Local/State

US Army general facing sex charges back in court

Monday, March 25, 2013

A U.S. Army general was back in court Monday, facing allegations of sexual misconduct with women under his command.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair faces court martial in June on charges that include forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders and adultery. He has thus far deferred entering a plea.

Sinclair's civilian lawyers, Richard Scheff and Ellen Brotman, were also in attendance for Monday's hearing after Sinclair expressed concern that his military lawyers feared their careers would be harmed by defending him.

His lawyers filed a motion to get e-mail evidence from six different accounts -- two of Sinclair's accounts and four belonging to someone else -- thrown out on the basis that affidavits to obtain search warrants were botched by the government.

Last month, military judge Col. James Pohl asked Sinclair about an e-mail the general sent to the head of the Army's legal branch suggesting the three lawyers assigned to defend him feared retaliation.

Pohl denied an earlier motion from the defense to disqualify prosecutors over privileged emails erroneously sent to them by criminal investigators. The messages included exchanges between Sinclair and his lawyers, his wife and with a family friend who is an ordained minister.

The defense argued Monday that Sinclair had expectation of privacy when he sent e-mails, that Google e-mail accounts are not in the jurisdiction of the Virginia court issuing the warrants, because Google is a California company.

They also said the language in the affidavit suggested the threats were made recently -- in 2012 when statements were taken -- verse 2009.

A 27-year Army veteran, Sinclair faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious offenses. It's rare for an Army general to face court-martial. There have been only two cases in recent years.

More commanders have lost their posts over sex. Of the 18 generals and admirals, from one star to four stars, fired in recent years, 10 lost their jobs because of sex-related offenses.

At an evidentiary hearing for Sinclair in November, prosecutors presented testimony about his conduct with five women who were not his wife, including officers who served under his direct command. The charges involve activities when he was in Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany and at installations in the United States.

Sinclair was deputy commander in charge of logistics and support for the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan before being relieved in May during the criminal investigation. He has been on special assignment since then at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

The female captain at the heart of the case said she carried on a three-year sexual relationship with Sinclair, a father of two. Adultery is a crime under military law, and the admission could end her career.

She testified at the evidentiary hearing that she repeatedly tried to break off the affair with Sinclair, who she says threatened to kill her and her family if she told anyone about their frequent sexual liaisons in hotels, headquarters and war zones.

The woman said she usually wanted to have sex with the general, though she said that on two occasions he exposed himself and physically forced her to perform oral sex, even as she sobbed.

Two other female officers who served with Sinclair also testified that they had given the general nude photos at his request.

Sinclair is also accused of possessing alcohol in a war zone and disobeying orders. Maj. Gen. James Huggins, Sinclair's superior officer in Afghanistan, testified he ordered Sinclair to cease contact with the female captain after she reported the affair. Sinclair is alleged to have willfully disobeyed that order by then calling the woman's phone.

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(Copyright ©2014 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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