Naturally, the Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville is the town immediately outside the gates of Ft. Bragg, is all over the trial of Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair. They give a decent summary of yesterday’s sentencing proceeding, albeit a bit scattershot. Here are a few clarifications.
1. What’s up with Sinclair’s wife not appearing to testify on his behalf at sentencing? What’s with the letter she wrote?
There are a variety of reasons for why she is shying-away from this one. One is the reason given–that she wants to stay at home and focus on their children. This is understandable.
Another reason, though not given, is that she’s had enough of this crap, most of which he brought upon himself. In her letter, she did explain that she has not fully forgiven him for his actions, so there is still a bit of angst present (justifiably). Imagine how you would feel knowing that your spouse was unfaithful, and then you’re asked to testify under oath and be subject to cross examination. Though, I’ve seen it done many times.
Would it help if she testified? Based on my experience, it absolutely would. An argument I’ve frequently used in cases similar to this and after spouse testimony is “If you’re thinking of further punishment, consider the fact that he has already been punished and will continue to be punished by the person most hurt by his actions.”
So, the second issue is with the letter. In lieu of testifying, Sinclair’s wife wrote a letter to the court. Defense counsel wants to introduce the wife’s letter for sentencing consideration. He can do so. All he has to do is ask that the judge relax the rules of evidence during the sentencing case (this is specifically allowed in the rules for court-martial). At that point, anything relevant to sentencing factors can be submitted for consideration. This is routinely done at court-martial and typically is in the form of a notebook filled with documents that shows that the accused is worthy of a second chance, a lighter sentence, or a combination of the two.
So, why doesn’t defense counsel just ask that the judge relax the rules in order to easily submit her letter? Well, the relaxing of evidentiary rules also applies to the prosecution, and they can rebut anything submitted by the defense in their extenuation and mitigation case by taking advantage of relaxed rules. This can be disastrous if the prosecution has an ace up their sleeve that is otherwise inadmissible under the rules.
So, this leads me to believe that there is a very specific reason why defense counsel does not want to relax the rules.
2. While I still believe that chances of confinement are remote, my position is not as strong as before.
Yesterday, I was pretty confident that confinement would not be part of an adjudged sentence. Now, I’m not as sure as before. It appears that part of the aggravation includes strong evidence of abuse of power and even a hint of fraud and waste. Consider this (the accuser referenced here is the female Captain who initially accused Sinclair of sexual assault, but who also accused him of engaging in an inappropriate and adulterous relationship):
Col. Michelle Schmidt was the accuser’s supervisor in the 82nd Airborne Division during an Afghanistan deployment in late 2011 and early 2012. She said the accuser was assigned to work closely with Sinclair temporarily, for two months, to help him connect with Afghan leaders early in the deployment.
The accuser was distraught that she had to work for Sinclair and wanted to be brought back to her primary job in military intelligence, Schmidt said. But Sinclair wouldn’t let her go despite her efforts to get away from him, and she continued working for him after the two months ended, Schmidt said.
Schmidt said she had to adjust her military intelligence staff to cover the captain’s duties.
Lt. Col. Ben Bigelow, who worked with Sinclair and the captain in Iraq and Germany had heard rumors of a relationship in spring 2009, but said Sinclair denied them. According to other testimony, the sexual relationship began in summer 2009.
In 2010, Bigelow said, at a going-away party and roast for Sinclair before his transfer to Fort Bragg, a skit about Sinclair and the captain offended people. A male soldier wearing a brown wig and woman’s clothing portrayed the captain kneeling in front of another soldier portraying Sinclair. The soldier dressed in women’s clothes made insinuations about performing a sexual act, Bigelow said.
About 600 people were in attendance, including Sinclair’s and Bigelow’s wives.
Audience members “had their mouths open and clearly in my observation were shocked, angered and dismayed” by what they saw, Bigelow said.
Sinclair has admitted to attempting to make a date with a lieutenant at Fort Bragg when he was on leave from Afghanistan.
The lieutenant testified that she had to cancel because of her work schedule, and regardless, “something didn’t seem right” about his desire to see her.
Looks like he was sentenced to a fine of $20K. That fits closely to what he would have received under nonjudicial punishment.