Sinclair's lawyers file motions claiming unlawful command influence
By Paul Woolverton | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: June 25, 2013
Defense lawyers for embattled Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair filed motions this morning that centered on the idea that unlawful command influence was exerted on the decision to prosecute him on charges of sexual assault and other misconduct.
The motions in the court-martial on Fort Bragg sought copies of emails on the subject of Sinclair by Lt. Gen. William B. Garrett III, who is deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command; Brig. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, who is the Army's chief of public affairs; and Col. Paul Wilson, the staff judge-advocate at Fort Bragg.
Much of the testimony throughout the day centered on the minute details of email passwords and user policies as well as who could have access to emails from Sinclair and the accuser.
During mid-morning testimony, Sinclair took the stand and testified about his use of computers in Afghanistan as well as compliance with password policies. Sinclair's lawyers are trying to suppress the emails the government recovered from his computer.
Sinclair's computer was a government-issued one and was accessed by a password that he shared with three other people. Users sign an agreement that acknowledges the computers are government issued and that there's no expectation of privacy. The users aren't supposed to share their password.
Sinclair said he did not recall signing the agreement.
And while it is common practice to log onto the computers using an access card, a lieutenant colonel charged with maintaining email accounts testified that, in limited instances, passwords were given to senior officers who needed to share the account with their staff.
That was the case with Sinclair, who had three staff members monitoring his work email account: his executive officer, his aide-de-camp and his team leader and engagement officer. The team leader is the captain with whom he allegedly had inappropriate conduct.
Sinclair's staff needed the passwords and access to do their jobs, Sinclair said. They reviewed his emails and reported their contents to him for direction on how to proceed.
Sinclair said there was an expectation of privacy in using the computers.
"Absolutely," he said.
When asked if he used the computer for personal use, he said, "Some. We all do."
He said staff used the computers as a way to communicate with friends and family at home, due to limited access to other computers.
Sinclair's executive officer said it was understood that the staff would access only work emails, not personal ones.
Prosecutors are seeking to submit evidence of private emails sent by Sinclair, obtained from people with whom he communicated. The defense opposes that submission.
The defense is seeking the primary accuser's personal computer to gain access to her emails, journal entries, correspondence with family and lawyers as well as web searches. The prosecution opposes that submission.
Lawyers also argued this afternoon over whether character witnesses can be brought in who would support Sinclair's character and undermine the credibility of the accuser.
Earlier in the day, Sinclair's lawyers asked that Volesky be made to testify about the Army's decision to lodge sexual assault charges against Sinclair last September.
And the lawyers are seeking notes from a February meeting between high-ranking military officials and members of Congress in which a member of Congress was said to have made an inflammatory remark about Sinclair.
The lawyers said they believe the meeting was the fourth of four on the subject of sexual assaults in the military and they believe comments by lawmakers may have influenced the decision to prosecute Sinclair.
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.
He is accused of other inappropriate conduct with other women, although none of it involved physical contact with the women.
The Army began investigating Sinclair in March 2012 after the captain complained to Sinclair's supervisor during their deployment to Afghanistan.
The court-martial is scheduled for July 16.
This undated file photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair. Sinclair, who served five combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been charged with forcible sodomy, multiple counts of adultery and having inappropriate relationships with several female subordinates.