Prosecutors: General facing sex charges threatened accuser
Posted March 25, 2013
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Military prosecutors want to use an Army general's emails against him during his court-martial on sexual misconduct charges, but the general's defense maintains that the messages were illegally obtained.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair faces charges that include forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders and adultery. He has thus far deferred entering a plea – he has admitted to an affair but has said it was consensual – and his court-martial is scheduled for June 25.
These charges stem from allegations that Sinclair had inappropriate relationships with five women, including some subordinates.
During a pre-trial hearing at Fort Bragg on Monday, his civilian lawyer, Richard Scheff, argued that the affidavit prosecutors used to get Sinclair's emails was "reckless" and "misleading" and violated the general's constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The wording in the affidavit, which was drafted in 2012, suggests a recent crime occurred, but the emails in question were written in 2009, Scheff said. Also, the affidavit "does not state what the threat was."
"The threat was manufactured in this case," he said, noting that suggesting a threat was the only way that investigators could get a search warrant for the emails from Internet service providers.
Scheff also maintains that the federal court in Virginia had no jurisdiction to grant the search warrant.
Army prosecutors argued that the emails are like writing a letter to one's mother – as soon as the letter is sent, they said, there is no expectation of privacy. They also said there was nothing reckless or misleading about the affidavit.
In one email, they said, Sinclair wrote, "If you expose this relationship, I'm going to hurt you or your family."
Scheff countered by saying that sending an email "does not result in someone giving up their expectation of privacy."
Col. James Pohl, the military judge handling the case, hasn't decided whether the emails can remain as evidence.
The defense, citing extensive pre-trial publicity, also asked Pohl for a jury consultant to look out for bias among prospective jurors, but he denied it.
The judge also denied a defense motion to split the court-martial into two trials. Lawyers argued that jury members hearing charges involving some women would think he's guilty of the other charges, so they wanted charges involved with his physical relationship with one woman tried separately from charges of the relationships he's accused of having with other women.
Pohl said jury members would follow his instructions.