News reports of today’s proceedings in the Sinclair case are trickling in, and they’re not pretty.
This ABC News report begins with the big picture:
Col. James Pohl granted a defense motion to reconsider “Unlawful Command Influence, and the role it played in the case. Pohl also ruled Army prosecutors failed to meet their burden of proof in denying UCI has influenced the trial
You’re thinking, “that’s bad.” Well this (from the same report) is worse:
“The only true, fair remedy is to reset that (the trial),” said lead prosecutor, Lt. Col. Robert Stelle, arguing for a mistrial.
The defense refused to request the mistrial.
I’ve failed to find a second source for this, so let’s not jump to conclusions. But what would cause the prosecution to ask for a mistrial in the most
watched wild court-martial since the Lakin case? From this New York Times report:
The judge said he was particularly worried that a letter written by a lawyer for the main witness against General Sinclair, a captain who has accused him of forcing her to have sex and threatening her life, seemed to have unduly influenced General Anderson, the commanding general of Fort Bragg’s XVIII Airborne Corps. That letter, sent in December, said the captain was opposed to a plea deal, and it invoked the potential political consequences of an agreement on the Army’s efforts to combat sexual assault.
“Allowing the accused to characterize this relationship as a consensual affair would only strengthen the arguments of those individuals that believe the prosecution of sexual assault should be taken away from the Army,” the accuser’s counsel wrote.
For all those prosecutors who look at the SVC program and think “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” welcome to the real world.
This CNN report adds:
The e-mails that brought the proceedings to a halt Monday were described by defense attorney Richard Scheff as evidence showing that not only did senior Army officials believe that the accuser had a credibility issue, but also that commanders are making decision based on politics rather than justice.
In the January communication, Col. Michael Lacey, a staff judge advocate, writes Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson about the accuser’s testimony regarding an iPhone she said she found December 9.
“The forensic analysis of the phone indicates she accessed the phone before 9 December, which brings her credibility into question. The Special Victims Prosecutor (SVP) is trying to reconcile the forensic analysis and her statement, but it is possible that she was not truthful,” Lacey wrote.
Now don’t start thinking that this was a sneaky lawyer trick by Mr. Scheff, withholding those awful emails from months ago just to spring them on the replacement trial counsel right after the alleged victim finishes her direct examination. It turns out that the emails were just disclosed by the prosecution over the past few days (according to the CNN report, and the NYT report, and the ABC News report, and this report from the AP, and this report from Reuters).
And here I thought the Government was good at collecting emails…
How could this get worse for the prosecution, you wonder? Well, BGEN Sinclair could move to withdraw his pleas of guilty… From the Reuters report:
The judge criticized the prosecution for waiting so long to produce the emails sought by the defense and for bringing them to light after the trial was underway.
But Pohl disagreed with defense lawyers that dismissing the sexual assault charges was the proper fix.
“What we have here is a wrong,” the judge said. “To dismiss the charges based on this wrong would not be appropriate.”
The judge gave Sinclair’s lawyers until Tuesday to decide whether they will submit another plea offer. A new convening authority would be chosen to consider the offer, though details were still being worked out about that selection process.
It was unclear if the trial would be put on hold should Sinclair renew his offer.
Defense attorneys would not discuss specifics of the prior offer. They have said in the past that Sinclair proposed to plead guilty to the military crimes of adultery and conduct unbecoming an officer if the sex assault charges were dropped.
The general pleaded guilty last week to lesser offenses that carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and possible dismissal from the Army, but his attorneys said they could move to withdraw that plea after the events on Monday.
“We’re trying to figure out our strategy,” Scheff said.