General admits guilt on 3 counts; denies assault

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 6, 2014 at 5:26 pm •  Published: March 6, 2014
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In pleading guilty to possessing a cache of porn on his laptop in Afghanistan, a violation of orders for soldiers in the socially conservative Muslim country, Sinclair's defense hopes to limit the ability of prosecutors to use those graphic images to shock the jury.

Prosecutors also have evidence Sinclair asked two female officers to send nude photos of themselves to him. By conceding his guilt, the defense lessens the relevance of the messages they exchanged. The primary accuser is the only one alleging assault.

Scheff said Sinclair had long offered to plead guilty to the three charges as part of a plea agreement, but the Army refused to make any deal without an admission on the alleged assault.

"What remains of this case really rests on the damaged and tattered credibility of an individual who's not been truthful, who has lied before the court, who has given inconsistent statements," Scheff said outside the courthouse. "Frankly, I think it's an embarrassment that this case will go forward. But it's going forward, and we'll have not guilty verdicts at the end."

The defense will present evidence that the female captain lied under oath during a pretrial hearing in January about her handling of old iPhone containing messages between her and the general. Lawyers for Sinclair have painted the woman as a scorned lover who only reported the sexual assault allegations after the general refused to leave his wife.

The captain testified that on Dec. 9, shortly after what she described as a contentious meeting with prosecutors, she rediscovered the iPhone stored in a box at her home that still contained saved text messages and voicemails from the general. After charging the phone, she testified she synced it with her computer to save photos before contacting her attorney.

However, a defense expert's examination suggested the captain powered up the device more than two weeks before the meeting with prosecutors.

The Associated Press generally does not identify those who say they were sexually assaulted.

During a pretrial hearing this week, a top Pentagon lawyer testified that the lead prosecutor assigned to the case for nearly two years, Lt. Col. William Helixon, had urged that the most serious charges against Sinclair be dropped after he became convinced the captain had lied to him about the cellphone. Helixon was overruled by his superiors and removed from the case last month, after suffering what was described as a profound moral crisis that led to his being taken to a military hospital for a mental health evaluation.

The new lead prosecutor, Lt. Col. Robert Stelle, said in court this week he doesn't care what his predecessor thought about the weakness of the evidence.

It is highly unusual for an officer of flag rank to face criminal prosecution, with only a handful of cases in recent decades. Under military law, an officer can only be judged at trial by those of superior rank.

Sinclair's jury is comprised of five major generals.

___

Biesecker reported from Raleigh. Follow him at www.twitter.com/mbieseck . Follow Breed at www.twitter.com/AllenGBreed.



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