United States v. Mason

60 M.J. 15 (2004)

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United States v. Mason

United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
60 M.J. 15 (2004)

Facts

Air Force Major Robert Mason (defendant) pleaded guilty to viewing child pornography on government computers. As part of his plea, Mason admitted that he had viewed images of minors in lascivious poses and that his conduct violated (1) clause one of Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) because it was prejudicial to good order and discipline in the armed forces, (2) clause two of Article 134 of the UCMJ because it was service discrediting, and (3) the civilian Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 (CPPA), which was incorporated into the military code through clause three of Article 134 of the UCMJ. During the providence inquiry into Mason’s guilty plea, the military judge explained that even if Mason’s CPPA-violation admission was later vacated for some reason, Mason’s admission that Mason had violated clauses one and two of Article 134 could still be valid and enforceable because these service-discrediting and good-order offenses were lesser-included, uniquely military offenses. Mason confirmed that he understood the consequences of his plea. The United States Supreme Court later found that the First Amendment protected virtual images (as opposed to real images) of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct and struck down the parts of the CPPA that had prohibited virtual images. The record in Mason’s case did not identify whether the images Mason had viewed were virtual or real. Mason appealed, arguing that the new Supreme Court opinion meant that his guilty plea was based on potentially lawful conduct and, therefore, was improvident and invalid.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Erdmann, J.)

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