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The lead prosecutor in the sexual assault trial of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair — amid misgivings over the most serious charges — has abruptly left the case.
Lt. Col. William Helixon’s departure comes less than a month before Sinclair’s scheduled court martial and weeks after the prosecution’s lead witness found an iPhone with messages from Sinclair she had not previously disclosed.
Defense attorneys say Helixon believed Sinclair’s accuser, a 34-year-old captain, was not a credible witness and that he had made efforts to persuade his superiors to drop sexual assault charges.
After the New York Times first reported the story, the Army released a statement confirming Helixon has moved on, attributing the move to “personal reasons.” Army officials at Fort Bragg, N.C., declined to answer questions about the case or defense’s allegations.
“The prosecution team remains committed to the integrity of the Uniform Code of Military Justice process and will continue to pursue resolution of these charges,” said Maj. Crystal Boring, of the 18th Airborne Corps.
Helixon did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
Sinclair, 51, served as the deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, when the allegations surfaced and he was called back from Afghanistan.
Sinclair, a married father of two, has acknowledged that he and the female subordinate carried on a three-year affair.
However, prosecutors allege Sinclair also forced the woman to perform oral sex on him and have focused on the power differential in their relationship because of the difference in their ranks.
Defense attorneys argue the affectionate text message exchanges indicate the relationship was consensual and that hers were the allegations of a scorned lover.
The defense filed a formal request that the woman be investigated for perjury after she said under oath that she found an old phone Dec. 9 that contained texts and voicemails from Sinclair. A defense analyst claimed the phone had been accessed in November.
The court martial was rescheduled to begin March 3 so prosecutors and defense lawyers can complete further pre-trial discovery.
Sinclair has offered to plead guilty to conduct unbecoming of an officer and to adultery, which is punishable under military law, his lawyers told the New York Times. But they have pressed hard in negotiations against his serving prison time.