By STEVE BEYNON | STARS AND STRIPESPublished: February 6, 2020
WASHINGTON — An Army staff sergeant convicted for assault could get a new court-martial after the judge overseeing his case was discovered to have had an “intimate relationship” with the lead prosecutor’s wife, according to court documents.
The Army Court of Criminal Appeals, an eight-judge panel, unanimously ruled Army Lt. Col. Richard Henry, a married Fort Benning, Ga., military judge, was disqualified from the case because of his “personal and emotionally intimate relationship” with the wife of the judge advocate who was prosecuting Staff Sgt. Tony Springer, who was convicted on two counts of assault was in December 2017.
Springer was bumped down in rank to E4, which also impacts pay, and received a bad conduct discharge.
The appeals court found Henry’s relationship with the prosecutor’s wife, identified in court documents as “Mrs. KC,” made the appearance of impartiality impossible. The opinion does not say explicitly the relationship was sexual. However, since the two met in October 2016, they would text all hours of the night, do yoga together and frequently go out to eat. Henry would often allow Mrs. KC to use the courthouse deliberation room to study for her master’s degree, according to court documents.
“The only way to remedy…Henry’s failure to disqualify himself in this case is to set aside the findings and the sentence and authorize a rehearing,” the appeals court opinion states. “The texting would occur at all hours, to include well into the night after Capt. AC [the prosecutor] and Mrs. KC retired to bed,” court documents read.
In April 2018, Capt. AC confronted Mrs. KC and accused her of having an affair with Henry. She deleted all her text messages with Henry, claiming the messages contained information her husband should not know as an attorney practicing before Henry.
In the same month, Capt. AC reported the relationship to his change of command, which lead to the removal of Henry from the bench the same month.
The appeals court said Henry likely knew the relationship was inappropriate given his position as a military judge and he should have disclosed the “intimate” relationship with Ms. KC or recused himself from the case.