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Judge: Evidence in MTI's court-martial illegal

Feb. 20, 2013 - 03:31PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 20, 2013 - 03:31PM  |  
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A bulk of the evidence in the case against the latest military training instructor to stand court-martial at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland was obtained illegally, a military judge ruled today, putting the entire case in jeopardy.

Tech. Sgt. Samuel A. Wicks is charged with having unprofessional relationships with three technical trainees, none of whom he became physically involved. Wicks is accused of sending inappropriate text messages to the three women, including a video of himself masturbating.

The government retrieved all of that evidence from Wick's stolen cellphone, said Lackland spokesman Brent Boller. Wick's ex-girlfriend, also an MTI, took the phone from an office at the basic training squadron and later handed it over to security forces. Security forces did not obtain a search warrant before viewing the data on the phone, which prosecutors then used to build their case.

Wick's defense argued the search of the phone without a warrant violated his reasonable expectation to privacy, Boller said. The judge, Col. Donald R. Eller Jr., agreed and suppressed the evidence.

When court reconvenes today at 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, prosecutors can ask Eller to reconsider. If he denies the request, they can appeal his ruling to the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals — or find evidence not derived from the cell phone, Boller said.

If all of that fails, the case against Wicks could be tossed out. It would then be up to his command to decide what to do next.

"There could be administrative actions taken," Boller said. "Those decisions ultimately will be in the hands of his command and the commanders."

In addition to the unprofessional relationship charges, Wicks is accused of committing an indecent act and obstruction of justice for allegedly asking one of the women to lie to investigators about their involvement.

He is the ninth MTI to stand trial in a basic training scandal that so far has led to accusations against 32 trainers. The Air Force has identified at least 62 victims or alleged victims.

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