CAAF reverses another sexual conviction with prejudice calling the case a “tangled morass.”
About two weeks ago, I wrote a blog about the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) overturning a conviction for rape and other charges in the Coast Guard case United States v. Riesbeck. https://courtmartial.com/caaf-reverses-conviction-rape-prejudice-coast-guard-improperly-selected-panel-saturated-women/. The Court dismissed that case with prejudice on 23 January 2018 due to the panel being improperly stacked with women. On 1 February 2018, the CAAF did it again in United States v. Honea, III. Captain (CPT) Honea was charged with a number of offenses. One alleged a sexual touching of the vulva of the alleged victim as an abusive sexual contact. After the Article 32 hearing, the charge was amended to say “pelvic region” because the evidence did not support a charge involving the vulva. However, the charge was mistakenly changed in one part to say “pelvic region” and in another part to say “vulva.” Because the charge was so poorly drafted, the military judge in this case found that the charge “failed to state a sexual offense,” however that the charge did state the lesser included offense of assault consummated with a battery through the touching of the vulva. Captain Honea then chose to plead not guilty to this new offense. Then, another military judge took over the case. That military judge asked the defense to provide a draft specification of the offense at issue for the record. The draft specification alleged battery consummated by a battery through a touching of the “pelvic region with his penis.” This second military judge then found CPT Honea guilty of assault consummated by a battery but failed to specify which area was touched. The military judged sentenced CPT Honea to confinement for one month and a dismissal. Then, when the charge got to the convening authority for approval, a new one appeared in the promulgating order referring to both the pelvic region and the vulva. This case and this charge was obviously a mess. When it reached CAAF, this Air Force case was simply overturned completely. The CAAF stated that the flaws in this case were simply fatal and that the case was such a “tangled morass” that they could not even properly review it. Therefore, CPT Honea conviction for this charge was reversed and dismissed with prejudice. This means, like it did in Riesbeck, that CPT Honea cannot be tried for this offense again. This case shows that CAAF is looking for fair court-martials. They are willing to overturn a charge even when a sexual offense allegation is involved if the appellant did not have a fair trial. If you or your loved one did not have a fair trial, you should consider appealing your court-martial. I have a great deal of experience in trying court-martials and appealing them to both the service appellate courts and to CAAF. Call today and we will talk through your case. To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.