Thursday, November 23, 2017
Military News

The general who had a three-year affair

RECOMMENDED READING


A sordid account involving illicit sex in uniform will be aired this week in an austere courtroom at Fort Bragg, N.C., and the results could tip the scales in a debate in Congress over the future of the military justice system.

The defendant, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, is accused of carrying on a three-year affair in Afghanistan with a junior officer and sexually assaulting her on two occasions, among other crimes. He is only the third Army general to face court-martial in more than a half-century.

But after two years of investigation and preparation, the prosecution is in disarray. The Army's lead counsel, Lt. Col. William Helixon, abruptly stepped down last month after confiding to superiors and the general's defense team that he had qualms about the case.

Meanwhile, the general's lover-turned-accuser — an Army captain 17 years his junior — faces questions about her credibility. Although she has testified that Sinclair twice forced her to perform oral sex against her will, she has been unable to recall the dates and has given conflicting accounts to investigators and colleagues.

At an evidentiary hearing in 2012, she said Sinclair threatened to kill her and her family if she told anyone about their relationship. Two other officers testified that they provided nude photos to Sinclair, part of other charges involving his conduct with five women.

Sinclair's defense team argues text messages show that a loving relationship between the general and the now 34-year-old Army captain fractured when she became jealous of his interactions with his wife and another female soldier.

Sinclair is scheduled to return to the dock Thursday. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. The Army has set aside most of the month for the court-martial.

The Army's handling of the case is being watched closely in Washington, where the Senate is scheduled to soon consider a bill that would strip military commanders of their long-standing authority to prosecute sexual assaults and other major crimes. The bill, introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., would give uniformed prosecutors the power to decide whether to press charges. Leaders at the Pentagon have lobbied fiercely against the bill, arguing that commanders need to retain legal authority to enforce order and discipline in their units.

The prosecution of Sinclair has been seen as a test case of the Army's willingness to hold senior leaders accountable for sex crimes.

In the past, advocates for victims of sex crimes in the military have argued that commanders have been too quick to dismiss their accounts of rape and abuse and too reluctant to press charges against fellow officers. Sinclair's lawyers assert that the opposite is true in his case. They said the evidence against him is flimsy but that senior Army leaders are afraid they will be portrayed as covering up for one of their own if they drop the most serious charges.

"In a sense, I understand the fear that they have, and that it is driving their lack of doing the right thing, but that is not how the system is supposed to work," said Richard Scheff, a civilian attorney who is representing Sinclair. "It's supposed to be driven by evidence and by what is fair and just, not fear."

In court filings, Scheff has said that Helixon, the former lead prosecutor, bluntly told him in a Feb. 9 phone conversation that he had come to the conclusion that the sexual assault charges against the general should be dropped, but senior Army leaders had insisted the case go forward because of "politics and outside pressures."

For Sinclair's wife, Rebecca, there is an overlooked issue in the case — the toll of a decade of war on military couples, many of whom have found themselves in a repeated pattern of deployments, homecomings and moves.

"I'm not excusing my husband's infidelity,'' she told the Associated Press in 2012. "I'm just trying to understand it, and I'm trying to get conversations started so that people can look behind and see the bigger issue."

She will not attend the trial. "It's a painful thing for her," said Scheff, her husband's attorney.

Contributing: Chicago Tribune

Comments
SOCom asking rifle makers for single weapon to serve many sniper roles

SOCom asking rifle makers for single weapon to serve many sniper roles

When Ryan Cleckner was an Army Ranger sniper in Afghanistan, he had as many as nine rifles he would use in different situations. But whenever a mission would evolve quickly, he would have to choose which ones to lug onto a helicopter. Even narrowing ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Howard Altman: SS American Victory will host cruise to mark Pearl Harbor Day

Howard Altman: SS American Victory will host cruise to mark Pearl Harbor Day

Looking for a unique way to commemorate Pearl Harbor Day and celebrate the military’s nautical traditions?Check out the SS American Victory, which will set sail Dec. 2. for a two-hour cruise at 1:30 p.m.Registration will begin at noon to ride the car...
Published: 11/22/17
U.S. Navy plane with 11 aboard crashes into Pacific; 8 rescued

U.S. Navy plane with 11 aboard crashes into Pacific; 8 rescued

TOKYO — Eight people were rescued and three remained missing after a U.S. Navy plane crashed into the western Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, the Navy said. The C-2 "Greyhound" transport aircraft came down about 500 nautical miles (925 kilometers) southe...
Published: 11/22/17
Sex assault reports declining at MacDill despite increase militarywide

Sex assault reports declining at MacDill despite increase militarywide

TAMPA — The number of sexual assaults reported to officials at MacDill Air Force Base has decreased dramatically during the past three years even as reports across the military have increased slightly, new Pentagon statistics show.Officials at MacDil...
Published: 11/20/17
Cyber firm accesses CentCom cloud information, gives command low security score

Cyber firm accesses CentCom cloud information, gives command low security score

Every day, military and civilian personnel stationed at the MacDill Air Force Base headquarters of U.S. Central Command use the Internet to reach out to foreign audiences in an effort to combat Islamic State propaganda.To help measure the success of ...
Published: 11/17/17
VA’s quiet plan to widen private care with TRICARE stirs concern

VA’s quiet plan to widen private care with TRICARE stirs concern

WASHINGTON — As part of its effort to expand private health care, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been developing plans to merge its health system with the Pentagon’s, a cost-saving measure that veterans groups say could threaten the viability...
Published: 11/17/17
Howard Altman: Missing records confound veterans on base exchange website

Howard Altman: Missing records confound veterans on base exchange website

In the more than three decades that I have been toiling at various paragraph factories, few stories have elicited as much response as the one I wrote about the new program to allow all honorably discharged veterans to shop at military base exchanges ...
Published: 11/17/17
She was an artist who answered a Craigslist ad. Next thing she knew she was best friends with a 93-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor

She was an artist who answered a Craigslist ad. Next thing she knew she was best friends with a 93-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor

University of Miami architecture student Emi Kopke still cannot believe her luck. She answered a Craiglist ad asking for an artist to do hand drawings for a special project. The self-taught artist sent in 15 of her hand drawings — including some of b...
Published: 11/11/17
As fewer serve, burden of war falls heavier on families with tradition of service

As fewer serve, burden of war falls heavier on families with tradition of service

When Lauren Price’s youngest son went off to fight in Iraq in 2008, she handed him a going-away present few parents could offer."I gave him my Iraqi cell phone," said Price, 52, a Navy veteran from New Port Richey who served in the same region of Ira...
Published: 11/10/17
Howard Altman: Army settles flap over who will wear the Green Beret

Howard Altman: Army settles flap over who will wear the Green Beret

I have a hard time picturing Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, a no-nonsense guy with plenty on his plate, taking time out of his busy day sorting through color swatches.But thanks to one of two recent victories in the battle for Army tradition, ...
Published: 11/09/17
Updated: 11/10/17