Quantcast

Wednesday, July 23, 2014         

 Print   Email   Comment | View 3 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

Army general to plead guilty to adultery; denies assault

By Michael Biesecker / Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 06:46 p.m. HST, Mar 05, 2014


RALEIGH, N.C. » A U.S. Army general accused of sexually assaulting a junior officer will admit guilt on three lesser charges but maintains his innocence on allegations that he forced her to perform oral sex, his lawyer said Wednesday night.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair is set to enter the plea Thursday morning before opening statements are scheduled for his court martial at Fort Bragg. The primary accuser in the case is a female captain who claims Sinclair twice ended arguments about their relationship by unzipping his pants and forcing her head into his lap.

The woman says her commander threatened to kill her family if she told anyone about their three-year affair, which continued after the alleged assaults.

Sinclair's lawyer Richard Scheff said the general will plead guilty to having improper relationships with two other female Army officers and to committing adultery with his mistress, which is a crime in the military. He will also admit violating orders by possessing pornography in Afghanistan and to conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman.

Sinclair, the former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne, faces life in prison if convicted of the remaining sexual assault charges.

Scheff said in an interview that his client is taking responsibility for his actions, but also strengthening his legal position headed into trial. The general had previously entered pleas of not guilty to all eight charges.

By admitting guilt on the three charges for which there is the strongest evidence, the married father of two narrows the focus of the upcoming trial to charges that rely heavily on the testimony and credibility of his former mistress.

"The government now has a big problem," Scheff said in an email. "It took pathetically weak assault charges and put a fancy wrapper around them. We just tore the wrapper off. The prosecution team no longer gets to distract us with salacious details about acts that aren't even criminal in the civilian world. All they're left with is a crime that never happened, a witness who committed perjury, and a pile of text messages and journal entries that disprove their claim."

The case against Sinclair, believed to be the most senior member of the U.S. military ever to face trial on sexual assault charges, comes as the Pentagon grapples with a troubling string of revelations involving rape and sexual misconduct within the ranks. Influential members of Congress are also pushing to remove decisions about the prosecution of sex crimes from the military chain of command.

The defense will present evidence at trial that the female captain lied under oath during a pretrial hearing in January about her handling of old iPhone containing messages between her and the general. Lawyers for Sinclair have painted the woman as a scorned lover who only reported the sexual assault allegations after the general refused to leave his wife.

The Associated Press generally does not identify those who say they were sexually assaulted.

The captain testified that on Dec. 9, shortly after what she described as a contentious meeting with prosecutors, she rediscovered an old iPhone stored in a box at her home that still contained saved text messages and voicemails from the general. After charging the phone, she testified she synced it with her computer to save photos before contacting her attorney.

However, a defense expert's examination suggested the captain powered up the device more than two weeks before the meeting with prosecutors. She also tried to make a call and performed a number of other operations.

Three additional experts verified those findings.

During a pretrial hearing on Thursday, a top Pentagon lawyer testified that the lead prosecutor assigned to the case for nearly two years, Lt. Col. William Helixon, had urged that the most serious charges against Sinclair be dropped after he became convinced the captain had lied to him about the cell phone. Helixon was overruled by his superiors and then removed from the case last month, after suffering what was described as a profound moral crisis that led to his being taken to a military hospital for a mental health evaluation.

The case now heads to trial with a new lead prosecutor, Lt. Col. Robert Stelle, who said in court this week he doesn't care what his predecessor thought about the weakness of the evidence.

It is highly unusual for an officer of flag rank to face criminal prosecution, with only a handful of cases in recent decades. Under military law, an officer can only be judged at trial by those of superior rank — ensuring that Sinclair's jury will be comprised of five major generals.







 Print   Email   Comment | View 3 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

COMMENTS
(3)
You must be subscribed to participate in discussions
By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. Because only subscribers are allowed to comment, we have your personal information and are able to contact you. If your comments are inappropriate, you may receive a warning, and if you persist with such comments you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email commentfeedback@staradvertiser.com.
Leave a comment

Please login to leave a comment.
HD36 wrote:
Yes but he risked his life to save us from terrorists. Doesn't that count for anything?
on March 5,2014 | 09:01PM
MexMe wrote:
He is far to senior to have risked his life but instead commanded soldiers who risked theirs. He let them down with this behavior and his focus was obviously on things other than the welfare of his troops. There is no excuse for this man's behavior. He has shamed the entire Officer Corps. He has taken steps to rectify his behavior by taking responsibilities for his actions. As for the female captain, she is also shameful. I find it hard to believe she felt he would kill her family. She is a military officer (and not a new one since she is a captain) and she knows better. If she didn't, then she has no business in uniform. As a former Army officer and a woman, I am offended by her stupidity.
on March 5,2014 | 10:45PM
glenn57377 wrote:
How much of a risk does a general take? Or will they let him take? Ask the enlisted grunt how much danger the general faced during day-to-day operations. NO MATTER what the general has done for the country in the past is far outweighed by his bringing disgrace to his service and rank. No one......even war heroes.......are above the law. He WAS a soldier. Now, he is an idiot.
on March 5,2014 | 10:37PM
IN OTHER NEWS
Breaking News