US army general pleads guilty to sex offencesThursday 06 March 2014 20.13
A US Army general has pleaded guilty to military crimes of having an adulterous affair, seeking nude photos of junior officers and possessing pornography while deployed in Afghanistan, his lawyers said.
Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair, the defendant in a rare court-martial against a top US military officer, will continue to fight charges that he sexually assaulted a female captain during their three-year relationship.
Even though Sinclair said the affair was consensual, he agreed it was inappropriate. "I was a senior leader; she was a subordinate leader," he told the court.
His guilty plea delayed lawyers' opening statements, which had been scheduled to begin on Thursday at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The jury of five two-star generals who will decide the one-star general's guilt on the remaining charges was dismissed until tomorrow morning by the trial judge, Colonel James Pohl.
The US government alleges Sinclair, 51, a married father of two sons, twice forced an unmarried captain 17 years his junior to perform oral sex.
Prosecutors say he used his superior rank to prevent the woman from ending their sexual relationship and threatened to kill her or her family if she exposed the affair.
Sinclair is accused of indecent conduct by having sex with the captain in public places, including a car in Germany, a hotel balcony in Arizona and an office with the door open in Afghanistan, the government said.
The general denies committing any sex crimes.
Should the judge approve Sinclair's guilty pleas on some of the lesser offenses, the general will still face allegations that include misuse of a government credit card for personal purposes and using derogatory language when referring to female staff officers.
If convicted of the most serious charge, forcible sodomy, he could be sent to prison for life.
Sinclair's defence attorneys say military leaders trying to look tough on sex crimes have pursued the case despite weak evidence and allegations made by a jilted ex-lover with questionable credibility.
A military spokesman said prosecutors would reserve their comments for the courtroom.
Sinclair was stripped of command in southern Afghanistan in May 2012 as a result of the criminal allegations and remains on active duty at Fort Bragg.