Appellate Court rules that “closely related cases” should have similar sentences unless the difference can be justified.
On 29 August 2013, in U.S. v. Blair, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals (ACCA) ruled that it could not affirm a court-martial sentence on appeal if when compared to a “closely related” case, the sentences were “highly disparate” and the government cannot “demonstrate a rational basis exists to justify the difference in the relevant sentences.” According to the facts laid out by ACCA, PVT Blair was one of three male servicemembers who had sexual intercourse with a drunk female servicemember on one night in “quick succession.” The female servicemember, while drunk, consented to sexual intercourse with PVT Blair asking him not to let the other two servicemembers touch her. After PVT Blair finished having sexual intercourse with the female servicemember, he abandoned her, allowing the other two males to have sexual intercourse with her. One of the PVT Blair’s co-actors, a Marine petty officer, received only a thirty-day suspension and a suspended grade reduction as his sentence. PVT Blair, on the other hand, was sentenced to confinement for 18 months and a bad conduct discharge. PVT Blair appealed stating that these sentences were “highly disparate.” ACCA agreed that the punishments were highly disparate, however, in the end ACCA found that the government demonstrated a rational basis for the difference in the sentences. ACCA upheld PVT Blair’s court-martial sentence, however, each case is different. The important point here is that appellate courts may be open to setting aside a “highly disparate” sentence in a “closely related” case that is not justified by the government. If you believe you were sentenced unfairly in comparison to another servicemember in a related case, call me. We can talk it through for free and I will give you an honest assessment of your chances on appeal. To speak to an experienced court martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.