The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) has maintained that the statute of limitations on rape of an adult charges, without any aggravating factors, is set at five years. The CAAF reached its unanimous conclusion after reviewing the potential penalties for such rape charges. Since rape fitting the charge definitions cannot be punished by a death sentence, the statute of limitations is not extended beyond the current five year limit.
Due to the CAAF’s affirmation of rape charge statutes of limitations, the Air Force case of U.S. v. Mangahas has been dismissed. Lieutenant Colonel Mangahas was charged with rape after an alleged victim came forth and accused him of a single incident of rape in 1997. Since the alleged rape victim would not participate in initial investigations in 1997, no charges were brought against Mangahas. She would not press for charges until 2014, well outside of the five year statute of limitations and bringing the question of the statute’s legitimacy to the CAAF’s attention.
MANGAHAS’ DEFENSE & FIFTH AMENDMENT RIGHTS
In light of the 2014 re-accusation and the 2015 charges filed against him due to those reignited allegations, Mangahas objected openly and quickly. He cited both the perceived violation of the statute of limitations and his own Fifth Amendment right to a speedy trial. The military judge presiding over the case agreed with Mangahas’ Fifth Amendment-based objection, mostly due to the fact that exculpatory evidence would have been lost or unreasonably jeopardized due to the massive amount of time between the alleged rape and the actual filing of the charges.
The prosecution disagreed with the case’s dismissal and appealed the decision up to the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA), where a three-judge panel reversed the dismissal. As the case was proceeding again, the CAAF intervened with a stay of proceedings, buying it time to review the case for any legal errors pertaining to Mangahas’ Fifth Amendment rights. However, the CAAF returned with a decision based on the statute of limitations.
RAPE CHARGE PENALTIES SET ITS STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS
The CAAF referenced both Coker v. Georgia (1977) and U.S. v. Hickson (1986), two precedent-setting cases involving the crime of raping an adult woman; at the time of each case, the offense of rape had not yet been made gender neutral. Within the ruling details of each case, it was held that rape was not a crime punishable by death due to constitutional restraints. As a crime not categorized as one that can be penalized with capital punishment, its statute of limitations was kept at five years.
Willenbring v. Neurauter (1998) upturned the previous decisions by pushing the statute of limitations beyond five years and arguing rape is punishable by death. In seeing a rushed and erroneous judgement in Willenbring, the CAAF has hence reversed its decision, reinstating the five-year statute of limitations better established through Coker and Hickson. Judge Ryan went further in the unanimous ruling in explaining four significant errors of reasoning used in Willenbring, such as its misuse of the term ‘punishable’ and its failure to give analysis to preexisting case law.
When all is concluded, the five-year statute of limitations on rape allegations involving a member of the Armed Forces has been put back into place and Mangahas’ case has been dismissed accordingly.
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