First female bomber pilot to request honorable discharge
MINOT, N.D. (AP) _ The nation’s first female B-52 pilot will ask to resign with an honorable discharge rather than face a court-martial on charges of adultery, her lawyer said Saturday.
1st Lt. Kelly Flinn, 26 and single, was due to be court-martialed Tuesday at Minot Air Force Base on charges of adultery and fraternization in connection with two affairs the Air Force says she had over the past year.
One was with an enlisted man who is single, the other with a married civilian. She also is charged with lying to investigators and disobeying an order to stay away from the married man.
Flinn’s lawyer, Frank Spinner, said he would submit her request to resign with an honorable discharge in lieu of a court-martial early next week. If convicted on all charges, she could face dismissal and up to 9 1/2 years in prison.
``She is a human being and she has feelings,″ Spinner said in a telephone interview. ``She sees her dreams coming to an end. She is not smiling, happy but she’s at peace with herself.″
A resignation in lieu of court-martial with an honorable discharge is highly unusual. In the last three years, there have been none, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Ron Lovis said.
Flinn was at the base but Spinner said she would not comment.
He said she wanted to spare her and the Air Force from the embarrassment on a trial. ``We think a trial would be just as embarrassing to the Air Force as it would be to Kelly,″ he said.
The Air Force had no immediate comment and was working on a response, Lovis said.
Capt. Mark Phillips, a spokesman at the Minot Air Force Base, said the judge in charge of the court-martial, Col. Dennis Kansala, had received Flinn’s request for a continuance on her case until June 2. Kansala hadn’t acted on it yet, Phillips said.
Flinn, a rising Air Force star who was featured in a promotional film, made the decision after ``lengthy and careful consultation″ with Spinner, her military lawyers and her family, Spinner said in a statement.
``If granted an honorable discharge, Lt. Flinn hopes to continue to serve her country through participation in the Air Force Reserves or National Guard, if subsequent approval is given by the Air Force,″ the statement said.
Flinn’s request will go through several chains of command before reaching Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall, although the commanders who will review it before Widnall can deny it. Spinner said he is confident it will reach Widnall.
Spinner said that in February, when the charges were filed, he thought Flinn had no chance of resigning with an honorable discharge. But he said a news report several days ago saying that Widnall would consider such a move motivated him to make the request.
``That was enough to tell us that it would be worth her while asking for an honorable discharge,″ Spinner said.
Flinn has said in interviews that Marc Zigo, the married man she was involved with, lied when he told her he was legally separated from his wife and had filed for divorce. Flinn has also said she initially lied to the Air Force about her affair, fearing an admission would destroy her career.
On Friday, an Air Force judge denied her request for the court-martial be moved to an Illinois base and that it be delayed until June 2.
Spinner said he and Flinn wanted the court-martial delayed because she wanted more time to consider resigning and he needed more time to prepare.