U.S. Army general's accuser gives tearful account of alleged sex crimes

FORT BRAGG, North Carolina Fri Mar 7, 2014 11:29pm EST

1 of 4. Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair leaves the courthouse during a recess for lunch at Ft. Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina March 5, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Ellen Ozier

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FORT BRAGG, North Carolina (Reuters) - A U.S. Army general twice forced a female captain to engage in oral sex when she tried to break off their illicit sexual relationship during their deployment in Afghanistan in 2011, the woman said during an emotional account on Friday at his military trial.

The junior officer testified that Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair grabbed her by the back of the neck and sexually assaulted her after she tried to explain she was fed up with their adulterous affair and needed to move on.

"He pushed me down," she said through tears. "I felt like I had no control at all over my own body."

Her allegations are the basis of a forcible sodomy charge that could send the 51-year-old general to prison for life. Sinclair is also accused of grabbing her genitalia against her will and of having sex with her in public places, including a parking lot in Germany and military offices in Afghanistan.

The general, who is married, denies sexually assaulting the captain 17 years his junior and says the relationship was consensual, although inappropriate by military standards.

The rare court-martial of a high-ranking U.S. military official is unfolding in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, amid a growing debate among U.S. lawmakers over how best to curb sexual assault in the military.

A government prosecutor told a jury panel of five two-star generals that Sinclair abused his rank and power to threaten the captain to stay in an intimate relationship that spanned three years and two war zones.

"It involves a lot of consensual sex," the lead prosecutor, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Stelle, said during opening statements on Friday. But "this is a case where non-consensual sex was used as an instrument of control."

Defense attorney Ellen Brotman read aloud excerpts from the female captain's journal that the lawyer said help prove the liaison was based on mutual affection, not coercion, and remained consensual from beginning to end.

"You will see that this case is nothing more than a workplace affair," Brotman told jurors, adding the captain's fear was that Sinclair would never leave his wife.

The identity of the captain, a military intelligence officer, is being withheld by Reuters due to the nature of the charges.

INITIAL ENCOUNTER

The captain, 34, recalled on the witness stand her first physical encounter with Sinclair, saying he invited her into his private quarters in Iraq in 2009, asked her to take down her hair and caressed her face.

"I had developed a very strong attraction for him," she said. "On the one hand, I'm thinking how amazing it feels, but on the other hand, this is my brigade commander."

The captain, now stationed in Arizona, did not meet Sinclair's gaze during her testimony, during which the general sometimes shook his head and looked annoyed.

The relationship went through volatile highs and lows, and the captain said her frustration and mistrust grew. She said Sinclair once threatened, after they had sex, to kill her if she told his wife or anyone else about the affair.

Another time, at a hotel in Arizona, they had sex against her will on a balcony and Sinclair later grabbed her by the throat when she became upset and tried to leave, she testified.

After court, Sinclair's attorneys said that account contradicted her previous descriptions of the hotel meeting. In a journal entry, she wrote that they had a huge fight over a change in his travel plans but said, "It was so wonderful to be with him again though."

The captain testified that she stayed involved with Sinclair because she felt emotionally connected and worried about how ending it would affect her military career. She did not immediately report him to superior officers after the alleged sex crimes.

"I knew if I said anything that it would be my word against his and nobody would believe me," she said. "I had no way out."

When she told Sinclair of her desperation, she said he texted her, "Get a grip."

On Thursday, Sinclair, a one-star general, pleaded guilty to lesser offenses that carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and possible dismissal from the Army.

He admitted to having an extramarital affair with the captain as well as asking other junior female officers for nude photos and viewing pornography while deployed.

The charges saw him stripped of command in southern Afghanistan in May 2012 and sent back to Fort Bragg, where he remains on active duty. His wife is not attending the trial.

Sinclair's attorneys said the captain's testimony provided new fodder for their cross-examination of her on Monday.

"It was an interesting story we heard," said lead defense attorney Richard Scheff. "Unfortunately, it's fiction."

(Corrects location to Afghanistan, not Iraq in first paragraph)

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Gunna Dickson and Ken Wills)

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Comments (3)
richinnc wrote:
So if he is on active duty we are paying him $184,809 or more a year do to what??

Mar 07, 2014 9:56pm EST  --  Report as abuse
SKYDRIFTER wrote:
Is this trial a test of justice; or a test of politically sanctioned “power?”

By all publicly known information, this matter should have been handled administratively. For her to fall on her own sword in the process – for adultery – speaks more to broken-hearted revenge, than justice. How do you justify bringing a post-dated “he-said; she said” sexual assault complaint, from an admitted mistress, to trial – particularly against a Flag officer? The “military” is not on par with the civilian world, even in matters uniquely in the “rear area.”

Victims are always required to provide a reasonable standard of proof for a case. Particularly given her rank, she’s held to account for her failure to report the alleged assaults in some timely manner – or to reasonably document the alleged events, even in a conversation – with SOMEONE. And, she’s admitted to the adultery; subjecting herself to the obvious military penalties. By all indications, she’s been given some status of ‘immunity;’ and her top secret clearance hasn’t been affected. According to the facts known, thus far, the potential for the defense attorney to shred her testimony appears to be high. Obviously, his future is toast, regardless.

The political “tunnel vision” of this case is staggering! Among other matters, while the general may be 100% guilty, the distinct political treatment of the case is guaranteed to serve a very sophisticated and un-affordable “next-generation chauvinism.”

In the periphery, a lot of good soldiers are now facing the decision of whether to retire, or not – or reenlist. The little-appreciated problem being that a soldier’s experience can’t be replaced. If that experience is in the realm of being a military ‘treasure,’ it’s a terrible loss to the military; and the country. Is the general’s “leadership” worth losing, in the realm of military operations, versus promoting the arbitrary adrenalin-rush of “politics?”

Right, wrong or indifferent, when a complaint is obviously embraced by “politics,” the test is whether or not ANY soldier can trust the “system;” especially when a “tested” soldier’s fate is involved.

Soldiers are presumed to be ready to suffer and die in combat for their country and for each other; “loyalty” is their watchword – reasonably expected to be free from the treachery of the kind of “politics” which this case exemplifies.

If any event or an outcome is perceived as a “raw deal,” the impact can be devastating; far beyond the individual involved. Cases such as this send messages to the effect of “…. get out, while you still can.” Or, “You know how the game might be played; are you feeling lucky?”

Who would want to enlist or enroll in ROTC, with cases such as this flashing bright ‘warning’ lights? Unfortunately, there is already a long list of “raw deals.” This case is only unique because of the rank of the accused – sending the message that no one is safe from “politics.”

Mar 08, 2014 2:58am EST  --  Report as abuse
tpvero wrote:
I think the upper echelons of the US Military are involved in a system that uses more lies than truth to get anything done. The act of lying is sanctioned and it goes very deep in all aspects of their lives. Most have forgotten what the truth is.

Mar 08, 2014 4:18am EST  --  Report as abuse
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