Hoping to draw on the congressional support his client enjoys, the lawyer for Air Force 1st Lt. Kelly Flinn said Sunday he will appeal the order under which the nation’s first female B-52 pilot agreed to leave the service to escape a court-martial on charges involving adultery, lying and disobedience.
Attorney Frank Spinner said on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press” that Flinn will seek to have her general discharge changed to an honorable discharge in an appeal to be filed after Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall, who decided the case, retires in the next few months.
The Air Force’s handling of the case against Flinn sparked criticism from Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and other lawmakers, who argued that the military is out of step with a more tolerant civilian world.
Although hundreds of men and women in the armed forces appeal general discharges, experts say Flinn could face an uphill battle in an appeal because she accepted Widnall’s decision voluntarily. Also, the expected departure of Widnall may not be legally significant because the Air Force secretary is not directly involved in handling such appeals.
Spinner also said Flinn has received phone calls concerning positions with some commercial airlines and may try to earn a living as a commercial pilot. He said she may also entertain a book or movie deal about her life.
Last Thursday, the Air Force announced that Flinn would be given a general discharge in lieu of a court-martial on charges stemming mainly from an admitted affair with the civilian husband of a female member of the service, lying during an official investigation into the affair and disobeying a direct order to stay away from the man.
Flinn originally vowed to face the court-marital unless she was granted an honorable discharge.
But her family said she decided to accept the general discharge after deciding the Air Force was determined to make an example of her.
A general discharge is ordinarily given when faithful service is marred by negative aspects of a person’s conduct or performance.