U.S. general spared prison in sexual misconduct case

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The Army general at the center of a sexual misconduct case that put the military justice system itself on trial was spared prison Thursday and sentenced to a reprimand and a $20,000 fine, a punishment that was decried as shockingly light.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, 51, immediately announced his retirement, capping a humiliating fall for the battle-tested commander once regarded as a rising star in the Army. A disciplinary board could still bust him in rank and severely reduce his pension.

"The system worked. I've always been proud of my Army," Sinclair said outside court after reacting to his sentence with a smile and an embrace for his lawyers. "All I want to do now is go north and hug my kids and my wife."

The former deputy commander of the storied 82nd Airborne Division was originally brought up on sexual assault charges punishable by life in prison. He was thought to be the highest-ranking U.S. military officer ever court-martialed on such charges.

But earlier this week, prosecutors dropped those charges in a deal in which Sinclair pleaded guilty to adultery with one woman and conducting inappropriate relationships with two others by asking them for nude pictures and exchanging sexually explicit email. Adultery is a crime in the military.

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 military.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., called the sentence "laughable."

"Even when the world is watching, the military has demonstrated their incompetence at meting out justice," Speier said in a statement. "This is another sordid example of how truly broken the military justice system is. This sentence is a mockery of military justice, a slap on the wrist nowhere close to being proportional to Sinclair's offenses."

While the charges against Sinclair carried a maximum of more than 20 years in prison, the plea bargain worked out by the defense and military prosecutors called for no more than 18 months. The judge, Col. James Pohl, did not explain how he arrived at the much lighter sentence.

Prosecutors had no immediate comment.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, who admitted to inappropriate relationships with three subordinates, was reprimanded and docked $20,000 in pay Thursday, avoiding jail time in a closely watched court-martial.

Associated Press

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, who admitted to inappropriate relationships with three subordinates, was reprimanded and docked $20,000 in pay Thursday, avoiding jail time in a closely watched court-martial.

Ex-Navy athlete is acquitted

WASHINGTON — A former U.S. Naval Academy football player was acquitted Thursday of sexually assaulting a classmate at a party, bringing to a close a case that drew wide attention at a time when the military is under scrutiny for how it deals with sexual assault.

The judge overseeing the case, Col. Daniel Daugherty, acquitted Joshua Tate, of Nashville, of one count of aggravated sexual assault. Prosecutors argued the woman Tate was accused of having sex with was too drunk to consent. Tate's attorneys disagreed, arguingd the woman was in control of her body and making decisions for herself.

The judge concluded prosecutors didn't prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Associated Press

U.S. general spared prison in sexual misconduct case 03/20/14 [Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2014 11:13pm]

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