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Army Appellate Court Disapproves 18 Months of Sentence for Soldier Who Was Not Allowed Contact With His Children While Confined

The Army Court of Criminal Appeals issued an opinion in United States v. Guinn this week, disapproving 18 months of a four year sentence over restrictions imposed by a confinement facility.

SSG Guinn was convicted of one specification of sexual abuse of a child and sentenced to a dishonorable discharge, confinement for four years, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and reduction to E-1. The confinement facility in which he was serving his sentence notified him that because he was a convicted sex offender, he would not be allowed contact of any kind with children. This policy prevented him from contact with his biological children, none of whom were the victims of his offense. The facility stated that exceptions were possible but that in order to be considered for an exception the SSG would be required to complete sex offender treatment. Such treatment would last for an undetermined length of time, and would require the SSG to accept responsibility for his offense, even while his conviction was on appeal. Even if such treatment was completed, there was no guarantee that the exception would then be granted.

SSG Guinn declined the treatment program and instead filed for relief through the administrative processes within the confinement facility. These requests were denied. He further raised the issue with the Convening Authority in his post-trial matters. Finally, the SSG included the matter in his appeal to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, alleging that the restriction violated his rights under the First, Fifth, and Eight Amendments. The Army court initially found no Eighth Amendment violation and declined to address the First and Fifth Amendment claims as outside the court’s sentence appropriateness review. SSG Guinn appealed this decision to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which determined that the appellate court could consider these claims as part of its required sentence appropriateness review and sent the case back to the Army appellate court.

The Army Court of Criminal Appeals then readdressed the issue and found that the restriction against contact with his children violated the SSG’s First Amendment right to association and made his sentence inappropriate. The Court found that the policy had impacted the SSG for 18 months, and therefore disapproved 18 months of his four years of adjudged confinement.

Interestingly, the Army appellate court noted that the only reason it was able to accept supplemental affidavits and other documents concerning the policy and the SSG’s efforts to address it administratively were because the issue had been raised in post-trial matters to the Convening Authority, making the matter part of the Record of Trial. Additionally, part of the consideration by the appellate court was the SSG’s exhaustion of his administrative remedies before raising the matter on appeal. The lesson to prisoners and defense counsel is to raise all post-trial confinement issues both through the confinement facilities administrative process and to the Convening Authority in order to allow it to be addressed on appeal.

If you or a loved one is facing a court-martial or wants to appeal a court-martial conviction, you need someone with experience who knows the law. I have the experience you need. Please call Bill Cassara at (706) 445-2915 for a free consultation. 

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