Wednesday, November 20, 2019
The US Supreme Court on Friday accepted a Justice Department appeal to review the cases of three men in the Air Force whose rape convictions were overturned last year -- including one whose confession the Air Force recorded -- when the top military appeals court found a five-year statute of limitations existed for military sexual assault before 2006.The Supreme Court arguments will be scheduled for next spring and a ruling is likely by the end of June.This will be the first time the justices consider a sexual assault issue in the #MeToo era, wading into a years-long controversy over how the military addresses sexual misconduct in its ranks as service branches continue to face scrutiny over their lack of progress countering the problem.***At the heart of the dispute is a ruling made last year by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the military's top appeals court, in a separate alleged rape case called US v. Mangahas.The Mangahas decision prohibited prosecutors from bringing charges for rape that happened before 2006 unless the offense had been reported and charged within five years.The Supreme Court will now interpret whether a five-year statute of limitations or no time limit should exist for the prosecution of military sexual assault for cases between 1986 and 2006.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the federal government’s case against a military court ruling that reversed several military rape convictions for crimes committed more than a decade or two ago.
The controversial decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, based on previous court decisions, placed a 5-year time limit on prosecuting crimes of rape that occurred between 1986 and 2006.
The case, United States v. Briggs, is a consolidation of filings named for Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Briggs who, in 2014, was convicted of raping a staff sergeant in 2005. The case came to light after Briggs called the victim in 2013 to confess — a conversation the victim recorded.
“I will always be sorry for raping you,” he told her, according to court documents.
The recording was key to bringing Briggs to trial and he was prosecuted under the assumption that there was no statute of limitations for pursuing rape cases in the military. He was found guilty, sentenced to five months confinement and dismissed from the service.
Years before the Briggs case, the Uniformed Code of Military Justice held that rape was a crime punishable by death and therefore had no time limit for prosecuting the crime. But in 1998, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, or CAAF, ruled that some rape charges were not punishable by death, and the standard five-year limit for prosecuting most crimes was instated.
In 2006, however, Congress amended Uniformed Code of Military Justice to ensure that the time limit for rape cases was abolished. Briggs’s conviction, as well as others, came after the law was changed.
But in February 2018, the military appeals court affirmed the statute of limitations for cases that occurred in a gray area under the law, from 1986 to 2006.