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March 5, 2014

Prosecutor in Army sex case wanted charges dropped

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Less than a month before an Army general’s trial on sexual assault charges was set to begin, the lead prosecutor broke down in tears as he told a superior he believed the primary accuser in the case had lied under oath.

Lt. Col. William Helixon had urged that the most serious charges against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair be dropped because they rely solely on the woman’s accusation that he twice forced her to perform oral sex.

But those above the seasoned sex crimes prosecutor overrode him, rebuffing an offer from Sinclair to plead guilty to lesser charges.

Helixon was then pulled from the case, after superior officer took him to a military hospital for a mental health evaluation, according to testimony.

With the trial set to begin this week, Sinclair’s defense lawyers suggested in court Tuesday that top Pentagon officials had unlawfully ordered the case to go forward over concern for the political fallout that would result if the charges were dropped.

After a day-long hearing, a judge ruled Tuesday that the case should go to trial. Opening statements are set for Thursday.

The case against Sinclair, believed to be the most senior member of the U.S. military ever to face trial for sexual assault, comes as the Pentagon grapples with a troubling string of revelations involving rape and sexual misconduct within the ranks. Influential members of Congress are also pushing to remove decisions about the prosecution of sex crimes from the military chain of command.

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