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Judge adds another hurdle in 2-year-old rape case

Aug. 29, 2014 - 01:54PM   |  
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A military judge has ordered the disclosure of email correspondence among top Air Force officials in a rape case that was already dismissed once, Stars and Stripes reported.

Lt. Col. Joshua Kastenberg said he would throw out the charges against Airman 1st Class Brandon Wright unless the emails are produced, the newspaper reported, citing Air Force officials who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the case.

Kastenberg ruled in favor of the defense in ordering the release of emails from the Air Force’s top attorney and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James to determine whether there was unlawful command influence that may have prejudiced the case, according to the report. The Air Force is appealing the ruling to the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in an email that Air Force appellate counsel are appealing a ruling “related to discovery matters.” She declined to discuss the nature of the appeal “to protect all parties to the litigation.”

The case dates to July 2012, when a fellow airman accused Wright of rape while they were stationed at Aviano Air Base, Italy, following a night of drinking and watching movies at the alleged victim’s apartment that month.

Now-retired Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin dismissed the charges at the recommendation of the investigating officer, who said there was not enough evidence to send the case to court-martial.

An Air Force attorney appointed to represent the alleged victim outlined a number of issues with the ruling. Franklin ignored a request to either meet with the alleged victim or allow her to send him a letter, Capt. Maribel Jarzabek, the special victims counselor told Air Force Times in January.

Jarzabek also said her client was mistreated during the first Article 32 hearing.

Franklin, then the Third Air Force commander, was already under fire for his February 2013 decision to overturn the sexual assault conviction of a fellow fighter pilot.

In light of the complaints, the Air Force took the unusual step of reinvestigating the case, transferring jurisdiction to Air Force District Washington commander Maj. Gen. Dunbar.

Over the objection of Wright’s defense, a second Article 32 hearing was held in January at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.

Dunbar ruled March 6 to send Wright to court-martial.

Wright, for his part, has maintained the sexual contact was consensual.

The Air Force appeals court may not rule on whether the emails should be released for at least three months, Stars and Stripes reported.

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