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Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair defers plea at court-martial

January 22, 2013|By David Zucchino
  • Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair (U.S. Army / Associated Press…)

FORT BRAGG N.C. -- Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, a veteran of five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, deferred entering a plea to criminal charges including sexual misconduct at his court-martial Tuesday.

In a rare case of an active-duty general charged with criminal offenses, Sinclair decided not to enter a plea at his arraignment hearing. After he deferred the plea, the defense moved to sanction prosecutors for having privileged e-mails.

The general is accused of 25 specific violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice between October 2007 and March 2012. Among the charges are forcible sodomy, sexual misconduct and violating orders. If convicted of the most serious charges, Sinclair faces life in prison.

Sinclair, who was removed from command in Afghanistan in May, 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 that 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.

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's wife has come to his defense, saying the incident with the captain was consensual.

Sinclair 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.

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

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.

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