A US Army staff sergeant who was previously convicted of assault will have his case revisited after it was discovered that the military judge overseeing his court-martial was carrying on an intimate affair with the wife of the lead prosecutor.
LTC Richard Henry of Fort Benning, GA, was “certainly disqualified” from the trial after the inappropriate relationship was uncovered, and the decision -made by the Army Court of Criminal Appeals- was unanimous.
“It is clear that a reasonable person might conclude the military judge was not impartial considering that he and the wife of the prosecuting attorney texted at all hours of the night, visited with each other in the courthouse and elsewhere, including during deliberations in the appellant’s case and were described as best friends,” the appeals court opinion read.
The case in question surrounds SSG Tony Springer, who was convicted by general court-martial at the end of 2017 for two counts of assault consummated by battery, resulting in his being redeuced to E4, confined to 90 days in the brig and a bad conduct discharge.
While the opinion does not specify whether or not the relationship between the judge and the prosecutor’s wife was a sexual one, it is noted that the texts exchanged between the two were secretive in nature and went “well into the night.”
The judge and his mistress then began attending yoga classes together, and soon, the prosecutor’s wife was using the Lt.Col’s deliberation room to “study” for her master’s degree, usually at night and on weekends.
Eventually, the prosecutor -an Army captain- grew suspicious and confronted his wife, who then deleted all the messages between her and the judge.
“Judicial misconduct with the spouse of a party to the case during trial erodes public confidence in the judiciary and the military justice system,” the court wrote in its opinion. “Here, beyond having ‘a personal and emotionally intimate’ relationship with Mrs. KC outside of the courtroom, Mrs. KC also spent over an hour privately with LTC Henry in his chambers during the panel’s deliberation on findings.”
According to the Army Times, the appeals court had no doubts about whether or not the relationship was improper.
“There is no question that having the prosecutor’s wife visit with the military judge in private while the panel was deliberating is a serious departure from the conduct expected of a military judge,” the opinion reads. “Accordingly, the only way to remedy LTC Henry’s failure to disqualify himself in this case is to set aside the findings and the sentence and authorize a rehearing.”
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