FORT BRAGG, North Carolina: An Army general who carried on a threeyear affair with a captain and had two other inappropriate relationships with subordinates was reprimanded and docked $20,000 in pay Thursday, avoiding jail time in one of the military’s most closely watched courts-martial.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A Sinclair, the former deputy commander of the storied 82nd Airborne Division, was believed to be the highest-ranking US military officer ever court-martialed on sexual assault charges, but earlier this week those charges were dropped when he pleaded guilty to inappropriate relationships with the three women. Sinclair smiled and hugged his two lawyers in the courtroom. Outside the building, he made a brief statement.
“The system worked. I’ve always been proud of my Army,” he said. “All I want to do now is go north and hug my kids and my wife.” The case unfolded with the Pentagon under heavy pressure to confront what it has called an epidemic of rape and other sexual misconduct in the ranks. As part of the plea deal, Sinclair’s sentence could not exceed terms in a sealed agreement between defense lawyers and military attorneys.
The agreement, unsealed Thursday, called for Sinclair to serve no more than 18 months in jail, but the judge’s punishment was much lighter. Prosecutors did not immediately comment. Capt. Cassie L. Fowler, the military lawyer assigned to represent the accuser’s interests, had a grim expression after the sentence was imposed and declined to comment. In closing arguments, prosecutors argued 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.
Defense attorney Richard Scheff said Sinclair will retire from the military. Scheff said the case against Sinclair was one of pure adultery, which is a crime in the military. Prosecutors did not ask the judge to send Sinclair to jail, even though the maximum penalty he faced on the charges to which he pleaded guilty was more than 20 years. The judge could have also dismissed Sinclair from the Army, which would have likely wiped out his veterans administration health care and military retirement benefits.