2021 | Courts

Court rules that former Navy lieutenant must register as sex offender

Decision says court martial conviction supersedes county court exemption

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A former Navy lieutenant must register with the state’s sex offender registry after being convicted by a military court martial for possessing child pornography, a Maryland appellate court ruled.

The Court of Special Appeals ruled that a court martial supersedes an adjudication of probation before judgment by the county’s circuit court, which would have excused Brad Respondek of Silver Spring from registering.

In October 2015, Respondek pleaded guilty to two charges of possessing child pornography.

He was sentenced to three years of probation, but at a hearing in circuit court in June 2016, he was granted probation before judgment because he showed remorse and “was rehabilitated,” according to statements from his counselor and probation officer included in court documents.

The circuit court’s decision meant he no longer had to register as a sex offender in Maryland.

In 2017, the Navy initiated a court martial proceeding charging Respondek with knowingly distributing child pornography. The proceeding was based on the same incident he had pleaded guilty to in county court.

He pleaded guilty in 2018, was sentenced to five months of “confinement” and was discharged from the Navy.

He was also required to register as a sex offender “with both military and civilian law enforcement agencies,” court documents said.

In an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals, Respondek’s lawyer argued that he should not be required to register because “his guilty plea in the military court did not trigger an obligation to register … because he did not commit the violation … in a military jurisdiction as required by the statute,” according to court documents.

His lawyer said requiring Respondek to register violated the plea agreement reached in the Montgomery County Circuit Court case.

The appeals court agreed with a previous ruling in Montgomery County Circuit Court that “if the crime was committed wherever the military had jurisdiction, that would be sufficient.”

It also noted that the requirements to register as a sex offender includes “military offense specified by the Secretary of Defense,” including offenses for which Resondek pleaded guilty.

The court also affirmed that even if Maryland law did not require Respondek to register, federal law did, which does not violate his plea agreement.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com