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Army general details affair as he enters guilty pleas

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair tells a military judge about extramarital affairs and other activities to which he pleads guilty. His court-martial on charges related to sexual assault may begin Friday.

March 06, 2014|By David Zucchino

Rebecca Sinclair has not attended the hearings, but has said in interviews that she supports her husband despite his infidelity. She has called him a good father who has been demonized by the Army.

Sinclair's lawyers contend that his accuser lied on the stand, saying she falsely accused him of sexual assault after discovering he was flirting with other women. They also accuse her of trying to avoid prosecution for adultery, a serious military crime.

The judge asked Sinclair whether it made any difference that the relationship began as a consensual affair, given that he was a senior commander and she was a junior officer subject to his orders.

"I'm still guilty of an inappropriate relationship," Sinclair replied.

Asked about his sexually explicit emails with the officer who said she loved him, Sinclair replied: "It's like that old story of what would your wife think if she saw that? It was too personal."

Sinclair admitted telling the first lieutenant that he was "smitten with her" and asking for a date. That, he said, was improper, and he apologized to her.

Sinclair told the judge he deleted the email account he used to communicate with the civilian woman, a friend since childhood, along with nude photos she had sent. He said he wanted to spare her embarrassment once he knew he was under investigation.

After the hearing at Ft. Bragg, Sinclair walked through a chilly mist to his car for the short drive home, past a bank of TV cameras. His chief lawyer, Richard Scheff, said Sinclair welcomed the opportunity to take responsibility for his actions.

The accuser, now 34, could testify as early as Friday, Scheff said. He said choosing whether to put Sinclair on the stand would be "a game-day decision."

The guilty pleas have deprived prosecutors of what the defense has characterized as salacious and prejudicial testimony about extramarital sex and pornography, Scheff said.

"What remains of this case really rests on the damaged and tattered credibility of an individual who has not been truthful," Scheff said. "Now we'll fight the accuser head-on."

The general has been waiting for months to own up to his actions, Scheff said. "He's comfortable. He's happy. He feels great."

david.zucchino@latimes.com

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