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January 22, 2010

Marine court martialed for saying "mmmm-mmmm-mmmm"

Holy %$#!, is all Suits & Sentences can say.

Marine Cpl. Raheem G. Green was convicted at court-martial of various offenses involving a fellow Marine, a woman known as "JL" who says he groped her repeatedly. One of the offenses was use of indecent language, contravening Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

And this is what Green said; or, rather, moaned:

"Mmmm-mmmm-mmmm."

In a striking new opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has upheld Green's conviction on the indecent language count. Green is paying a high price for his behavior, which included the groping as well as the language: four months confinement and a bad conduct discharge.

So the question is: Does an utterance have to be an actual word in order to be indecent? And the appellate panel's answer is: No, it doesn't. Even a guttural sound like "mmmm-mmmm-mmmm" can be deemed criminally indecent, the appellate court reasoned. Apparently, it all depends on context; as the court said:

"Green demonstrated his sexual predatory nature in a number of encounters with Cpl JL. We cannot ignore Green’s actions when he uttered “mmmm-mmmm-mmmm” -– he had grabbed and pulled Cpl JL’s shirt down and was looking at her breasts."

Keep in mind the military's definition of indecent language, as elucidated by the court:

“‘Indecent’ language is that which is grossly offensive to modesty, decency, or propriety, or shocks the moral sense, because of its vulgar, filthy, or disgusting nature, or its tendency to incite lustful thought. Language is indecent if it tends reasonably to corrupt the morals or incite libidinous thoughts. The language must violate community standards."

So how about, say, a simplified "mmmm-mmmm"? Is that criminally indecent?Might depend on the rising and lowering inflection. How about a blunt, to the point "mmmm"?

Represented by Navy Lt. Michael Maffei, Green had argued on appeal that "mmmm-mmmm-mmmm" was neither language nor indecent.

For the record, this was the scenario, as related by Cpl JL, who had been previously subjected to several crude and sexualized behaviors by Green:

"I turned around, walked very quickly back to Corporal Green. He was sitting on a few cans of ammunition
logging in the docs still, and he said, bend down, I’ll get it. So I bent at the waist towards Corporal Green,
he then grabbed my shirt and my skivvy blouse –- or my skivvy shirt and my cammie blouse, pulled it down and said mmmm-mmmm-mmmm
."

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robert sparks

Its the campbell's soup sound, mmmm mmmm.

dr d b karron

Holy %$#! Mr Michael Doyle,
the use of meta- obscenities is criminal !

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

mike

"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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