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Judge in general's trial to decide whether to show porn in court

Crime, Law and JusticeJustice System

FT. BRAGG, N.C. – A military judge spent his lunch break Wednesday reviewing a trove of pornography as he decides whether to allow prosecutors to show the images in court during the sexual assault trial of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair.

The judge, Col. James L. Pohl, said he would rule later Wednesday on whether to allow prosecutors to show up to 125 pornographic images and 50 videos during their opening statements, scheduled for Thursday.

Sinclair, 51, a one-star general, is also charged with possessing pornography in a war zone while serving as deputy commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Prosecutors say they recovered 8,500 pornographic images and 600 videos in the case. They proposed showing a "reasonable sampling" in order to verify to the panel that the images are indeed the explicit pornography banned in war zones.

Sinclair’s lawyers argued Wednesday that showing the images to a military panel of five two-star generals, seated earlier in the day, is unfair to the defendant.

The pornography "has such high emotional shock content . . . that there is actually risk of a mistrial," defense attorney Ellen Brotman told the judge. She said showing the images would be "inflammatory and prejudicial"– and could present "a danger of spillover prejudice on other charges."

“Yesterday we saw the extreme lengths to which the government will go to slash, burn and trample over anyone who calls out the weakness of their case. They tossed a respected prosecutor under the bus for doing the right thing. Now they want to turn the courtroom into a pornographic theater to prejudice the members of the panel,” lead defense attorney Richard Scheff said in a statement outside of court.

Sinclair, a decorated 27-year veteran, is charged with sexual assault, sodomy, adultery and conduct unbecoming an officer and faces a possible life sentence if convicted on all charges. A female Army captain, 34, has accused Sinclair of forcing her to perform oral sex after their three-year affair soured, and threatening to kill her and her family if she revealed the affair.

The judge on Tuesday denied a defense motion to drop the charges because of alleged Army "unlawful command influence.’’

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