Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair (Army)
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The judge in the sexual assault court-martial of Brig Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair has struck all but three potential jurors Thursday — two fewer than required to begin a trial — primarily for their connections to key witnesses in the case.
The judge, Col. James Pohl, dismissed nine generals in the latest panel of 12 potential jurors for a variety of reasons on the fourth day of the selection process.
The three remaining generals are due to be questioned by defense and prosecuting attorneys when jury selection continues Friday. Earlier this week 12 other jurors were dismissed for a number of reasons, but primarily for their intertwined command relationships with key witnesses and each other.
The complications highlight the difficulty of seating a jury to court-martial a one-star general, a rare move. By law, all the jurors must be senior in rank to the defendant, so the initial jury pool was made up of lieutenant and major generals. In the Army, only 230 general officers would have qualified.
Pohl on Thursday had the 12 potential jurors review a list of the 130 potential witnesses in the case to see whether the jurors knew any of them. Defense and prosecution lawyers may further question the three jurors who survived that process and may argue to eliminate them on other grounds.
The judge must seat a minimum of five jurors to proceed with the court-martial. With fewer than five potential jurors left to be considered, it is unclear how the Army will proceed.
Sinclair, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, faces trail Sept. 30. He is accused of forcing a captain with whom he had a three-year consensual affair to twice perform oral sex while she and Sinclair were deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. He is also charged with having inappropriate relationships, disobeying orders and other misconduct.
Sinclair faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Once this phase is complete, it is unclear whether the Army will seek jurors from other services if five panelists are not seated. Earlier in the week, Pohl asked prosecutor Lt. Col. Will Helixon if that was something the prosecution had considered — it had not — and the matter of going outside the Army to find unbiased jurors has not been mentioned in court since.
“I understand the do-loop this puts you in, but the standard is the same,” Pohl told Helixon on Wednesday.
Because so many jurors had been excluded earlier in the week for their connections to potential witnesses, the judge had the attorneys question new potential jurors Thursday about their connections to witnesses and to Sinclair, as well as their knowledge of the case.
Pohl had seated four jurors on Wednesday, but struck them Thursday, because they knew key witness Lt. Gen. James Huggins, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for operations, G-3/5/7. Huggins, as commander of the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan, initiated the investigation of Sinclair, who was then the 82nd deputy commander for support.
The following potential jurors were excluded Thursday.
■Maj. Gen. LaWarren V. Patterson, commander of the Army Signal Center of Excellence, was dismissed after he expressed a preconceived notion of the credibility of key government witnesses, some of whom he knew professionally.
■Maj. Gen. Bryan Watson, vice director of the Joint Staff J-7, Joint Force Development, after he described his professional relationship and perceptions of Sinclair.
■Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith, commander of the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., was dismissed after he described his professional relationships with key witnesses, including Huggins.
■Maj. Gen. Ole Knudson, an acquisition official at the Missile Defense Agency, was dismissed after he said he accidentally read an article about the jury selection in a local newspaper.
■Brig. Gen. Edward F. Dorman, a logistics official with the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, was dismissed after he discussed interactions with Sinclair in Afghanistan after Sinclair was charged in the case.
■Brig. Gen. Robin Mealer, director of the U.S. Army Manpower Analysis Agency, was dismissed because her professional familiarity with Huggins.
■Brig. Gen. John Charlton, head of Brigade Modernization Command, was dismissed because of a scheduling conflict. He plays a significant role in the Army’s upcoming Network Integration Exercise.
■Maj. Gen. Joseph DiSalvo, the commander of U.S. Army South, was dismissed after he discussed his professional connections with multiple witnesses, including Huggins.
■Brig. Gen. Sean Mulholland, commander of Special Operations Command South, was dismissed because he had scheduled surgery.
The following potential jurors were not excluded Thursday and are to be questioned further on Friday.
■Maj. Gen. Wharton, commander of Army Sustainment Command and Rock Island Arsenal, Ill.
■Brig. Gen. Ferdinand Irizarry, the Army Reserve Command deputy chief of staff for Operations.
■Brig. Gen. Henry Huntley, chief of Human Resources Command’s policy directorate.
The following four jurors seated Wednesday were struck Thursday primarily for connections to key witnesses.
■Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo, commandant of the U.S. Army War College.
■Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dowd, logistics operations director for the Defense Logistics Agency.
■Maj. Gen. Warren Phipps, commander of the First Army Division West at Fort Hood.
■Maj. Gen. Bradley May, the deputy commander for initial military training.
On Wednesday, Pohl struck four potential jurors at the request of the defense and over the objections of prosecutors:
■Lt. Gen. Mark Bowman, the top communications official, or J-6, at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was excluded because of his relationship with Huggins and because Bowman said his wife was sexually harassed by a fellow officer while Bowman was deployed, a scenario the defense argued was too similar to an aspect of the allegations against Sinclair.
■Lt. Gen. Patricia McQuistion, the deputy commander of Army Materiel Command, was excluded because she became emotional when discussing the alleged rape of a close relative and because she said she was predisposed to believe Huggins.
■Lt. Gen. Keith Walker, the director of Army Capabilities Integration Center, was excluded because he works closely with Huggins and sees him almost daily.
■Maj. Gen. Jefforey Smith was excluded because he has served three times with Huggins. Another reason was a because a close family member was allegedly sexually assaulted as a child, and the alleged perpetrator was never arrested.
The prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed Wednesday that these four should be excluded:
■James L. Terry, commander of Third Army/Army Central, was removed because he was involved with the Sinclair case last year in Afghanistan after Huggins initiated the investigation.
■Lt. Gen. David Halverson, chief of staff of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, was eliminated because of his duty relationships with other potential jurors.
■Maj. Gen. Michael X. Garrett, the commander of U.S. Army Alaska, was excluded because he was inflexible over sentencing in the case. He said Sinclair, if found guilty of the accusations, should receive the maximum sentence of life in prison.
■Maj. Gen. William Hix, deputy director and chief of staff of ARCIC, was excluded because he said that a sexual relationship between a general and a captain could not be completely consensual because of the flag officer’s power over the other officer.