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Defense: Army violated rights in seizing computers

Posted June 26, 2013

Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair

— A U.S. Army officer admits that he used what he described as "a ruse" to retrieve computers from the home of a general under investigation for alleged sexual assaults.

Col. Mark Murray testified Wednesday at a pre-trial hearing that he called Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair's wife and told her the government-owned computers in their home at Fort Bragg needed to be updated, The Fayetteville Observer reported Wednesday.

Sinclair's wife had not been told that her husband, on deployment in Afghanistan, was under investigation for sexually assaulting a female captain who worked for him and with whom he carried on a three-year affair.

The captain testified at an evidentiary hearing last year that when she tried to end the relationship Sinclair threatened her and, on two occasions, physically forced her to perform oral sex.

Sinclair faces court martial beginning July 16 on charges that include forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders and adultery.

The general's defense team contends that the computers were seized without a search warrant in violation of the general's constitutional rights.

Prosecutors have suggested that emails from the government-owned computer will show Sinclair threatened his accuser.

Sinclair testified Tuesday that he had an expectation that any personal messages sent on the computer would remain private. He also said other members of his staff also used his computer to communicate with friends and family at home, due to limited access to the Internet in the war zone.

The prosecution countered with testimony that anyone who gets a military email account in Afghanistan has to sign a user agreement waiving privacy expectations.

Sinclair said he couldn't recall ever signing such an agreement.

Also on Tuesday, military Judge Col. James Pohl denied several defense motions, including one from earlier this month in which Sinclair's attorneys requested another Article 32 hearing, similar to a probable cause hearing.

Pohl also denied a motion from Tuesday in which defense attorneys asked for access to emails of high-ranking military officials who were allegedly involved in the decision to charge Sinclair.

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  • lec02572 Jun 27, 4:05 p.m.

    First of all they didn't enter the home illegally to seize the computers. They contacted the wife of the general and told her they needed updating and were given access to the computers. Having served in the military and seen this type of thing happen, then see people being forced to change logs by commanding officers, have reports of incedents be destroyed, see people shipped across the pond to prevent testimony, and verbal threats by COs to enlisted personnel. Yea, it happens.

  • joshro Jun 27, 3:46 p.m.

    Old emails is how I caught my ex-wife cheating on me. I hope they throw the book at him!!

  • copperino Jun 27, 3:35 p.m.

    According to the article I read (this one), nobody forced their way into the home to seize the computer. They asked for it, and the wife gave it to them. No warrant required.

  • dwntwnboy2 Jun 27, 1:35 p.m.

    "My advice never be alone in a place with a female or a child"- best advice EVER!! Now if a few of the recently arrested teachers and coaches would've learned that lesson, they wouldn't have made the nightly news.

  • whatelseisnew Jun 27, 11:11 a.m.

    "I believe it's a fine line. Yes the computers belonged to the government, but unless the HOUSE they were in did as well then entrance to said home, without permission might well be illegal...."

    Ya know that is an interesting point. If the house was on a base than it is property of the Government as well, but that does not suspend your rights.

  • whatelseisnew Jun 27, 11:10 a.m.

    "Whether there was a ruse or not, the government took the government's own property. Sorry, your rights don't extend onto your employer's computer."

    Yes, they do. I used to have a computer owned by my employer. If the employer wanted that computer back, they had to ask me to return it. If for some reason I refused, then they would have to go through the legal process to obtain it, which would require a warrant. Once again a Government entity has violated the law. Our Government is wholly corrupt. It is sad that people would actually do these things. As to this General, IF he is guilty, then he should serve life in prison. One of the problems with these kinds of things, is whether it be Government or Private sector if a Female makes an accusation you pretty much are presumed to be guilty. Same thing if a child makes an accusation. My advice never be alone in a place with a female or a child.

  • Scubagirl Jun 27, 9:39 a.m.

    I believe it's a fine line. Yes the computers belonged to the government, but unless the HOUSE they were in did as well then entrance to said home, without permission might well be illegal....

    That said, I find it a bit distressing that someone who was in his position could EVER think that what's in emails were private.....has his head been stuck in the sand too long?

  • copperino Jun 26, 7:50 p.m.

    Whether there was a ruse or not, the government took the government's own property. Sorry, your rights don't extend onto your employer's computer.