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 daylong hearing, a judge ruled Tuesday that the case should go to trial. Opening statements are set for Thursday.
Sinclair, the former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne, has pleaded not guilty to eight criminal charges. He faces life in prison if convicted of the sexual assault charges.
Among those called to the witness stand was Brig. Gen. Paul Wilson, a high-ranking military lawyer stationed at the Pentagon.
Wilson said another general sent him Feb. 8 to check on Helixon at a Washington hotel. He said he found Helixon appearing drunk and suicidal.
He was in the midst of a personal crisis. He was crying. He was illogical, Wilson testified. I truly believed if he could have stepped in front of a bus at the time, I think he would have.
Helixon, who was described as dealing with personal issues, wasn’t called to testify Tuesday.
To support its claim of political interference, the defense introduced a letter sent by the military lawyer for the accuser to Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, who would decide whether to accept Sinclair’s plea offer and drop the sexual assault charges.
The lawyer urged Anderson to reject the deal, suggesting that to do otherwise would have an adverse effect on my client and the Army’s fight against sexual assault.