Military Judge Rejects Two Trials in Sinclair Case
A military judge Monday denied a motion to split the court-martial of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair into two trials and heard other motions during a hearing on Fort Bragg.
Lawyers on both sides of the case -- which centers on allegations of misconduct, adultery and forcible sodomy -- made more than a dozen motions.
They include routine requests for discovery and an attempt by defense lawyers to invalidate government search warrants.
Sinclair, a former deputy commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, is accused of having an illicit affair and engaging in wrongful sexual conduct with several women under his command.
Maj. Elizabeth Ramsey, one of Sinclair's lawyers, argued for having one trial based only on the charges related to the female captain who accuses Sinclair of forcing her to perform oral sex. The woman and Sinclair admit to an adulterous relationship that stretched over several years.
The second trial would focus on the other charges, including allegations of misconduct with other women and fraud.
Prosecutors objected to the move, saying it would only give Sinclair a better chance at acquittal.
The military judge, Col. James Pohl, agreed. He said the jurors, all general officers, would be smart enough to follow his instructions.
Pohl also denied a defense request to hire an expert to help with jury selection.
Pohl delayed rulings on most of the other motions. Among those pending motions is one that would suppress evidence obtained in personal email accounts, some of which belonged to Sinclair.
Richard Scheff, Sinclair's civilian lawyer, said the search warrants used to access the email accounts were obtained using false statements and misrepresentations.
"These email accounts contain emails sent by Gen. Sinclair," Scheff told Pohl. "Email communications contain some of the most intimate and personal communications we have."
Scheff also argued that the federal court in Virginia that granted the warrants had no jurisdiction because the alleged crimes were not committed in that state.
Prosecutors defended the warrants.
"There are no misstatements," said Lt. Col. Will Helixon. "There might be ambiguities, but there are no misstatements."
The hearing was Sinclair's first with his new civilian lawyers. He hired the Montgomery McCracken law firm to represent him last month.
After court, Scheff said the hearing marked a departure in the case and a turn to a more aggressive strategy.
"We're investigating the background of everyone who raised allegations against Gen. Sinclair," he said. "If anyone misled this court, or any other court, we'll bring that to light. You saw that today. If the accuser misled the court, we'll bring that to light. If witnesses against Gen. Sinclair lack credibility or are guilty of hypocrisy, we'll bring that to light."
"You can expect an extremely aggressive defense going forward, and I wouldn't be surprised to see significant problems develop with respect to some of the charges," he said. "It's apparent that there have been deep flaws in the ways some of the evidence was collected and used."
In other motions, Sinclair's lawyers sought the emails between then-Maj. Gen. Jim Huggins, the former division commander, and other general officers.
They also sought the personal calendar of Maj. Gen. Perry Wiggins, the investigating officer in the case. Defense lawyers hoped to use the calendar to investigate whether an upcoming promotion had any bearing on Wiggins' decision to recommend charges in the case.
Pohl denied the request for Wiggins' calendar and said he would rule on the email motion at a later date.
Sinclair is facing 25 specifications of eight charges, including forcible sodomy, wrongful sexual conduct, indecent acts, attempting to violate a lawful order, maltreatment, conduct unbecoming an officer, adultery and communicating threats.
Sinclair has admitted to an affair but has maintained that the relationship he had with an Army captain, who served as one of his aides, was consensual. He faces prison if convicted.
The proceedings were expected to take several days, but officials said they were able to conclude their business Monday.
Sinclair's court-martial is scheduled to start June 25. Additional hearings have been scheduled for May 14-16.