Accuser finds old messages in Bragg general's sex case
Posted January 7, 2014
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — A soldier who had an affair with a Fort Bragg general found numerous emails and voice messages from him on an old phone last month, prompting a delay in his court-martial.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair faces charges that include forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders and adultery. His court-martial was scheduled to begin Tuesday but has been pushed back to March 4.
The charges stem from allegations that Sinclair twice sexually assaulted a captain with whom he had a three-year affair and that he had inappropriate relationships with five other women, including some subordinates.
The captain, who served with Sinclair in Iraq and Afghanistan, said during a pre-trial motions hearing Tuesday that she found an iPhone that she stopped using years ago in a cluttered box on Dec. 9. She found messages from Sinclair, including some under his alias of "Nathan," and immediately turned the phone over to Army investigators.
Defense attorney Richard Scheff asked why she bothered to charge up the phone and examine its content in the first place. She said she wanted to see if there was any evidence on it that either military prosecutors or Sinclair's defense team would need during the court-martial.
"I was very overwhelmed with what I found on the phone," she said.
The content of the messages wasn't detailed in court on Tuesday, but Scheff said there's nothing in them to indicate "a coercive relationship."
"There are some voicemail messages from him that are actually very loving and tender," Scheff said after the court hearing.
In previous hearings, Col. James Pohl, the military judge handling the case, has ruled that Sinclair's emails could be used as evidence.
Marcus Lawson, a forensics expert called by Scheff, disputed the captain's statements, saying an analysis of the iPhone's contents show it was used as recently as 2011 and had been turned on several times, including once in November – a month before she reported finding it.
“This morning’s hearing was a game-changer," Scheff said in a statement. "Not only did the captain withhold and tamper with material evidence, she also misled prosecutors and gave false, sworn testimony to the court. ... When the government’s chief witness knowingly lies to the chief prosecutor and the judge, the case against Gen. Sinclair loses what little credibility it ever had.”
Pohl said the defense could have access to material on the phone from May 1, 2008, through March 19, 2012 – the time frame of Sinclair's affair with the captain. The judge also ordered further analysis of the captain's four other old cell phones.
A special victim lawyer representing the captain, Capt. Cassie Fowler, objected to the latter order, saying it would violate her privacy. Pohl said Sinclair's right to a fair trial trumps the accuser's right to privacy.