Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressmen Brian Mast (FL-18)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Supreme Court of the United States today heard oral arguments for a case involving Port St. Lucie resident and rape survivor Harmony Allen. The Supreme Court agreed to hear Allen’s case after Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) urged the Solicitor General to take up the case and bring it before the Supreme Court. Rep. Mast also filed an amicus brief in support of Allen’s case.
“This has been a long and difficult journey, but today’s hearing gives me hope. As a victim, there is nothing more important than being heard, and today, my voice was heard at the highest level of our government,” Harmony Allen said. “This is a big step to help me heal, and I couldn’t be more proud of how far we’ve come in this fight for justice.”
Allen was raped during her third month in the Air Force by her instructor. Despite being found guilty and sentenced to jail time, the instructor was subsequently freed due to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces misinterpreting the Congressionally-mandated statute of limitations. The justices are set to decide whether there is a 5-year statute of limitation for rape charges and convictions in the military.
“Harmony Allen has been relentless in her fight for justice to hold her rapist accountable for the crimes he committed, and I am proud to support her effort. We’ve worked hard on this for years – writing Harmony’s Law, urging the Solicitor General to take up the case and securing a Supreme Court hearing. Today’s hearing is a momentous step toward justice,” Rep. Mast said. “The law and Congress’ intent is on Harmony’s side so I hope the Court will see this heinous crime for what it is and overturn this massive miscarriage of justice for Harmony and every victim of military sexual assault.”
Despite Congress making its intent clear in the National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA) of Fiscal Years 1987 and 2006 that heinous offenses, including rape, will have no statute of limitations in the military, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled in U.S. v. Mangahas that the statute of limitations for sexual assaults that occurred before 2006 is five years. In doing so, the Court incorrectly overruled the military’s standard in place from 1986 to 2006 that rape could “be tried and punished at any time without limitation” and misinterpreted the Congressional intent of the 2006 NDAA by failing to apply it to cases that occurred prior to 2006.
As a result, starting in 2018, convicted sexual offenders in the military are now able to appeal their convictions and be set free if they committed the offense before 2006 but were not charged within 5 years. Two convictions have already been overturned, including Harmony Allen’s case, and there are dozens more in the appellate queue. Unless the Supreme Court overturns the appeals court, there may well be hundreds of convicted rapists released early from their sentence and acquitted of their crimes by the time the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has an opportunity to rule on every Mangahas appeal.
Timeline of Events:
- In April 2019, Rep. Mast introduced Harmony’s Law to prevent these convicted military rapists from being freed on a misconstrued technicality.
- In June 2019, Rep. Mast urged the Solicitor General to file a petition for a writ of certiorari to review Allen’s case, safeguarding the integrity of Congress’s intent and ensuring that victims of sexual assault in the military receive justice.
- In November 2019, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in United States v. Collins, agreeing to hear Allen’s case.
- In January 2020, Rep. Mast filed an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court in support of Allen’s case.
Today’s full hearing is available online here. The court will now deliberate before reaching a verdict and announcing their ruling. This process will likely take several months.