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Bryan Sullivan

Other Military Exonerations
On May 20, 2015, 31-year-old U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Bryan Sullivan and a group of friends and acquaintances went to a bar in Cape May, New Jersey. Afterward, he and one of his Coast Guard shipmates, 24-year-old A.R., went to the barracks where A.R. lived.

There, according to Sullivan, they had consensual sex. Less than 48 hours later, A.R. reported to Coast Guard Investigative Services that she had been raped.

Sullivan was charged with rape and making a false statement. At a court martial, the defense pointed to text messages that A.R. sent after the incident in which she indicated that she didn’t remember what happened. The prosecution argued that a 24-minute gap from when Sullivan and A.R. checked back into the base and when A.R. sent her first text refuted Sullivan’s account of the night’s events and the sexual encounter.

Sullivan did not testify. However, his statement to Coast Guard Investigative Services that the encounter was consensual was admitted into evidence.

On August 26, 2016, Sullivan was convicted of rape and making a false statement. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.

After the trial, Sullivan’s defense attorney discovered that the call record showed texts in Central Time while Cape May is in the Eastern Time zone. Thus, the text that was the highlight of the prosecution’s argument appeared to have occurred an hour before it actually did. As a result, what appeared to be a time frame of 24 minutes was actually one hour and 24 minutes—a time frame more consistent with Sullivan’s account of a consensual sexual encounter.

On September 29, 2016, the trial judge vacated Sullivan’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The trial court judge ruled that the “highly effective argument” by the prosecution based on “its false timeline probably had a significant influence” on the jury. The trial court judge noted that the "false 24-minute timeline" was important because it was "irrefutable and conclusive" in the face of the conflicting accounts given by Sullivan and AR.

Another court martial was convened in July 2017. By that time, the defense had located a former boyfriend of A.R. who testified that she had a reputation for being untruthful.

Sullivan’s defense team sought to discredit A.R.’s credibility after she testified that the first person she reached out to was her sister in Switzerland—although she had not told that to Coast Guard investigators when she made her initial statement.

On July 21, 2017, Sullivan was acquitted.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 9/26/2017
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Perjury
Reported Crime Date:2015
Sentence:7 years
Age at the date of reported crime:31
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No