Apr 10

Crisis Management: Law and PR

As readers of this blog know by now, my colleagues and I were members of the defense team that represented U.S. Army Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair. Our client faced a rare court-martial of a general officer at Fort Bragg, NC for allegedly sexually assaulting a Captain with whom he had a three-year affair, as well as other conduct. He faced up to a life sentence in prison. On March 20, after the court found evidence of unlawful command influence and heard over 25 sentencing witnesses on behalf of the defense, a U.S. Army judge sentenced our client to a reprimand and a $20,000 fine.  This sentence was heralded by The New York Times as “a sweeping victory for the defense” and it was a vindication for General Sinclair, who suffered two years of public humiliation and vilification for offenses he did not commit.

The Sinclair case was high-profile. The charges against our client attracted major scrutiny from print, broadcast and social media outlets, presenting us with unique challenges to overcome even before we entered the case. With high-profile cases it has become increasingly common for parties, as well as their law firms and in-house counsel to engage public relations professionals, and the defense team’s approach was no different in Sinclair.  Our trial team was matched with PR professionals from the MWW Group, led by Josh Zeitz.

Josh and I were recently asked by Law360 to reflect on the Sinclair case and discuss the importance of the collaboration between law and public relations during crisis management.  The article reflects on the role a public relations campaign in a criminal proceeding and highlights the Sinclair case as an example.

Click here to view the full article.

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