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What Is An Article 32 Hearing?

Brigadier General Jeffery A. Sinclair was in Afghanistan earlier this year in support of the 82nd Airborne Division. Now he is back at Fort Bragg, awaiting an Article 32 hearing on charges of sex offenses, including forcible sodomy, engaging in inappropriate relationships and possession of pornography while deployed, among other crimes.

The Pentagon has denied the Associated Press' attempts to gain specifics on the charges against Sinclair. The AP's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was denied on grounds that release of the information could challenge the fairness of the military criminal proceedings Sinclair is facing.

The Article 32 hearing precedes an actual court martial. An investigating officer conducts the Article 32 hearing and may or may not be part of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps.

Military personnel accused of crimes that could result in a court martial have the right to waive the Article 32 hearing. Whether doing so is in your best interest is something that you should discuss with your criminal defense attorney. Unlike civilian preliminary hearings, Article 32 hearings are a good opportunity for a defendant to:

  • Learn about the case and evidence against him or her
  • Cross-examine any witnesses
  • Call witnesses in his or her own defense

The ability to cross examine the government's witnesses may be the single most important part of the Article 32 hearing for the defense. Challenging the credibility of the witnesses as well as commit the witnesses to specific testimony so that he or she cannot change their story down the road.

The possibility of facing a court martial should not be taken lightly be military personnel. It is also an opportunity to show the investigating officer why the charges should be dismissed and point out holes in the case against you.

Source: WRAL, "Hearing set for Bragg general charged with sex crimes," November 4, 2012

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