On August 26, 2020, ACCA set aside and dismissed one finding of guilty and reaffirmed the conviction and sentence of Sergeant Justin D. Golden (Appellant).
Golden opinion here.
Pursuant to his pleas, Appellant was found guilty of three specifications of false official statement, one specification of wrongful appropriation, one specification of forgery, and one specification of fraud, in violation of Articles 107, 121, 123, and 132, UCMJ, 10 U.S.C. §§ 90, 921, 923, and 932. Consistent with Appellant's plea agreement, the convening authority approved the adjudged sentence of reduction to the grade of E-1, confinement for forty days, and a bad-conduct discharge.
Appellant asserted his findings of guilty of three specifications of making false official statements (Specifications 1, 3, and 4 of Charge II) were unreasonably multiplied for purposes of findings and sentencing. ACCA agreed in part as to the findings, but found the military judge abused his discretion by accepting appellant's plea of guilty to Specification 1 of Charge II. ACCA therefore set aside and dismissed that finding, merged the remaining two specifications of Charge II, and affirmed Appellant's sentence.
During the process of his PCS move from Korea to Joint Base Lewis—McChord, Appellant submitted a number of travel authorization forms and vouchers for which he was not authorized, and also claimed additional travel expenses for which he was not authorized, totaling over $9,000. After he was reimbursed for the fraudulent expenses, the finance office became aware of discrepancies in the forms, and a criminal investigation ensued. In the course of the investigation, Appellant made the following false statements to Army CID:
(1) "I never got a rental car," in Specification 1 of Charge II;
(2) "The receipt must have slipped into my paperwork," in Specification 3 of Charge II; and
(3) "The annotation of a rental car on the travel voucher was for my wife's vehicle transfer cost from South Carolina to Washington State," in Specification 4 of Charge II.
With respect to Appellant's guilty plea as to the first specification, ACCA noted that while the military judge accepted appellant's guilty plea for making the statement of "I never got a rental car," during the plea inquiry Appellant told the military judge, "I personally did not get a rental car, but I knew that the rental car [Army CID] was asking about had been rented in my name with my government travel card by my brother-in-law." ACCA noted this suggests what Appellant meant by the charged language was that a rental car had never been charged to his government travel card. However, because there was no discussion in the plea inquiry about this purported secondary meaning to the plain language of Appellant's statement, ACCA found the military judge abused his discretion by accepting Appellant's guilty plea based upon an inadequate factual basis to support the offense, and dismissed the finding of guilty to Specification 1 of Charge II.
With respect to the remaining specifications, ACCA considered whether appellant affirmatively waived his claim of unreasonable multiplication of charges (UMC) before considering the claim itself. Looking to the terms of the waiver provision in appellant's plea agreement, ACCA noted that Appellant agreed to “waive all waivable motions,” along with additional inclusionary and exclusionary language. Because the plea agreement expressly indicated that any UMC claims as to sentencing were waived, but was silent about UMC for findings, as well as the discussion between the military judge and defense counsel, which did not mention waiver as to findings, ACCA concluded that the purpose of the waiver clause was to waive any UMC claim for sentencing and sentencing alone.
Having established this, ACCA further found Appellant's multiple convictions for making separate false official statements to Army CID in the same interview about the same underlying misconduct exaggerated his criminality and unreasonably increased his punitive exposure, and elected to merge the two remaining false official statements into a single specification. The remaining findings of guilty were affirmed.
See Rule for Courts-Martial [R.C.M.] 905(e)(1)
SeeUnited States v. Quiroz, 55 M.J. 334 , 338 (C.A.A.F. 2001)