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Motion to dismiss all charges filed in Sinclair court-martial

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Army Brig. Gen. Jeff Sinclair of Fort Bragg has filed a new motion asking a military judge to drop all charges against him in his sexual-assault court-martial on the premise that military leaders continue to illegally pressure prosecutors to pursue the case.

His legal team argues in a motion filed on Friday that the lead prosecutor resigned from the case this month because the military is proceeding despite his deep misgivings that it is proper to do so.

In the military justice system, commanders are not allowed to exert what is called unlawful command influence — they must not use their rank to force prosecutors to make decisions contrary to the interests of justice.

Sinclair, 51, is a former deputy commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division.

He is accused of forcing an Army captain, with whom he had a consensual adulterous affair, of performing oral sex on him at times when they were having difficulties in their relationship. He also faces other misconduct charges. His trial is scheduled to begin March 4.

In the motion, filed on Friday, Sinclair's lawyers say he offered in December to enter a guilty plea and accept punishment for adultery, which is a crime in the military. The lawyers allege that the former lead prosecutor, Lt. Col. Will Helixon, thought the military should accept Sinclair's offer and withdraw the sexual assault charges, but that military commanders rejected it.

Sinclair has alleged unlawful command influence throughout the case, citing the political climate in which the military has been criticized by activists and members of Congress for failing to rein in incidents of sexual misconduct among its ranks. It has alleged that the president's comments about sexual misconduct in the military has put undue pressure on the services' leadership and that two generals have been punished for making unpopular decisions in sexual assault cases.

In the motion filed on Friday, Sinclair's legal team says Helixon concluded that the woman that Sinclair is accused of assaulting perjured herself in a pre-trial hearing in January. The hearing was to consider the contents of a cell phone that the woman used during her affair with Sinclair.

She testified it had been stored away since she broke its screen in 2010. She said she rediscovered it in December and turned it on.

A forensics expert testified that the phone's internal records indicate it was turned on in summer 2011 and then again in November 2013. The motion says other forensics experts consulted by Helixon agree.

Sinclair's team concluded that the woman lied about her use of the phone, and says in the motion that Helixon agrees.

The motion says that on Feb. 9, Helixon had a conversation with Sinclair lawyer Richard Scheff and "acknowledged that BG Sinclair was not guilty of the sexual misconduct charges, nor did he deserve to be dismissed from the Army, go to jail, or register as a sex offender."

The motion says Helixon "opined that politics and outside pressures were the driving forces pushing the case forward." It says he told Scheff that Washington-based Brig. Gen. Paul Wilson, assistant judge advocate general for military and operational law, was "in charge" of the prosecution.

Wilson is a former staff judge advocate for the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg.

The motion says Helixon later backtracked his allegation that Wilson was "in charge" of the case.

The motion requests a hearing to hear testimony from Helixon; Wilson; Fort Bragg Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, who is the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps.; public affairs staff and others involved in the case.

woolvertonp@fayobserver.com
 

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