THE SALINA JOURNAL NATION THURSDAY, MAY 15, 1997 AH T MILITARY Air Force may duck court-martial of female pilot Negative publicity raised by court-martial on adultery, other charges By ELAINE SCIOLINO The New York Times WASHINGTON — Less than a week before the court-martial of the country's first female B-52 pilot on adultery and other charges, the secretary of the Air Force has told associates she would consider allowing the officer to resign with an honorable discharge, senior Air Force officials said Wednesday. Reeling from the negative public reaction to the prosecution of 26- year-old Second Lt. Kelly Flinn, the Air Force secretary, Dr. Sheila Wid- nall, is struggling to find a way to avoid what she anticipates will be the further spectacle of a high-profile court-martial, the officials said. Flinn, a million-dollar-plus Air Force investment who was handpicked to fly Widnall in a B-52 last year, would not have to plead guilty to any of the charges against her under Air Force procedures. Under normal Air Force rules, people facing court-martial are entitled to ask to be given the chance to. resign, a procedure known as resignation in lieu of court-martial. There is no guarantee that their requests would be granted, and they still might be required to plead guilty to some charge. In these cases, an honorable discharge is seldom granted. What makes Widnall's position particularly delicate is that under military rules, she cannot formally offer leniency to Flinn in exchange for avoiding a trial the way a prosecutor can in civilian life. Widnall is even prohibited from suggesting such an offer to officers in Flinn's chain of command. As the Air Force faces a barrage of criticism that it is unfairly punishing Flinn for committing crimes that it often overlooks, senior Air Force officials have concluded that the Air Force is in a no-win situation if the court-martial goes forward. "There is some concern the reputation of the Air Force is being unfairly tarnished," said one senior Air Force official. "Dr. Widnall would certainly consider the facts in this case, and if the RILO came she would most probably accept it. I can't necessarily say a discharge would be honorable, but she would certainly consider the ramifications of the range of discharges." It was not clear whether the Air Force was trying to send a signal to Flinn in order to encourage her to make a deal, the terms of which she would not know in advance. When asked if the Air Force was trying to use The New York Times as a conduit for such a message, the senior "There is some concern the reputation of the Air Force is being unfairly tarnished." senior Air Force official official said, "Absolutely not." Flinn is facing charges of adultery, fraternization, disobeying a direct order and making a false sworn statement. Even though she has admitted at least some of the charges on national television, she has questioned whether the crimes warrant a court-martial and has not yet entered a plea. Under military rules, only Flinn can initiate a request that she resign rather than face court-martial, but she has not done so. It is highly unusual for the Air Force to accept a resignation on charges like these with an honorable discharge, and anything other than that carries a stigma that could make it difficult if not impossible for Flinn to get security clearances in the U.S. government and certain jobs in civilian life. "From history, I know a lot of resignations haven't been accepted in cases like this, and even when they are, they are usually with an other-than-honorable condition," Flinn said in a brief telephone interview from Minot, N.D. "I don't think that is the right thing to do. That option always exists." The Air Force approved 10 out of 23 requests for resignation instead of courts-martial in 1994, 10 of 49 requests in 1995 and 1 of 38 in 1996. Over and over in recent weeks, Air Force officials have stressed — with mixed results — that what is important to remember about Flinn is that she broke a bond of trust by lying and disobeying, not that she had an affair with a married civilian. But there is some concern within the Air Force that the court- martial, which is scheduled to begin Tuesday at Minot Air Force Base, could expose other cases of adultery, fraternization or other crimes under military law that have not been prosecuted. In the past few days, the Air Force has received hundreds of letters and E-mail messages that are largely sympathetic to Flinn. One person even sent a Western Union telegram demanding that the Air Force end its persecution of her. Her case was featured Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes," debated Monday on Rush Limbaugh's radio talk show and Tuesday on "Crossfire." Her brother Donald Flinn appeared Wednesday on CNN to field questions from callers. Last Thursday, Widnall called in Rudy de Leon, the under secretary of the Air Force; Sheila Cheston, the Air Force's chief general counsel; Gen. Thomas Moorman, vice chief of staff of the Air Force; and Brig. Gen. Ronald Sconyers, the Air Force's chief public affairs officer, for a two-hour review of the criticism of the Air Force by the public and the media. T HARRY BLACKSTONE: 1934-1997 Magician recalled golden era By The Associated Press LOMA LINDA, Calif. — Magician Harry Blackstone, who carried the torch for an earlier era of magic that thrilled generations before TV, died Wednesday. He was 62. Blackstone died at Loma Linda University Medical Center, apparently from complications of pancreatic cancer, said San Bernardino County Deputy Coroner Carl Morrow. Blackstone was admitted to the hospital April 21. Magician Larry Wilson, who performed with Blackstone several times in the past 15 years, called him "the last living link to that dynasty before the days of television, when you'd save up your money to see some nationally touring magician performing who might show up in your town once a year." Though Blackstone was too young to have performed during that "golden age" of magic, he symbolized it, Wilson said. Blackstone's father, Harry Blackstone Sr., was a contemporary of Houdini and other magic stars. He died many years ago. His son carried on the legacy by performing his father's signature tricks. Now Accepting Applications for Enrollment for Summer Day Gamp Camp begins May 30 thru August 18 Boys & Girls - 1st thru 6th grade Monday thru Friday Call or Stop by The Salvation Army 913-823-3441 from 1 pm to 8 pm Monday thru Friday 1137 N. 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