Congressman fights appeals court ruling that resulted in military releasing convicted rapists

Eric Dehm
May 10, 2019 - 11:23 am
Army and Air Force vet Harmony Allen with Florida Congressman and Army veteran Brian Mast

Photo courtesy Mast.House.Gov

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In 2018 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) ruled on the case of United States V. Mangahas. That case involved an alleged rape that took place in 1997 at the Coast Guard Academy, with the victim not pursuing charges until 2014. As a result of the ruling, CAAF decided that a 5-year statute of limitations would be placed on rape charges and other crimes including child sexual abuse. The decision was retroactive. This meant that prior cases filed beyond 5 years from the alleged incident were invalid, as were resulting convictions. As a result, members of the military convicted of rape were not only eligible for immediate release but also for their discharge status to be upgraded and veteran benefits restored.

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Recently Air Force and Army vet Harmony Allen learned that her rapist, an instructor convicted of raping her three months into her Air Force career, would be released from prison. She was furious and felt she had to do something about it not just for herself, but for other victims in the same position. She hit roadblock after roadblock, before eventually finding her way to the office of U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., an Army veteran representing her district. 

Harmony Allen was raped three months into her Air Force career, her rapist has now been released due to a CAAF ruling
Photo courtesy U.S. Rep. Brian Mast

"I was in a dark place," Allen said. "I didn't see any positive ways to change what the military was doing and I had no idea where else to turn. And when I went to Congressman Mast's office they, from day one, promised me they were not going to let this go. That this was an injustice and they were going to help me."

Mast's office has kept that promise, with the representative introducing Harmony's Law, named for Allen. Mast says whether it's Allen's story or those of others like hers, his reaction is always the same.

"You're pissed off more than anything," Mast told ConnectingVets.com. "...You have potentially hundreds of individuals convicted by a jury of rape and sexual assault that can now say 'Oh, well the conviction was after this much time and I need to be let loose.' Not to say they're not guilty, but they are gonna be let out. Justice will not be served because of this made-up statute."

While the CAAF decision can only be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, Mast says Harmony's Law has three primary goals that he believes will make a difference long before any appeal to the Supreme Court will. First, the legislation will authorize the House Office of General Counsel to represent the interests of Congress in any cases related to the Mangahas decision. Second, it will express the intent of Congress that the passage of time should not bar the prosecution of rape or sexual assault under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice and lastly, it eliminates statutes of limitations for sexual offenses in the military against children.

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So far, Allen and Mast have found lawmakers they've spoken to are receptive. Still, they know there is a long road ahead, one they say can only be shortened by Americans contacting their representatives.

You can hear the full interview with Mast and Allen below. 

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