Air Force Rape Trial Halted

A military judge on Friday halted the trial of an officer accused of raping an Air Force Academy (search) cadet whose civilian rape counselor has refused to hand over records of their conversations.

But 1st Lt. Joseph Harding (search) will still be tried on a charge of indecent assault against another Academy cadet, said the judge, Col. David Brash, who did not elaborate on his ruling.

The indecent assault charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The rape charge carried a maximum life term.

Brash's ruling came in response to a defense motion to stop the trial. Defense attorney David Sheldon said access to the counselor's records were necessary for a fair trial.

"Obviously, we believe it was the correct ruling by a military judge," Sheldon said.

An attorney for Jessica Brakey (search), the woman in the rape case, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

Harding, a pilot trainee stationed at Columbus AFB, Miss., is accused of raping Brakey in 2000 and of committing the indecent assault in 1999. In that case, he is accused of trying to force a female cadet to touch his genitals.

The counselor, Jennifer Bier (search), has been threatened with arrest for refusing to hand over records of her sessions with Brakey. Bier's attorneys had said she would not give up the subpoenaed records, which she considers confidential, and that they would file an emergency appeal if she was arrested.

A provision of military law protects an accuser's communication with psychotherapists.

The judge's ruling came after a lengthy closed hearing that began Wednesday.