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Airman's rape trial halted amid dispute with counselor

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- A military judge yesterday halted the trial of an officer accused of raping an Air Force Academy cadet whose civilian rape counselor has refused to hand over records of their conversations.

But First Lieutenant Joseph Harding will still be tried on a charge of indecent assault against another academy cadet, said the judge, Colonel David Brash.

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

Brash's ruling came in response to a defense motion.

Defense lawyer David Sheldon said access to the counselor's records was necessary for a fair trial.

The decision to halt the trial, known as ''abatement," does not dismiss the charge. It puts the proceedings into a holding pattern that could be reversed if Bier provides the subpoenaed records.

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