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Army general fined, reprimanded in sex case

Army General Fined and Reprimanded in Sex Case


FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) -- An army general avoided jail time and was reprimanded and fined a total of $20,000 for inappropriate relationships with three subordinates in a closely watched court case.

Sinclair smiled and hugged his two lawyers in the courtroom Thursday morning after the sentencing.

Sinclair had been accused of sexual assault during his affair with one subordinate, but the charges were dropped as part of a plea deal. He pleaded guilty to several charges including adultery - a crime in the military.

His case comes as the military works to curb sexual misconduct in its ranks and Congress considers military justice reforms aimed at helping assault victims.

The case against Sinclair was harmed in recent weeks over questions about the primary accuser's credibility and military officials' handling of a previous plea deal.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

An Army general who admitted breaking military law during improper relationships with three subordinates was expected to learn his punishment Thursday, two years after his primary accuser first came forward.

In closing arguments, prosecutors argued that Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair should be thrown out of the Army and lose his military benefits, while the defense said that would harm his innocent wife and children the most. The two sides also offered contrasting arguments about the seriousness of the misdeeds that felled the former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne.

"It's not just one mistake. Not just one lapse in judgment. It was repeated," said prosecutor Maj. Rebecca DiMuro. "They are not mistakes. We are not in the court of criminal mistakes. These are crimes."

The defense had called a host of character witnesses this week to laud Sinclair as a selfless leader in hopes of getting a lenient punishment.

After both sides finished, Judge Col. James Pohl adjourned the hearing until Thursday morning. Sinclair's sentencing comes as the military and Congress grapple with sex crimes in the ranks.

Prosecutors did not ask the judge to send Sinclair to jail, even though the maximum penalty he faces on the charges to which he pleaded guilty is more than 20 years.

The sentence can't exceed terms in a sealed agreement between defense lawyers and military attorneys. The judge will make his own decision before unsealing the document, and Sinclair will receive whichever is the more lenient punishment.

The judge could dismiss Sinclair from the Army, which would likely wipe out his Veterans Administration health care and military retirement benefits. If the judge allows Sinclair to retire from the military instead, a board of Army officers would decide whether to reduce his rank - which could also cost him dearly in benefits.

The general admitted he mistreated a captain under his command during a three-year affair and had improper relationships with two other women. He also pleaded guilty to adultery - a crime in the military - as well as using his government-issued credit card to pay for trips to see his mistress and other conduct unbecoming an officer.

The 51-year-old general had been accused of twice forcing the female captain to perform oral sex during the three-year affair, but the sexual assault charges were dropped as part of the plea deal.

The Army's case against Sinclair started to crumble as questions arose about his primary accuser's credibility and whether military officials improperly rejected a previous plea deal because of political concerns.

A military lawyer representing Sinclair argued that his wife, Rebecca, had made a significant investment in the Army herself by holding leadership positions in organizations that helped soldiers' families. Maj. Sean Foster said Rebecca Sinclair and the couple's two sons would be hurt the most if the general lost benefits.

"These three are the only truly innocent people in this case," he said.

Even if Sinclair were allowed to retire and be demoted by two ranks, the defense calculated that he would still lose $831,000 in retirement benefits by age 82. And no matter what, Sinclair will be paying a hefty price with his lost career and ruined reputation.

"That is a life sentence in itself," Foster said.

Sinclair broke down in tears multiple times during Wednesday's hearing.

When a letter from his wife was read aloud, Sinclair buried his head in his hands, appeared to cry and dabbed his eyes with two tissues.

In the letter, Rebecca Sinclair says she hasn't fully forgiven her husband but doesn't want the Army to punish him and his family further with a significant reduction to his pension and other benefits.

"Believe me when I tell you that the public humiliation and vilification he has endured are nothing compared to the private suffering and guilt that he lives with every day," writes Rebecca Sinclair, who hasn't attended her husband's hearings.

Jeffrey Sinclair broke down at several points as he read a statement to the judge, pausing to collect himself. He apologized to his family and the women with whom he admitted inappropriate relationships.

"I've been frustrated and angry, but I don't have to look any further than the mirror for someone to blame," he said, noting the hearing came exactly two years after the captain came forward with allegations on March 19, 2012.

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eaglephoenix2 March 20 2014 at 3:23 PM

I'm surprised he's only 51 - he looks like he's in his 70's

Flag Reply +2 rate up
aabmhbetty March 20 2014 at 2:52 PM

That's it? No wonder they can't control or eliminate sexual harassment in our services. This is in no way a just punishment if the story is true. When I read the original story the one girl gave it sounded like consensual to me. He was still in the wrong, he is a married man. But something not right about this

Flag Reply +5 rate up
Larry March 20 2014 at 2:50 PM

This is a gross miscarriage of justice, and a case of flag officers taking care of one of their own. I personally know of other officers who had voluntary affairs out of marriage with enlisted members, who were forced to retire. Here we have someone who used used threats and coersion of a junior officer and he is fined $20k? Total Bullshit. Maybe Congress has it right for once, and we need to remove sexual abuse cases from under the military justice system.
It is very embarassing to 99% of the honorable military officers that our current crop of flag officers, regardless of military branch, refuse to stand up for what is right - whether in sexual abuse, religious freedom or military benefits.
Today, they are politicians and have abdicated whatever premise that they are "Leaders".

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1 reply
moose Larry March 20 2014 at 2:54 PM

I suspect the prosecutors and the judge are men. The military says this is an example of them cracking down on sexual abuse in the military....YEAH RIGHT. A true miscarriage of justice. No wonder people are arming themselves with weapons taking matters into their own hands. This crooked and twisted justice system is not doing the jobs they are being paid to do. What a joke.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
francescasellsre March 20 2014 at 2:49 PM

fixed>>> disgraceful in every way>>

Flag Reply +3 rate up
sgtlrw March 20 2014 at 2:49 PM

The lower findings of this court show that the system within the Military has gone to the below any thing that I thought that is could become. This person used this rank to force things to be done by others within his command that are beyond any thing that should thave been allowed. We excuted German personnel for this kind of behavior after WW 2. This man has made me ashamed to have served 20 years in the U.S. Army.

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shipwright1 March 20 2014 at 2:49 PM

RHIP If this were an enlisted man the punishment would be much more severe. So if you are a member of the O club you get a slap and a pass.

Yep! This is BOVINE SCAT!!!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
avis shipwright1 March 20 2014 at 3:06 PM

amen, you are so correct!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
VIPRLARES March 20 2014 at 2:48 PM

He needs be reduce in rank to really feel the pain.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
POPPY BARRY March 20 2014 at 2:48 PM

rank although proven guilty has its prividges.another soldier of lower rank ie nco wold go to jail

Flag Reply +2 rate up
wxsonwxoff March 20 2014 at 2:47 PM

he should lose his benefits The women should sue The judge should lose his job for the plea deal I hope thwe women sue

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Cookie March 20 2014 at 2:46 PM

I say even his wife does not care about his crimes he admitted to committing only pleaded that he does not lose his pension. Yes it has cost her some shame but she's still with him. What a shame! This said alot about her personality. Poor children I can only imagine how they are being bullied in school. Money does talk. As a leader in the military a institution in which I spent twenty four years of my life in, he has Command responsibility to lead from the front. Soldiers under his Commander I am sure have lost their careers for much less and he gets a plea bargain. I say do the crime and do the time. Especially if you are big and bad enough to even admit you it in front of the accusers face! How rude and disrespectful General!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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