Marine Corps Sgt. Matthew W. Simmons wore parts of his uniform while participating in gay porn videos. Imprudent idea. But was it illegal?
In an unusual case, to say the least, the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals has sided in part with Sgt. Simmons. The court this week set aside part of his guilty-plea convictions to charges of misusing the uniform. It seems wearing simply part of the official garb during a porn shoot does not, by itself, amount to misuse.
Here's the back story, according to the court's seven-page decision:
"(Simmons) was an active-duty bandsman. He took leave to appear in several commercial pornographic videos that involved sodomy with numerous other men, by his own account being paid $10,000.00 for his performances. Some of the videos included shots of him wearing his Marine dress blue coat with the Marine Corps device, decorations, and rank insignia affixed; others showed him wearing a Marine physical training jacket; and at one point he mentioned that he was a Marine. Out-takes from the videos were used to advertise the videos on a website, and one of those out-takes showed the (him) wearing the blue coat."
The porn, by itself, was not the problem. The uniform was. Sergeant Simmons, a baritone horn player, was charged with and ultimately pled guilty to violating uniform regulations, including the ban on making commercial use of the uniform.
The court concluded, among other things, that the incompleteness of what Sgt. Simmons wore and the totality of his performance could not be construed as looking like an official Marine endorsement of the porn activities. Said the court:
"We are also not satisfied, on the basis of this record, that the appellant’s statements or wear of uniform items may create an inference of service endorsement of the activities depicted. The appellant never wore a complete 'uniform,' so the general public could never receive 'visual evidence of the authority and responsibility vested in the individual by the United States Government.' He did not voice any Marine support for what he was doing or any service views on the propriety or impropriety of his conduct."
In what looks like a very significant victory for Sgt. Simmons, the court ordered a resentencing on a remaining charges, and appeared to rule out any punitive discharge.
Follow Michael Doyle on Twitter