The NMCCA upheld the conviction and affirmed the findings and sentence of Bradley M. Metz (Appellant). Pursuant to his pleas, Appellant was convicted of one specification of making a false official statement and one specification of obstruction of justice under Articles 107 and 134, UCMJ.
Almost a year before Appellant's guilty pleas at this special court-martial, he set fire to a facilities maintenance building at Camp Pendleton. During that investigation, he misled special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service [NCIS] about a friend and fellow-Marine who was an alibi witness. He told the special agents he was with this friend for some of the evening in question, and instructed the friend to lie on his behalf when asked by NCIS. When Appellant’s friend eventually told the investigators the truth, Appellant was convicted at the prior court-martial by a members panel and sentenced to, among other things, one year of confinement and a bad-conduct discharge. While Appellant was in post-trial confinement for his prior convictions, the current charges stemming from his false statement and obstruction of justice in the arson investigation were referred to a special court-martial by the convening authority.
The NMCCA first considered whether the government unreasonably multiplied charges against appellant, and applied the five factors in United States v. Quiroz,.Even though the NMCCA noted that Appellant did not object at trial to the charges and specifications as unreasonably multiplied, they proceeded to consider this assignment of error under CAAF's decision in United States v. Chin, prescribing the court’s duty under Article 66, UCMJ to "review the entire record and approve only that which 'should be approved.'"
Appellant argues that the Government unreasonably multiplied the charges against him by failing to add the false official statement and obstruction of justice charges to his earlier general court-martial when it was still pending, and furthermore that this gave the Government multiple bites at the apple in this later special court-martial. In response to Appellant’s argument, the NMCCA considered whether the doctrine of unreasonable multiplication of charges applied to separate courts martial. Noting that it did not, the NMCCA nevertheless considered whether Appellant’s claim still failed under the Quiroz factors, and held that it did. The court held that the most important factor, evidence of prosecutorial overreach or abuse, was clearly not met in this case, and noted that this alone was “near-fatal” for Appellant’s argument.
However, the NMCCA did question why the convening authority did not refer the false official statement and obstruction of justice charges to Appellant’s general court martial, finding no reason in the record, but held nevertheless that the convening authority was well within his "prosecutorial discretion"to refer the charges to a separate court martial. Nevertheless, the NMCCA noted that even if the doctrine of unreasonable multiplication of charges did extend to separate courts martial, they would not have found any evidence of prosecutorial overreach or abuse in the drafting of the charges.
(1) whether the appellant objected at trial as to unreasonable multiplication of charges and/or specifications; (2) whether each charge and specification is aimed at distinctly separate acts; (3) whether the number of charges and specifications exaggerates the appellant's criminality; (4) whether the number of charges and specifications unfairly increases the appellant's punitive exposure; and (5) whether there is any evidence of prosecutorial overreach or abuse in the drafting of the charges. SeeUnited States v. Quiroz, 55 M.J. 334, 338 (C.A.A.F. 2001).
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