-- A military judge Friday halted the rape trial of an officer accused of assaulting an Air Force Academy classmate after the accuser's civilian rape counselor refused to relinquish records of their conversations.
The officer, 1st Lt. Joseph Harding, will still stand trial on a separate charge of committing indecent assault against another cadet, said the judge, Col. David Brash, who did not elaborate on his ruling.
Brash's ruling came in response to a defense motion to stop the trial. Harding's attorneys had argued that access to rape counselor Jennifer Bier's records is necessary for a fair trial.
"Obviously, we believe it was the correct ruling by a military judge," defense lawyer David Sheldon said.
Joseph Madonia, an attorney for alleged victim Jennifer Brakey, called the ruling "a travesty" and said it was "a dark day in the two-year fight to see justice done instead of mere lip service by the Air Force that they're concerned about the problem of rape."
Harding, a pilot trainee stationed at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi, is accused of raping Brakey in 2000 and assaulting the other cadet in 1999. Brakey, who has spoken publicly about the allegations, was among dozens of female cadets who said they were ignored or punished after telling military superiors they had been sexually assaulted.
Their accounts ignited a scandal in 2003 that led to several investigations and the ouster of top commanders at the school in Colorado Springs.
Bier has been threatened with arrest for refusing to hand over the records. Her attorneys said that she will not give up the records, which she considers confidential, and that they will file an emergency appeal if she is arrested.