Judge weighs new evidence in Army sex assault case

FILE - In this March 4, 2014 file photo, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair leaves the courthouse with his lawyers Richard Scheff (left) and Ellen C. Brotman (right) following a day of motions at Fort Bragg, N.C. Less than a month before Sinclair's trial on sexual assault charges, the lead prosecutor broke down in tears Tuesday as he told a superior he believed the primary accuser in the case had lied under oath. (AP Photo/The Fayetteville Observer, James Robinson)
FILE - In this March 4, 2014 file photo, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair leaves the courthouse with his lawyers Richard Scheff (left) and Ellen C. Brotman (right) following a day of motions at Fort Bragg, N.C. Less than a month before Sinclair's trial on sexual assault charges, the lead prosecutor broke down in tears Tuesday as he told a superior he believed the primary accuser in the case had lied under oath. (AP Photo/The Fayetteville Observer, James Robinson)

RALEIGH, North Carolina (AP) — The judge in the case against an Army general believed to be the highest-ranking U.S. military officer to be tried on sex assault charges began considering new evidence Monday that a top lawyer at the Pentagon may have unlawfully interfered in a decision on whether to accept a plea agreement that was ultimately rejected.

Attorneys for Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair presented the evidence, and Judge Col. James Pohl dismissed the jury for the day Monday morning. Pohl then retired to his chambers, where he will weigh the email chain between the prosecution team and a top Pentagon lawyer.

It is unlawful in the military justice system for senior commanders to interfere in prosecutorial decisions.

The case comes as the Pentagon is under increased scrutiny over revelations of rampant rape and sexual misconduct within the ranks.

Earlier last week, Sinclair pleaded guilty to three lesser charges involving adultery with the captain and improper relationships with two female Army officers.

In a motion filed in June as part of a pre-trial hearing, lawyers for Sinclair argued that top Pentagon brass were receiving regular updates last year on the investigation and may have encouraged subordinates to make an example of Sinclair.

Two of Sinclair’s commanders, Gen. Dan Allyn and Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Colt, testified at a hearing earlier that month that there was no such pressure. Both generals testified they relied solely on their best judgment in deciding to charge and prosecute Sinclair.

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