The Pentagon halted the adultery trial of the country’s first female bomber pilot before it could begin Tuesday to give Air Force Secretary Sheila E. Widnall more time to decide whether to give Lt. Kelly Flinn an honorable discharge instead.
Word of the indefinite delay came after a day of legal maneuvering that left Flinn’s elderly parents sitting in an empty courtroom and sympathetic strangers sending bouquets of flowers to the 26-year-old officer.
Even as the case was put on hold in this remote prairie outpost, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., waded into the issue in Washington, telling reporters on the steps of the White House, “I think she is being badly abused.”
Lott vowed to take Flinn’s cause up with Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen unless “it’s going to be worked out.”
After Lott spoke, a senior Defense Department official commented, “It’s a political football now.”
Flinn, who is single, faces up to 9-1/2 years in prison if she is convicted of sleeping with a married civilian and related charges.
In a publicity campaign in recent weeks, Flinn has portrayed herself as the victim of an unstable con man who proposed marriage and then betrayed her.
Widnall’s decision, whatever it is, is not likely to put an end to the controversy. Many civilians and military service members believe the Air Force has gone too far in prosecuting her, but top leaders steadfastly defend their criminal code, which makes adultery illegal.
Meanwhile, Flinn’s ex-lover, civilian Marc Zigo, broke his public silence Tuesday for the first time by calling into CNN’s “Talk Back Live” show to say he was in Minot and prepared to testify voluntarily against Flinn.
“My intentions are not to ruin her reputation,” Zigo said. “My intentions are to tell the truth, which I did and she did not.”
Zigo dodged audience questions about whether he misled Flinn but said, “I’m not proud of what I did. It was wrong. … I’m not about to throw mud at her.”
There was no indication when Widnall might rule on Flinn’s request to resign.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: LT. FLINN REPORTEDLY A HOT MEDIA PROPERTY Washington Post Lt. Kelly Flinn, the B-52 pilot who is facing court martial for adultery and lying, is getting “tons of inquiries from all across the publishing and movie fields,” her brother, Don Flinn, said Tuesday. That includes, sources say, an in quiry from New York Times reporter Elaine Sciolino. Sciolino, who has been covering the case for the Times while discussing book deals with the Flinn family, became agitated when questioned by Washington Post reporter David Streitfeld. She then refused to be interviewed. The first response of Times’ Washington Editor Andrew Rosenthal to a reporter’s call was, “Do I get a cut?” Then he called back to say: “She’s not negotiating a book contract. I think you’re writing an unfair article about an honest reporter and it’s pretty loathsome.” Don Flinn, meanwhile, said that if Wylie had a deal, it was news to him. The family’s position: “We’re not entertaining any offers from anyone until this is over.”