Political News

Bragg general to be sentenced Thursday in sex case

Posted March 19, 2014 3:59 p.m. EDT
Updated March 19, 2014 6:53 p.m. EDT

— A Fort Bragg general apologized in court Wednesday for his inappropriate relationships with women under his command and asked for a lenient sentence. He's expected to learn his fate Thursday morning.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, a former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, became emotional as he read a statement in his sentencing hearing, which he noted was exactly two years after a female captain first accused him of forcing her to perform oral sex on him.

As part of a plea deal reached with the government, the sexual assault charges were dropped against Sinclair. He pleaded guilty to mistreating her and to having improper relationships with two other women, as well as to adultery, which is a crime in the military, misusing his government-issued credit card and other conduct unbecoming an officer.

"I have squandered a fortune of life’s blessings, blessings of family, work and friendship," Sinclair said. "I don’t have to look any further than the mirror for
someone to blame. I put myself and the Army in this position with my selfish, self-destructive and hurtful acts."

He asked Col. James Pohl, the military judge overseeing the case, to allow him to retire at a reduced rank, so as not to punish his family by depriving him of the pension benefits he accrued during his 27-year career.

Prosecutor Maj. Rebecca DiMuro called for Sinclair, 51, to be dismissed from the Army, saying he abused his rank by engaging in a three-year affair and promising to help the careers of female officers who sent him nude photos of themselves.

"His actions not only hurt him, it hurts all officers in command," DiMuro said in her closing argument.

Sinclair's defense team paraded witnesses into the Fort Bragg courtroom Tuesday and Wednesday who called the general an inspirational leader, and his attorneys asked Pohl to consider Sinclair’s honorable actions during the majority of his Army career and that his wife and two sons have already endured punishment that will last a lifetime.

Much of the defense testimony during the three-day hearing could be banned from future military trials under legislation being considered in Congress. To better protect alleged victims within the ranks, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved legislation last week to ban the "good-soldier defense" in order to ensure that a defendant's fate is determined solely by evidence.

"For Gen. Sinclair to have to serve a day in jail would be a travesty," lead defense attorney Richard Scheff said outside the courtroom. "It would be outrageous. He ought to walk out of this courtroom. He ought to be permitted to retire. He ought to be with his family and deal with the reputational harm that has been unfairly and inappropriately caused to him and his family for the rest of his life.”

The defense has characterized the female captain as a liar who concocted the sex assault allegations only after she found intimate emails to Sinclair from another woman.

Questions about whether she perjured herself during a pre-trial hearing damaged the Army's case against Sinclair. The case was further thrown into jeopardy last week when Pohl said the military may have improperly pressed ahead with the trial to send a message about its determination to curb sexual misconduct in the ranks. Under the military code of justice, the decision was supposed to be decided solely on the evidence, not its broader political implications.

Along with the plea deal, Sinclair reached a sealed sentencing agreement with Fort Bragg commanders. Once Pohl hands down his sentence, the agreement will be announced, and the general will receive the lesser of the two punishments. The maximum penalty on the charges he pleaded guilty to is 21½ years in prison and dismissal from the Army.