FORT BRAGG: Explicit images will be controlled in Army sex trial - WFLA News Channel 8

Use of pornographic images will be controlled in Army sex trial

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FORT BRAGG, N.C. -

The use of pornographic pictures and videos will be strictly controlled during the court-martial of an Army general believed to be the highest ranking officer to face sexual assault charges.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, who was the deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, faces criminal charges that include physically forcing a female captain under his command to perform oral sex.

Wednesday Sinclair's defense protested the prosecution's plans to use dozens of pornographic images during the trial.

Sinclair's lawyers asked the judge to bar all use of those pornographic images, saying if the jury panel sees them it would unfairly influence them on some of Sinclair's charges that do not have anything to do with pornography.

"The notion that someone possesses, or they find pornography on a computer, that therefore [that person is] likely to act in accordance with whatever those images are is frankly absurd," said attorney Richard Scheff. "There's no evidentiary foundation for it."

The defense claims the prosecution does not need to show the images in order to argue that Sinclair had the pornography in Afghanistan. However, the prosecution said it is important to show examples of the pornography to the generals on the panel so that the prosecution's expert witness can explain how the images were found.

The prosecution claims to have recovered more than 8,000 pictures and 600 videos from Sinclair's electronic devices, such as laptop computers. Realizing the images would likely not be totally banned, the defense asked the judge to limit the use of those images to just arguments about whether Sinclair possessed them or not.

The judge ruled the images could not be used in the prosecution's opening statements and the images cannot be used to claim they show Sinclair's intent to commit sexual assault.

On Tuesday, the judge denied Sinclair's lawyers' request to dismiss the most serious of the charges against him, alleging top brass at the Pentagon unlawfully interfered with prosecutorial decisions in the case.

The former prosecutor, Lt. Col. William Helixon, had also urged that the most serious charges against Sinclair be dropped because they rely solely on the woman's accusation that he twice forced her to perform oral sex and he believes she lied under oath about crucial evidence in the case.

Helixon was replaced last month after he broke down in tears over the case and a superior officer took him to a military hospital for a mental health evaluation, according to testimony.

"No offense to Lt. Col. Helixon, but I don't care what he thinks and neither should the court," Lt. Col. Robert Stelle, who replaced Helixon as lead prosecutor, told the judge.

Sinclair's lawyer suggested that the Army was sacrificing Helixon's career and reputation to pursue a flawed case.

"The government undertook a vicious character assault against someone they previously called their 'rock star' sex crimes prosecutor, because he was the only Army leader with the integrity to stand up to politics," Scheff said Tuesday. "People should be rewarded for honesty, not punished for it."

It is extremely rare for such a high-ranking military officer to face a jury. Under the military justice system, members of the panel must be senior in rank to the accused — dictating Sinclair's jury of major generals.

Opening statements in the case are set for Thursday.

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