WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK5) announced Monday the filing of a bipartisan amicus brief, signed by four Republicans and nine other Democrats, with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a military sexual assault victim.
Horn said the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces arbitrarily imposed a five-year statute of limitations when the perpetrator of the crime was found guilty. The perpetrator was dismissed from the Air Force and sentenced to five months in confinement. The sentence was overturned in an appeal.
Horn filed a brief with the Supreme Court in support of an Oklahoma constituent and Air Force veteran whose convicted rapist’s sentence was overturned because of what Horn described as “a misconstrued technicality related to the statute of limitations.”
“That doesn’t send the message we want,” said Horn.
An Amicus brief, short for amicus curiae, is the Latin term for “friend of the court,” a petition to the court by a person who is not a party in the case with the intent of influencing the court’s decision.
According to Horn, instances of sexual assault and rape in the military are on the rise. In 2018, the Pentagon released a report that is compiled by the Department of Defense every two years stating that about 20,500 service members across the military branches were sexually assaulted within that fiscal year. Horn said that is up 38% from the previous report in 2016.
In 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice petitioned the Supreme Court to review and even reverse the appellate court’s decision.
“Ultimately what this case is about is ensuring that victims of sexual violence and sexual assault in the military get the justice that they are owed,” said Horn.
The victim in United States v. Michael J.D. Briggs, a constituent of Horn’s Oklahoma Congressional District 5, reached out to Horn’s office last summer to tell her story and her 15-year journey of seeking justice.
Lt. Col. Michael J.D. Briggs was convicted of the rape.
Because this is a decision by the lower court of not keeping with the intention and the code of military justice and ensuring victims can count on a system there to support them, Horn said she does not think issues will arise pertaining to double jeopardy.
Pending the court’s decision, Horn said, Congress is prepared to pursue legislation to ensure a statute of limitations doesn’t interfere with justice for victims of crimes such as these.
“We have a [bipartisan] bill ready to go, and the bottom line is we need to protect all of our members of the military,” said Horn. “We also have a lot more work to do to decrease the number of sexual assaults in the military.”
When it comes to next steps from Horn specifically, Horn said Oklahomans can expect her to continue the work started with the Defense Authorization bill, increasing training, awareness and remedies. She also hopes to send the message to victims they will receive the justice they deserve.
This case is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court in April.