04 June 2007

Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act

The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000 (18 U.S.C. § 3261(a)) provides that “[w]hoever engages in conduct outside the United States that would constitute an offense punishable by imprisonment for more than 1 year if the conduct had been engaged in within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States—(1) while employed by or accompanying the Armed Forces outside the United States; or (2) while a member of the Armed Forces subject to chapter 47 title 10 (the Uniform Code of Military Justice), shall be punished as provided for that offense.”

In January 2007, two circuit courts of appeal released opinions in criminal cases brought under the act. On 31 December 2004, at Talil Air Base, Iraq, Luis Oscar Maldonado, entered the room of a female Army National Guard soldier who was sleeping. He groped her breast, kissed her, straddled her, put his hand in her underwear and pinned her to the bed. The victim struggled with him, yelled, and was able to strike the wall with her hand. Fellow soldiers in the next room heard the commotion and came to her aid. They were able to identify Maldonado who had fled. Maldonado was convicted, in the District Court of the Southern District of Georgia, of abusive sexual contact under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2244(a)(2), 3261(a)(1). It is not clear from the appellate opinion, but I take it the accused was “employed by . . . the Armed Forces.” The court sentenced him to confinement for 3 years -- the maximum under the statute. The 11th Circuit affirmed, concluding his conviction and sentence were legally sufficienct. United States v. Maldonado, No. 06-12232, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 2129 (11th Cir. Jan. 31, 2007) (unpublished).

During a domestic dispute on Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, LaTasha Arnt fatally stabbed her husband, a military member of the security forces. She was charged with murder under the act. At her first trial, the jury deadlocked. At her second trial, she was convicted of the lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter. She was sentenced to 8 years in prison and order to pay restitution to the victim’s family. On appeal, the 9th Circuit concluded the indictment was legally sufficient, as was the evidence she was a person accompanying the force outside the United States. But the court reversed, holding that the judge erred by failing to instruct on involuntary manslaughter. United States v. Arnt, 474 F.3d 1159 (9th Cir. 2007).

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