According to this Reuters report, the Sinclair trial is delayed “indefinitely,” and the members are returning to their normal duties. The Associated Press adds that:

Attorneys for an Army general charged with sexual assault said Tuesday that they have decided to try to renegotiate a plea bargain with a new set of military officials after the judge determined that the case may have been improperly influenced by political concerns.

Judge Col. James Pohl sent the jury of generals back to their duty stations around the world after attorneys for Brig. Gen Jeffrey A. Sinclair announced their decision. The two sides will enter negotiations to try to resolve the case. A new general and legal advisers would have to be brought in to approve any new deal.

Additional coverage in this local media story and this LA Times story. But if you haven’t been following along over the past few days, you’re probably going to want to at least skim our recent coverage at this link.

The Senate passed Senator McCaskill’s “Victims Protection Act” (S. 1917) (link to Thomas) by a vote of 97-0. Coverage of the bill is available in our Military Justice Legislation category. The Hill reports here that the bill may not get consideration in the House outside of the normal NDAA process.

And finally, from this Air Force Times Report:

An airman whose sexual assault case was dismissed last September by former Third Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin will now face court-martial on rape charges.

19 Responses to “Sinclair trial delayed “indefinitely,” Senate passes the “Victims Protection Act,” and a once-dismissed Air Force case is referred for trial”

  1. Interested Observer says:

    The UCMJ must look like a circus to those on the outside looking in. 

  2. k fischer says:

    I notice that the AF Times did not include the facts that an E5 invited a couple of lower enlisted airmen to her place for drinking and movie watching where she flirted with the accused and was snuggling under a blanket, after which she was heard later in the night giggling and moaning.  Her story is Wright pulled her on top of him and raped her.  The 32 Officer recommended that the charges be dismissed, but the SVC complained that the IO was biased because he was clearly skeptical of the accuser.  Who wouldn’t be skeptical of this accuser?????
     
    THIS is the system endorsed by Senator McCaskill.  THIS is exactly what she wants the military to do.  THIS CASE is so absurd that the AF has clearly jumped the shark.  And it is time for SJA’s to forget about the CNN test when it comes to sexual assault offenses, pull up you big boy and big girl pants and recommend that unwarranted charges be dismissed and stay dismissed.
     
    So what kind of shot at an acquittal does Wright have with a DC panel?

  3. Tami says:

    I’m sure this guy’s defense team will get a hold of Sinclair’s defense team and file the same kind of motion for undue command influence due to political pressure, and that the CA has become an accuser.  Wonder if they’ll also throw out the gender card, or retaliation for arguing innocence in the media?
     
    Speaking of retaliation, Congress made retaliation a crime, and we see some Congressional members retaliating against certain military personnel by holding up promotions for having moral courage to dismiss cases they think are BS.  Hmmmm…….

  4. dyskolos says:

    Interested Observer –
    You don’t have to be an outsider to think this case, not the UCMJ, has become a circus.
     

  5. Advocaat says:

    The Army caught a break twice-over; it has time to work out a reasonable PTA while the spotlight shifts to the AF.  I like Tami’s cross-feed suggestion and let’s see if AF officials have conveniently failed to keep emails and other evidence regarding the disposition of US v. Wright.  I’m a big fan of military defenders but this is a case where I hope A1C Wright has a civilian on his team to take on AF senior leadership and to leverage the power of the media.

  6. Ed says:

    The TC should carefully consider their ethical responsibility in prosecuting baseless cases. I suggest these issues be raised with the grievance committee of any federal district court bar TC’s are members of.

  7. Abe Froman says:

    Ed, I don’t see it as a grievance committee issue.  The TC can easily rely on the fact that he has an accuser who is willing to testify – under oath – that she was sexually assaulted.  Isn’t that enough to overcome any ethical quibble?
     

  8. Would Normally Post Using My Name says:

    I apologize for being off topic, but now that making a bar complaint was brought up, how about the accused in Hornback making a bar complaint against the TC? Although I imagine that CAAF finding that the misconduct was harmless will make the likelihood of disciplinary action being taken less likely.
    And if we were not such an amiable bar, from those of you who practice law in the real world, have you seen a complaint from a defense attorney against a prosecutor where there are findings like these on the record, or the judge forwards the findings to the offending prosecutor’s bar?
     

  9. DCGoneGalt says:

    kfischer:  Of course those facts don’t matter to Stars and Stripes or the Air Force Times.  A simple recitation of the facts would be considered victim-blaming.
    The Air Force chain of command, to include the former TJAG, is due for a public “airing of the grievances (Festivus-style) on the Wright case.  So the Art 32 IO was skeptical and the GCMCA refused to meet with the VIC prior to making a referral decision?  Maybe we should just rely on the SVC to tell us whether it should be referred. Who was the new military judge that was the IO on the 2nd Art 32?  Anyone know anything about the new convening authority from AFDW?
    Are there enough SARCS in the NCR to put them all on a single panel?  Maybe it will be docketed after the next SAPR stand-down day?
    As for the chances of acquittal . . . who knows with the current brainwashing campaign that is underway.  I aways trust enlisted members, IMHO you can no longer trust the average officer.
    Sausage King of Chicago:  I agree the TC has no ethical issues as in the typical case all you need is an allegation with no direct proof of falsity to pass the ethical bar.  And apparently it is the same standard for referral.

