U.S. v. Feeney-Clark, Army 20180694, July 20, 2020
No Remedy For AWOL Soldier Who Experienced Unreasonable Post-Trial Delay
Synopsis: Joseph-Feeney Clark is a soldier who was charged with absence of leave, however over 300 days elapsed between his sentence and the convening authority taking action. On appeal, Feeney-Clark argued that he was owed sentencing credit for the post-trial delay. Although the delay was unreasonable as it exceeded 120 days and the government provided no explanation for the delay, the Appellant had previously been granted sentencing credit that exceeded his sentence. The Court declined to provide the Appellant with a remedy and affirmed his conviction.
Joseph Feeney-Clark was charged with desertion, with the intent to remain away, in violation of Article 85 of the UCMJ. However, the court-martial panel found him guilty of absence of leave, in violation of Article 86 of the UCMJ, and sentenced him to 107 days confinement and a bad conduct-charge. The panel also granted him 266 days of sentencing credit for his unlawful pretrial detainment.
After the trial completed, the government did not promptly authenticate the record and provide the defendant with a trial transcript: 208 days passed before the trial transcript and record were authenticated and signed, 65 days passed for the appellant was served with the trial record and 34 days passed before the Appellate Court received the trial record. In total, over 300 days elapsed between defendant’s sentencing and the convening authority taking action.
On appeal, Feeney-Clark asked that his sentence be reduced for post-trial delay.
Excessive Post-Trial Delay
In examining whether there’s unreasonable post-trial delay, the Court looks at the length of the delay, the reason for the delay, when the appellant objected to the delay, and whether the delay resulted in prejudice.
The Court found that there was no explanation for the delay, thus the first two factors of the test weighed in favor of the Appellant. However, the Court found that the Appellant did not object to the delay until his appeal was heard and the Appellant did not allege that he suffered any prejudice as a result of the delay, thus the last two factors weighed more in favor of the government. Overall, the Court found that the delay was unreasonable as it exceeded the 120 day processing time.
Although the Court found that ordinarily an appropriate remedy for a post-trial processing delay would be a sentencing credit, the Appellant had already received a 266 day sentencing credit for a 107 day sentence. The Court could not provide sentencing credit, as the Appellant’s sentencing credit exceeded his sentence. Despite this, the Court refused to consider dropping the Appellant’s bad conduct discharge.
Although the Appellant had been charged with desertion, the court martial had not amended the language of his bad conduct discharge to reflect the fact that the Appellant was convicted of the lesser offense of absence without leave. The Court agreed to except ‘with the intent to remain away therefrom permanently’ from the Appellant’s discharge to better reflect his absence without leave conviction.
The Appellant’s charge of absence of leave and finding of guilty was affirmed, however the Court amended the language of his discharge to better reflect the elements of his conviction. Although the Appellant had experienced unreasonable post-trial delay, the Court refused to provide a remedy as his sentencing credit exceeded his sentence.