World and Nation

Sexual misconduct case ends with no jail time for general

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Bringing an end to a closely watched military sexual misconduct trial, a judge on Thursday reprimanded Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair for, among other offenses, mistreating an Army captain who was his mistress, but did not sentence him to jail time and allowed him to remain in the military.

Sinclair was also ordered to forfeit $5,000 a month in pay for four months, but will be allowed to keep his pension and other benefits.

The decision by the judge, Col. James L. Pohl, was a sweeping victory for the defense: A plea agreement reached by Sinclair’s lawyers and military prosecutors this week called for capping prison time at 18 months and did not ensure that he could keep his pension.

It was also a stinging defeat for the Army, whose case started coming apart after prosecutors concluded that the captain might have lied at a January pretrial hearing. The case then collapsed last week when Pohl found that political considerations might have improperly influenced the prosecution.

As a result of that finding, defense lawyers and prosecutors reached an agreement this week in which Sinclair pleaded guilty to lesser offenses in exchange for dismissal of much more serious sexual assault charges, which could have carried a life sentence if proved. In addition to admitting to mistreating the captain, Sinclair pleaded guilty to adultery, soliciting explicit pictures from female officers, disobeying a commander, possessing pornography in a combat zone and misusing his government credit card.

Sinclair, 51, hugged his lawyers after the sentencing. Though clearly elated, he said little as he left the courthouse, describing the last two years as “a very difficult time for me and my family.”

“The system worked,” he said, adding that he was going to go “hug my kids and see my wife.”

Jamie Barnett, a lawyer for the captain, condemned the sentence as “a travesty” and likened it to “getting sent to the principal’s office for a stern talking to.”

“Now the Army has to face the reality that this is likely to happen again, and victims will be less likely to come forward,” he said.

The sentence, indeed the case, set off a sharp debate, including in the military, over whether the Pentagon needs to revamp the way it prosecutes sexual assault and other serious crimes, as many lawmakers contend. “This is another sordid example of how truly broken the military justice system is,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said in a statement.

2 Comments
1
TJ almost 4 years ago

The sentence was a disgrace, it was another way of saying that women are second class citizens. An officer of high rank in the military must be held accountable for his actions. I wonder if the judge had been a female perhaps justice would have been served. It seems to still be "The boys' club" mentality in the world. He should have been thrown out of the military and his pension reduced.

2
Anonymous almost 4 years ago

I am a retired Family and Consumer Sciences Educator. (Home Economics) I taught relationships for 30 yrs. I dated for 22yrs. Cardinal rule. Do not date married men. Ever. Son is US Army Green Baret. Shame, publicity, psychological damage can cause overwhelming damage to all parties concerned. Only time will fade the negative memories of this complex issue. A sad ending to an outstanding soldier with a stellar career. I believe the relationship was consensual (mostly) explosive. The public really did not need to hear the details of this court martial. BGeneral Sinclair you were sacrificed. The accuser captain, you were manipulated by the system and politics. There are no winners here.