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Army general to face court-martial on sexual misconduct charges

January 21, 2013|By David Zucchino
  • U.S. Army shows Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, who served five combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been charged with forcible sodomy, multiple counts of adultery and having inappropriate relationships with several female subordinates.
U.S. Army shows Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, who served five combat tours… (Associated Press / U.S.…)

In a rare case of an active-duty general charged with criminal offenses, a brigadier general at Ft. Bragg, N.C., is scheduled to face a court-martial Tuesday on charges of forcible sodomy, sexual misconduct and compelling female officers to perform sex acts.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, a veteran of five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, is accused of conducting improper sexual relationships with subordinate female officers and a civilian. Prosecutors say he forced a female captain to engage in sex and threatened to kill the officer and her family if she told anyone.

The general, who is married, is accused of having sex with women in his office in Afghanistan with the door open, on a plane, in a parking lot and on a hotel balcony. Prosecutors allege the acts took place in Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany and on bases in the United States.

At an evidence hearing at Ft. Bragg in November, the female captain testified that Sinclair used degrading language to describe other women.  When she challenged him, "he said he was a general and he could say whatever the [expletive] he wanted," she testified.

Sinclair, who was removed from command in Afghanistan in May, is also charged with possessing pornography and alcohol while deployed and using a government credit card for personal expenses.

The female captain testified that Sinclair twice forced her to perform oral sex. Asked by a prosecutor whether the general would have been able to tell that she did not want to participate, she replied, "Yes, I was crying."

Sinclair is charged with attempting to call the captain on her cellphone in Kuwait even after his commander ordered him to cease all contact with the woman, who came forward in March with allegations against the general.

Sinclair is also accused of directing a female major to send him nude photos of herself.

He was the 82nd Airborne Division’s deputy commander for logistics and support in Afghanistan before he was relieved of duty and sent back to division headquarters at Ft. Bragg.

The general is charged with 25 specific violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice between October 2007 and March 2012.

Though only two other generals have faced courts-martial in recent years, allegations of sexual misconduct against high-ranking commanders have become more common over the last eight years.

According to military statistics compiled by the Associated Press, 30% of commanders fired since 2005 lost their jobs because of sex-related offenses.  Of the 18 generals and admirals fired during that period, 10 were removed because of sex-related offenses, the AP found.  In all, 78 of the 255 commanders at the rank of lieutenant colonel and above who were fired were removed because of sex-related offenses. Twenty-seven others  were fired for alcohol- or drug-related violations.

Sinclair’s wife has come to his defense, saying the affair with the captain was consensual. 

"Hundreds of text messages and journal entries prove that it was a consensual relationship,’’ Rebecca Sinclair told the Fayetteville Observer in November. "It doesn’t make me happy to see that.... That’s painful for me to know. But the evidence speaks for itself.’’

In an opinion column in the Washington Post in November, she said the stress of multiple combat deployments had contributed to the sex scandals involving high-ranking military commanders. Among those ensnared was retired Gen. David Petraeus, who resigned as CIA director in November after an extramarital affair came to light.

"Nothing good can come of families being chronically separated for a decade or more," she wrote.

Sinclair said she and her husband, who have been married 27 years and have two children, moved 17 times and spent six of the last 11 years apart because of deployments.

Many military wives know of their husbands’ infidelities but stay silent, she wrote. 

"The options are bad or worse. Stay with an unfaithful husband and keep your family intact; or lose your husband, your family and the financial security that comes with a military salary, pension, healthcare and housing."

Rebecca Sinclair told CBS "This Morning’’ in November that she believed the military would drop the charges against her husband.

"They’re going to see this for what it is and they’re going to drop the charges," she said. "Then they’re going to let us go on with our lives."

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david.zucchino@latimes.com

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