Military Dismissal Didn’t Trigger Double Jeopardy

     (CN) – A man who was kicked out of the Coast Guard for looking at kiddie porn cannot use double jeopardy to escape a belated criminal indictment, the 9th Circuit ruled.
     A crewmember of the Coast Guard cutter Alex Haley had allegedly seen Electrician’s Mate Third Class Christopher Stoltz looking at pornographic images of children while moored in Nome, Alaska, in 2008.
     Hoping to preserve the possibility of criminal charges in the civilian world, Stoltz’s commanding officer elected not to court-martial him.
     When no criminal indictment had come down from Alaska after seven months, however, the commander imposed non-judicial punishments (NJP) in the form of a demotion and eventual separation from the Coast Guard.
     In 2011, a federal grand jury finally issued an indictment in Alaska, but Stoltz claimed this violated his double jeopardy protections.
     He claimed that he had not been told he had the right to demand a court-martial over non-judicial punishment.
     U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland agreed and dismissed the indictment, but a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit reversed Thursday.
     “Because Stoltz has never been criminally charged with possessing child pornography, the Double Jeopardy Clause does not bar this prosecution,” Judge Raymond Fisher wrote for the Seattle-based panel.
     “Stoltz also cannot avoid criminal prosecution altogether based on the alleged violation of his right to reject NJP in favor of a court-martial,” Fisher added. “That violation – assuming it was one – occurred in the context of the NJP, not as part of this criminal prosecution. There is no reason to dismiss this criminal indictment to remedy a procedural violation that occurred in another, distinct proceeding.”

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