Military Judge Oversight Results in Mistrial

Military Judge Oversight Results in Mistrial

Private Cassandra Riley attempted to kidnap a newborn child from the Mother/Baby unit of Fort Hood on July 27, 2009; she was quickly discovered by the child's mother, who witnesses Private Riley attempting to place the newborn in a backpack. Private Riley was subsequently charged with attempted kidnapping of a minor, to which she pled guilty.

Several months after the trial's conclusion, Private Riley was informed that she would have to register as a sex offender, as attempted kidnap of a minor was a specifically enumerated offense upon which registration as a sex offender is required. Private Riley appealed her sentencing, arguing that she had ineffective counsel and that military judge abused his discretion in accepting her plea without first ascertaining her understanding of sex offender registration.

After the case was affirmed by the court of appeals, the CAAF reversed, citing that the failure of the judge to ensure that the defendant was aware of the full consequences of her plea as warranting an abuse of discretion. The court noted that sex offender registration is a "particularly severe penalty" and that the "military judge's failure to ensure that Riley understood the sex offender registration requirements of her guilty plea to kidnapping a minor results in a substantial basis to question the providence of Riley's plea."

Fortunately for Riley's defense counsel, the court did not reach the issue as to whether her counsel was deficient. It would certainly appear that way.

Citation: Riley v. United States 70 M.J. 415 (C.A.A.F. 2013)

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