Political News

Bragg general's trial a mix of sex, lies, power

Posted March 7

— With the Pentagon under increased scrutiny over revelations of rampant rape and sexual misconduct within the ranks, a rare court-martial of an Army general – believed to be the most senior member of the U.S. military to face trial on sex assault charges, began Friday at Fort Bragg.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, 51, a former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, is accused of sexually assaulting a captain under his command with whom he had a three-year affair. He pleaded guilty Thursday to adultery, which is a crime in the military, and to asking two other junior officers and a civilian woman to send him nude photos of themselves.

In his opening statement, Lt. Col. Robert Stelle, the lead prosecutor in the case, described aspects of the affair in graphic detail for the panel of generals determining Sinclair's fate. The captain and Sinclair had sex on a hotel balcony and in a car in a public parking lot, among other places, and he twice forced her to perform oral sex.

The captain, who was the first witness called, tearfully told jurors how a professional relationship with Sinclair in 2008 evolved into a nightmarish, adulterous relationship that she couldn't escape.

Stelle called the affair a case of power, rank and command authority, noting that Sinclair used his position to threaten the captain to keep their relationship secret and to stop her from breaking it off,

"If you ever tell anyone about this, I'll kill you and everyone in your family in a way that no one will ever know," Stelle said Sinclair told his mistress.

On another occasion, he reportedly told her, "You belong to me."

Prosecutors plan to ask the captain to take the stand later Friday.

Defense attorney Ellen Brotman said jurors don't have to hear from the captain directly because a journal she kept during the affair shows that it was a consensual relationship and that she never feared for her career or her safety.

Brotman read excepts of the journal during her opening statement, with early entries sounding like a love-struck teen and later ones describing the ups and downs of an on-again, off-again affair.

"My biggest fear is that there is something still there in his marriage," read one of the later entries.

"The documents show – all her words show – that she was in love with him," Brotman said outside of the courtroom. "When she's angry with him, it's because she's jealous about his marriage, and when she's unhappy, it's because she thinks the relationship isn't going where she wants it to go."

The captain disclosed the affair only after finding emails to Sinclair from another woman in early 2012, Brotman said, and she made up a story about being coerced into the relationship to avoid being charged herself with adultery.

Sinclair's guilty pleas to adultery, possession of pornography while deployed in Afghanistan and conduct unbecoming an officer narrow the scope of his court-martial, and defense attorneys say it strengthens their case at trial.

Prosecutors might not be able to use some of the salacious evidence against Sinclair, and more weight will be given to the captain's testimony and credibility as the jury weighs the more serious charges against the general.

Defense attorney Richard Scheff called the captain a liar and a perjurer on Friday. "LTC Stelle read you fiction. We showed you fact," Scheff said in a statement.

Sinclair's defense contends that the captain perjured herself in a January pre-trial hearing and that the former prosecutor was so torn up over it and its impact on the government's case that he withdrew from the trial on moral reasons.

Defense lawyers have portrayed Sinclair as the victim of an overzealous military under intense political pressure to halt sexual misconduct in the ranks that it intends to make an example of him.

Sinclair faces up to 15 years in military prison on the charges he pleaded guilty to, but if convicted of sexual assault, he could receive a life sentence.

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  • rushbot Mar 7, 5:40 p.m.

    Were ALL of the "victims" of the general in the armed service? Did any of them as a result of... View More

    — Posted by sandim50

    all that matters here is did a general officer of the united states military commit acts in violation of the ucmj..he is on trial..not those with whom he had relations...he was given much power...and with that power came responsibility to be better than all those in his command....period.....

  • sandim50 Mar 7, 4:45 p.m.

    Were ALL of the "victims" of the general in the armed service? Did any of them as a result of their affairs rise in rank? I also feel that these woman are also guilty of adultery knowlingly having an affair with a married man

  • rushbot Mar 7, 4:22 p.m.

    One person gets raped and then they all come out of the closet. Look I do not know if he did... View More

    — Posted by barbstillkickin

    he is charged with violation of the uniformed code of military justice... ...i looked up his awards and decs and saw none denoting valor....he got his rank by competence and by being a political animal...there are no better politicians than those promoted to the rank of general officer in the military....sorry that you still do not believe obama was born in the united states... ...to that, all i can say is wowsers!!!

  • rushbot Mar 7, 4:16 p.m.

    Barb -yes, he did get up that high behaving like this. He's already admitted to most of it. My... View More

    — Posted by JAT

    he is on trial for violation of the ucmj...a general officer does not become a general officer without having familiarity with such proscribed behavior...he took advantage of his rank and power....

  • rushbot Mar 7, 4:12 p.m.

    i hope if found guilty, he is reduced in rank to e-1 and serves at least a year...

  • JAT Mar 7, 2:29 p.m.

    And Adultery is enough to strip him of all rank down to a private. That's what they'd do to an enlisted man.

  • JAT Mar 7, 2:28 p.m.

    Barb -yes, he did get up that high behaving like this. He's already admitted to most of it. My only issue is that the "mistress" didn't care until he started seeing a 2nd mistress - remember, if he does it with you, he'll do it to you. She thought she was so special and didn't have an issue with him cheating on his wife, but cheat on HER and it's a whole other issue.

  • barbstillkickin Mar 7, 2:16 p.m.

    One person gets raped and then they all come out of the closet. Look I do not know if he did this or not but we do know she lied. Did we not learn anything from the trial of the Durham Lacrosse team for gosh sakes. Innocent until proven guilty. This man did not get this high up in the service of OUR country by this kind of action. We need to protect our heroes not persecute them. You can sure tell who the resident is and who is followers are. No need to Obama to show he is an American but lets persecute a true American hero.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Mar 7, 2:01 p.m.

    @carolinaprincess62 .. as you say, but this is a military trial and he admits to adultery which... View More

    — Posted by kenshi

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    At least three other women have testified to a certain amount of "force" from this guy...perhaps not physical exactly, but that they were strongly coerced into having sex with him. Based on their testimony as well, I don't have trouble believing he often cajoled them in some way.

    And I also believe these 3-4 women weren't the only ones. Remember - where there's smoke, there's often fire. I believe there are very probably more throughout his long military career who aren't coming forward for a variety of reasons from shame to fear to just not wanting to see their dirty laundry aired throughout the country.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Mar 7, 1:57 p.m.

    i can't help but believe the women involved didn't think it would further their careers by being... View More

    — Posted by PDMARTIN

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    Irrelevant since they also may have thought it would hurt their careers if they didn't cater to him.

    And they weren't his leader, he was theirs and should have led them in an honorable way, even if they offered him otherwise.

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