Air Force: 'no intention of granting honorable discharge'May 19, 1997
Web posted at: 11:42 p.m. EDT (0342 GMT)
MINOT, North Dakota (CNN) -- The Air Force said it will not grant an honorable discharge to the nation's first female B-52 pilot, whose court-martial trial on adultery charges was to begin Tuesday.
An attorney for 1st Lt. Kelly Flinn filed papers Monday asking the judge to delay the trial to give the Air Force more time to consider her request to resign with an honorable discharge. The Air Force base commander in Minot said he would review the request.
But a Pentagon source told CNN on Monday that Air Force Secretary Shelia Widnall "has no intention of granting an honorable discharge," adding an announcement was planned within days.
"It would set a precedent, not necessarily one we want to set," said one official. Air Force officials say they can find no previous case in which an officer facing court-martial was granted an honorable discharge.
Civilian attorney Frank Spinner told reporters earlier that the offer to resign was conditional.
"What that means is that Lt. Flinn has applied for resignation on the condition that the secretary approves an honorary discharge," Spinner said.
Flinn, 26, has said if she is not allowed to resign on those terms, she will go forward with the court-martial trial.
Spinner said it was not unusual for officers who have committed adultery to be given honorable discharges or to remain on active duty.
But Flinn also faces charges of lying to investigators and disobeying an order. She is also charged with having a brief relationship with an enlisted man. Both affairs, which violate military rules, took place in the past year.
Flinn said that the married man she had an affair with lied to her and told her he was legally separated from his wife and had filed for divorce.
Air Force officials say efforts to handle the misconduct quietly at the small North Dakota bomber base were stymied when Flinn lied about her affair, then disobeyed an order to stay away from her lover.
"I think it's brought the Air Force, to a certain extent, into disrepute," said Sen. Slade Gorton, a Washington state Republican. "It should have been handled less formally, and we shouldn't be talking about the ruination of a career."
There were 67 cases in the Air Force last year that included adultery charges, 60 men and 7 women. In all but one, the courts-martial included other serious charges.
"Usually when you see a case brought to trial for adultery, there's something else at work, and in this case I would have to say it is probably the disobedience and the false statement that are driving the train," said Eugene Fidell with the National Institute of Military Justice.
If the case goes to trial, Flinn's lawyers will have to explain a statement she made in a televised interview that she ignored orders to evict her illicit lover from her home because she wanted to salvage their relationship.
"She had a choice. She could either salvage her career as an officer or her relationship, and she chose her relationship," said retired Army Col. Richard Black.
Conviction of adultery in a military trial is punishable by penalties ranging up to dishonorable discharge and possible fines and imprisonment. Critics have argued that Flinn's case highlights a double standard in the way the U.S. Armed Forces treats the issue of adultery among its male and female staff.
Correspondents Jamie McIntyre and Jeff Flock contributed to this report.
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