  10. Abe Froman says:

    At first I thought what a terrible chilling effect that this will have on AF Article 32 officers, but then I remembered that Art 32s have been revamped anyway.

  11. k fischer says:

    DCGG, 
     
    It’s Lt. Col. Shaun Speranza as I posted from an article earlier:

    In the surprise, surprise department, Airman 1st Class Brandon Wright who was accused by a female NCO of “pulling her on top of him” and raping her at her place while another Airman was in the other room is going to face a court-martial, after his second “unbiased” Article 32.

     “We object to this hearing generally,” Angiollo said. “We’ve already been through an Article 32. We thought that was conducted properly.”The investigating officer, Lt. Col. Shaun Speranza, said that despite the environment surrounding the case, there was no pressure on him to send it to court-martial.“I can assure you, Airman Wright, defense counsel, trial counsel — there has been no attempt to influence my impartiality.”

     I doubt that brought any comfort to Wright, particularly if he is following any of the Sinclair court martial.

  12. DCGoneGalt says:

    k fischer:  Thanks, sorry I missed that.
    Sincerely hope the defense counsel goes to town on AF leadership.

  13. RY says:

    Another omission/misstatement that has been perpetuated about the Wright case — the GCMCA did not refuse to meet with the alleged Vic.  Her letter was addressed to the SPCMCA, his SJA, and trial counsel.  The GCMCA was not made aware of the letter until after his disposition decision. The Wg/SJA recommended dismissal, as did the GCMCA/SJA.  (I am not tied to the Wright case, but I’m in Europe and have had interviews with the relevant persons, including convening authorities, for UCI motions in other cases.) 
     

  14. k fischer says:

    RY, 
     
    Do you know what the new 32 IO and SJA recommended in the Wright case?

  15. RY says:

    He had mixed recommendations…he did not recommend all charges proceed.  He did not recommend one of the big charges go forward but I don’t recall if he recommended dismissal of that charge completely or that it proceed on an LIO.  If memory serves me right, I believe he also used a prima facie standard.  That was strange…so the charges should generally go forward because someone might believe her but she was completely unbelievable on one of the charges, so that one charge should not proceed. 
    I think the Art 32 standard is one area where the NDAA will actually improve IO hearings despite Congressional desire otherwise.  I’ve seen more than ever where IOs find the evidence to be crap but it’s possible someone could believe the CW, so the gov’t has met a prima facie case and charges should go forward.  There’s no real recommendation or assessment, only that one witness said something to meet the elements, whether the witness is believable or not.  Contrast that with IOs who use probable cause as the standard, which is the new NDAA requirement, and I think some of these cases would go away because it’s not just about whether there’s some evidence on every element, but rather whether the evidence is actually more convincing for guilt or not. 

  16. Facts says:

    RY:  That may be a misstatement, but the effect was the same – the reported victim wasn’t consulted as she requested before charges were dismissed.  Reported victim requested to meet with the decision-maker/s in the case, which included Gen Franklin since the decision then moved up to his level.  If GCMCA didn’t know about victim’s views and request to be consulted in person then either his legal advisors let him down considerably or the Wg/SJA failed to forward the letter.  The SVC addressing the letter to the TC and first decisional command level (LRO) is a poor excuse – perhaps why it was not put forth in response.

  17. DCGoneGalt says:

    Why should the convening authority meet with the complainant?  He examined evidence, which is his job.  He is not Oprah, his job is not to have someone come in and tell him about their feelings.
     
    Should he have to meet with the accused and defense counsel first?  Congress-critters, and AF leadership, go insane when he does not meet with a complainant and then does not refer.  So he should have met with her and referred?  He didn’t meet with the accused or defense counsel, if that a travesty of justice?  I can only imagine the hysterical shrieking that would occur should a convening authority meet with accused and defense counsel and then not refer a case. 
     

  18. SVC Hack says:

    Whether CA has to physically meet with a victim is probably within his/her discretion but (at least in the AF) he/she should “under ordinary circumstances consult with the victim and obtain his/her views on dismissal of charges.”  SVCs aren’t making this stuff up…they are rigths and common decencies that have just been ignored for a long time.  I’m quite certain that if an accused wanted to waive his right to remain silent and talk to JA or CA they’d be more than happy to welcome that dialog.
    Defense Counsel reach out to victims all the time if they think their “feelings” are going to help their client.  I’ve seen many DC’s include letters from victims that charges not go forward or a RILO/CH 4 be accepted. Their “feelings” certainly matter then.  You can’t have a victim’s feelings matter only when it is convenient to the accused.
     

  19. DCGoneGalt says:

    SVC Hack:  It is like comparing apples to oranges.  If an complainant meets with a convening authority there is no questioning about the facts of the case at all, it is purely a “sit on the couch and tell me about how you feel”.  Heck, even CID/OSI/NCIS aren’t allowed to do a “confrontational” interview even when there is clear evidence of a false claim or that a complainant is lying about some of the most important facts surrounding the allegation.  There is also no talk of collateral misconduct, for which complainants are given a “get our of trouble free card” the minute they walk into the Sexual Assault, Inc. office.  If you believe we reside in a world where a convening authority would just invite an accused in and ask about his feelings on the case disposition (without having to discuss the facts and collateral misconduct) then I congratulate you, you will go far in the SVC community.