHER APPELLANT’S CONVICTION FOR ENGAGING IN ANONYMOUS, PRIVATE, AND CONSENSUAL COMMUNICATIONS WITH AN UNKNOWN PARTNER(S) IN THE PRIVACY OF HIS HOME WAS LEGALLY SUFFICIENT.

As for SPC KP [a witness to the alleged MSA], our doubts about her testimony are many. First, several witnesses shared their low opinion of SPC KP’s character for truthfulness, as well as SPC KP’s low reputation within the unit on this important trait. Second, SPC KP had a motive to fabricate, as the trauma she claimed to have suffered from witnessing this event were key factors in getting an exception to policy in order to obtain a service animal and achieve her longstanding wish to move out of the barracks. Third, her testimony was impeached in several instances by other witnesses. For example, SPC KP claimed that the morning after the incident, she told PFC HM everything she had witnessed in the bedroom. That is, what she related in her trial testimony was what she reported to PFC HM the morning after the party. By contrast, PFC HM was clear in her testimony that both SPC KP and PFC LC reported the next morning only that appellant was on top of PFC HM. Nothing more. In fact, when the incident was reported a few months later, PFC LC was surprised by the additional details related to SHARP personnel by SPC KP. In another example from the trial, SPC KP denied asking SPC MF about his Article 32 testimony, a denial later contradicted at trial by PFC MF. For these and other reasons, we find SPC KP’s testimony was not credible.

United States v. Sanders, ACCA 2018.

The “trauma” was from–

Comment on Carissa Byrne Hessick, The Expansion of CP Law.  21 NEW CRIM. L. REV. (coming soon).

As military defense counsel, we have had to deal with and address the “expansion” of CP into what is often referred to as erotica.  Ms. Hessick notes an expansion of CP law to cover possessing images of children who are clothed and not engaged in any sexual activity, and prosecutions for possessing smaller portions of artistic and non-pornographic images.

These prosecutions have expanded the definition of the term CP well beyond its initial meaning. What is more, they signal that CP laws are being used to punish people not necessarily because of the nature of the picture they possess, but rather because of conclusions that those individuals are sexually attracted to children. If law enforcement concludes that a person finds an image of a child to be sexually arousing, then these laws can subject that individual to punishment, even though the image would have been perfectly innocuous had it been possessed by someone else.

Once the MCIO gets a “confession” or DNA in a sexual assault case, it seems, they stop investigating–bad.

Whether you have DNA or not–whether you are trial counsel or defense counsel–gathering non-DNA evidence can be vital to your case.

Complaining witness says she and accused were at a bar drinking and the accused later took advantage of her because she was drunk.  OK, where are the bar receipts?  No, the MCIO is unlikely to ask and by the time the defense comes on board the register receipts may not be available.  Note, I have had several cases where the client has been saved by going to the bar with his credit card and getting the receipts.  The receipt tells you a number of things:  time paid (possibly related to time left the bar when paying the tab), (depending on the software) the number and type of drinks (huuum…four people in the party, four drinks, and just how many did the CW really drink?)  Or, how about the video from the base entry point when the CW walks or drives or is driven on base?  Is it possible the video helps show how unintoxicated the CW was or wasn’t?  CCTV?  Remember, the MCIO doesn’t usually care about this stuff.

I always tell clients that the specific sex offender registration requirements are complicated and depend on state law.  Here’s a reason why.

In New York a defendant can be forced to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life based on accusations a jury rejected. So the state’s highest court ruled last week in a case that illustrates how fear and loathing of sex offenders lead to results that would be recognized as unjust and illogical in any other context.

See more at reason.com

I have argued for some time that sex offender registration is punitive not merely collateral to a conviction.

This morning, the US Supreme Court granted cert in Gundy v. US to consider whether Congress’s delegation to the attorney general the power to issue regulations interpreting the federal Sex Offender Notification and Registration Act violates the nondelegation doctrine. That grant on that issue right has Con Law fans buzzing. But sentencing fans more interested in the substance of sex offender registries will want to check out this new commentary by Jesse Kelley in The Hill under the headline “The Sex Offender Registry: Vengeful, unconstitutional and due for full repeal.”

So begins a post by Professor Berman of Sentencing Law & Policy blog.

 

Since United States v. Hills, and then United States v. Hukill, the appellate courts have been trying to sort out quite a few cases on remand.  Here is a list of the most recent CAAF actions.

No. 18-0087/AF. U.S. v. Jonathan P. Robertson. CCA 39061. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, and in light of United States v. Guardado, 77 M.J. 90 (C.A.A.F.2017), it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue:

WHETHER THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL PROPENSITY INSTRUCTION IN THIS CASE WAS HARMLESS BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT.

In United States v. Sager, the accused was convicted of abusive sexual contact because the victim was “otherwise unaware” of the acts.  The Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the findings and sentence.  Appellant petitioned the CAAF.

This case is before us for a second time. The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) reversed our earlier opinion affirming the appellant’s conviction for abusive sexual contact.2 At the heart of the appellate litigation in this case is a question over the interpretation of Article 120(b)(2), UCMJ, which proscribes sexual contact with people the accused knows, or reasonably should know, are incapable of consenting to the contact because they are “asleep, unconscious, or otherwise unaware” that the contact is occurring.  The unusual posture of this case after trial required us to decide whether the terms asleep, unconscious, and otherwise unaware represented distinct theories of criminal liability. In our first review of this case, we held that they do not. Rather, we held that the reasons for a victim’s lack of awareness, be it sleep, unconsciousness, or something else, were only relevant to whether the accused should have known that the victim was unaware of the contact.

The CAAF held that our interpretation was incorrect. Reversing this court, the CAAF held that “asleep, unconscious, or otherwise unaware” represents three separate theories of liability.  The CAAF also held that the term otherwise unaware means unaware in a manner different from both sleep and unconsciousness.

The Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals (AFCCA) has issued an interesting en banc (5-3) opinion in United States v. Hamilton, 76 M.J. ___ (A. F. Ct. Crim. App. 2017), about victim impact evidence or statements.

The accused pleaded guilty to the possession and distribution of child pornography.  On sentencing, as we often see in these cases, the prosecution introduced unsworn statements of the victims, all of which predated the accused’s date of offenses.  For those who haven’t been exposed to these statements, generally, they review the abuse that occurred at the time the video or image was taken and the subsequent life and health effects on the victim.  We know that courts allow such information because of the idea that a victim is re-victimized each time a person views or distributes the images–it’s essentially an ongoing crime.  Slip op. at 7-8.

I think there are several takeaways for practitioners.