Military appeals court denies request to stop court-martial of general accused of sex assault
The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A military appeals court has denied a request to halt the court-martial of a Fort Bragg general accused of sexual assault and other charges.
The decision was announced Friday by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, according to the court's daily journal.
Lawyers for Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair had asked for the stay to resolve a number of issues under appeal, including whether Sinclair's case was affected by unlawful command influence.
In a short explanation, the court said Sinclair could raise those issues during the course of "normal appellate review."
Sinclair has pleaded not guilty to eight criminal charges, including forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders and adultery. Most of the charges come from an affair with a female captain who says Sinclair twice forced her to perform oral sex while she served under his command in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last month, Sinclair's court-martial was delayed for a second time since the case began at Fort Bragg last year.
The trial was set to begin this week. The military judge, Col. James L. Pohl, delayed the trial until Jan. 7 after officials on both sides agreed that more time was needed to prepare the case.
The delay also is meant to avoid the approaching holiday season and the busy schedule of Pohl, who also hears cases at the military court in Guantanamo, Cuba.
The case is expected to include more than 100 witnesses, and the jury, which was selected in August, is comprised of five Army generals. All of the jurors are ranked higher than or have more time in rank than Sinclair, a 27-year Army veteran.
Sinclair, 50, is a former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. He is accused of sexually assaulting a captain under his command near the end of a three-year affair with her. His other charges under military law include improper relationships with three other women and misuse of government travel money when visiting a mistress.
Sinclair has admitted to the affair, but he denies the other accusations.
His lawyers have alleged the captain lied about the sexual assault to avoid prosecution for adultery.
The case is further complicated by national calls to pursue and punish sexual predators in the military, according to Sinclair's lawyers.
Remarks by President Obama and Pentagon leaders could be pressuring officials to prosecute Sinclair, they said.
The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces is the highest military court and has jurisdiction over appellate reviews from all branches. Its decisions, however, may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.