On August 7, 2020, ACCA affirmed the conviction of Sergeant Danny E. Stanley. ACCA held that the military judge did not abuse his discretion when permitting an unsworn victim impact statement to be read at sentencing.
On August 7, 2020, ACCA affirmed the conviction of Sergeant Danny E. Stanley (Appellant).u.s._v._stanley_opinion.pdf. Appellant was convicted, in accordance with his pleas, of five specifications of violating a lawful general regulation, one specification of indecent conduct, and one specification of adultery, in violation of Articles 92 and 134, UCMJ. Contrary to his pleas, Appellant was convicted by a panel of two specifications of violating a lawful general regulation, two specifications of maltreatment, and one specification of aggravated sexual contact, in violation of Articles 92, 93, and 120, UCMJ. Appellant was sentenced to a bad-conduct discharge, three years confinement, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and a reduction to the grade of E-1.
On appeal, Appellant argued that the military judge abused his discretion in allowing the member panel at trial to hear PV2 CL’s (a victim of Appellant’s charged maltreatment) unsworn victim impact statement pursuant to R.C.M. 1001A and that the evidence was legally and factually insufficient.After reviewing Appellant’s raised issues, ACCA held that the military judge did not abuse his discretion and that assuming arguendo that there was an abuse of discretion, Appellant was not prejudiced.
Appellant claimed that the military judge abused his discretion in allowing PV2 CL’s unsworn victim statement to be read to the panel. Appellant’s raised issue arises out of the following part of PV2 CL’s unsworn impact statement:
6 months ago today I gave birth to my daughter [E]. From the moment I saw her I was filled with the warmth and love that I was missing, but I live in fear that she will also suffer as I have suffered. I am terrified someone will take advantage of her like I was taken advantage of. I can’t trust anyone around her. No man is allowed to be near her without me there. I can never leave her alone with anyone.
Specifically, Appellant argued that the impact statement did not relate or arise from the offense of which he was guilty because there is no connection between a consensual sexual encounter and PV2 CL’s infant daughter. By permitting PV2 CL’s impact statement, Appellant claimed that it substantially influenced his adjudged sentence. However, ACCA disagreed, holding that under R.C.M. 1001A, a crime victim has a right to be reasonably heard and to make an unsworn statement about the emotional impact of Appellant’s maltreatment. Additionally, ACCA noted that the statement was focused on PV2 CL’s general lack of trust in others as a result of the Appellant’s maltreatment, not about her child or impact of the Appellant’s actions on her child. Taking this into consideration and finding no inaccurate or misstatement of law in the military judge’s instructions to the panel, ACCA found that the military judge did not abuse their discretion.
Even though ACCA did not find an abuse of discretion by the military judge, ACCA assumed arguendo that there was an abuse of discretion. However, even when assuming arguendo that there was an abuse of discretion, ACCA found that the Appellant suffered no prejudice. Citing the strength of the government’s case; the defense’s relatively weak case; the materiality of the objected to portion of PV2 CL’s statement; and the Appellant’s relatively light sentence compared to his potential punitive exposure, ACCA found no substantial influence of PV2 CL’s unsworn impact statement on Appellant’s sentence.
Appellant’s maximum punitive exposure for all convictions was 35 years, with the government arguing for a confinement of eight years.
ACCA, in a footnote, found Appellant’s convictions both legally and factually sufficient.
Defense presented only one witness at trial.