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Army general pulled rank, forced sex: prosecutors

Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair, a U.S. Army general facing charges of forcible sodomy and engaging in inappropriate relationships stemmi
Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair, a U.S. Army general facing charges of forcible sodomy and engaging in inappropriate relationships stemmi

By Marti Maguire

FORT BRAGG, North Carolina (Reuters) - An Army general used his superior rank to force subordinates into improper sexual relations, military prosecutors said on Monday at a hearing to determine if he should face a court-martial.

Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair, a 27-year Army veteran based at Fort Bragg, is accused of 26 violations of military law including forcible sodomy, wrongful sexual conduct, possessing pornography while deployed and conduct unbecoming of an officer.

The charges stem from inappropriate behavior toward four female subordinates and a civilian over the last five years, Army prosecutors said, revealing new details about charges brought against Sinclair in September.

Prosecutors said the alleged sexual contacts took place in Afghanistan, Iraq and Germany, as well as at military bases in the United States. Sinclair was sent home in May from Afghanistan, where he had served as a deputy commander for support, officials said.

Major General James Huggins testified on Monday that one of the women, a captain who Sinclair had requested be assigned to his unit in Afghanistan, tearfully reported having a three-year affair with him..

The woman said in March she had looked at Sinclair's emails and found exchanges with other women, Huggins testified. She also reported that Sinclair had forcibly sodomized her after grabbing her by the neck, and threatened her career if she backed out of the relationship, he said.

"She wanted out," said Huggins, one of Sinclair's superiors. "She said she had tried, but Sinclair persisted."

Huggins said Sinclair admitted to showing "poor judgment" in a limited number of encounters with the woman.

THREATS

Prosecutors also accused Sinclair of threatening to kill one subordinate, or her family, if she revealed having an affair with him.

They said he asked women to send him nude photos and berated female subordinates on several occasions.

Sinclair is accused of claiming more than $4,000 worth of charges for personal travel as military business, and of deleting emails during the investigation, prosecutors said. Defense attorneys suggested the personal trips may have included Army business.

When asked by hearing officer Major General Perry Wiggins if he would make a statement regarding the charges, Sinclair said "No, sir." His defense team declined to comment.

The hearing proceeded despite an attempt by defense attorneys to have the case dismissed or government prosecutors removed over concerns that they had improper access to confidential emails between Sinclair, his attorneys and his wife.

"How does he get a fair trial if you have access to his personal communications with his attorney?" said Sinclair's defense lawyer, Lieutenant Colonel Jackie Thompson.

Leona Mansapit, a criminal investigations special agent, testified that she reviewed emails between Sinclair and his wife and attorney, and that military prosecutors had seen at least one of those emails.

Mansapit said she did not appoint an independent researcher to review Sinclair's emails as required because she lacked the resources to do so.

Wiggins briefly postponed the proceedings while the emails were reviewed by a legal adviser, but ultimately decided to hear evidence as planned.

Wiggins will recommend whether Sinclair should stand trial on any of the charges. Dozens more witnesses are expected to give testimony at the hearing this week.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Cynthia Johnston and Christopher Wilson)

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