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Sinclair court-martial postponed

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair's sexual misconduct court-martial has been postponed until July, and a source close to the case said one of the pornography accusations against him has been dropped.

A pre-trial hearing for Sinclair was scheduled to begin Tuesday at the Fort Bragg courthouse. Three generals may testify this week.

Sinclair, a former deputy commanding general of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, is accused of twice committing a sexual assault on a captain under his command and with whom he had a three-year extra-marital affair. The affair itself is a crime in the military.

Also, Sinclair is accused of additional inappropriate behavior — although none of it was physical — with several other women in violation of military law and of using taxpayer money to pay for personal travel expenses.

The sexual assault accusations could put Sinclair in prison.

A Fort Bragg spokesman said the court-martial, originally scheduled to start June 25, is to begin on July 16.

A source close to the Sinclair defense team said the trial was postponed to provide time for the court to resolve several matters that need to be settled before the trial begins. For example, the defense team has alleged that the pool of potential jurors was set up in violation of the rules for jury selection, or that the pool was too limited.

Arranging and expanding the jury pool is unusually challenging because all jury members must be Army generals — they have to be Sinclair's rank or higher. The Army will have to arrange for generals from around the country to leave their normal duties to come to Fort Bragg for the trial.

Sinclair's affair with the captain surfaced in the spring of 2012, when the two were stationed in the Afghan war zone. She reported the affair to his supervisor, Lt. Gen. James Huggins.

Huggins and two other generals are expected to testify this week, said the source.

The other two generals are Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, who is in charge of Army forces in the continental United States, and Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, the Fort Bragg commander.

Sinclair's lawyers have raised several issues that could require the generals' testimony. They say there has been inappropriate command influence over the Army's decision to prosecute.

Also, they claim Sinclair is being subjected to selective prosecution, possibly in light of the political pressure put on the military in recent years over sexual assaults reported in its ranks.

Sinclair's team further thinks the Army illegally withheld exculpatory evidence that could put in doubt the captain's claim that he sexually assaulted her. They may have Huggins testify regarding that issue, according to prior statements in court.

Sinclair previously faced two allegations that he possessed pornography in violation of orders that prohibited such material in the Iraq and Afghan war zones. The orders were intended to prevent American soldiers from causing offense by exposing the Afghan and Iraqi populations to pornography.

The judge has dismissed the accusation from the Iraq war zone, but not for the Afghan war zone, said the source near his defense team.

The Iraq charge was dismissed because military prosecutors failed to present evidence that the pornography order in Iraq was legal despite the First Amendment right of soldiers to view pornographic material in private, the source said.

The prosecutors had an expert testify that Afghan citizens would be offended if they had seen some of the photos that investigators found on a hard disc drive in Sinclair's Afghan quarters.

woolvertonp@fayobserver.com
 

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