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US Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair on Saturday was charged with sexual assault at the federal courthouse at Fort Bragg, N.C., the Associated Press reports. |
The highest-ranking Army officer ever charged with sexual assault has pleaded not guilty to eight criminal charges including forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders and conduct unbecoming an officer.
He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison at a court-martial scheduled to begin March 3.
Sinclair, 51, denied the most serious allegation that he physically forced a female captain under his command to perform oral sex but he admitted he carried on a three-year extramarital affair with the junior officer, according to the report.
That admission alone will end his 28-year Army career, as adultery is a crime under military law.
The female captain who made the initial complaint admits to having consensual sex with Sinclair on numerous occasions.
Many Pentagon officers have recently faced a string of embarrassing scandals as the military's own data suggests only about 1-in-8 sexual assaults are reported or prosecuted. Some Congress members are now pushing to remove decisions about the prosecution of sex crimes from the military chain of command.
Prosecutors says Sinclair, the married father of two, is a sexual predator who abused his position of authority to prey on a subordinate trained to follow his orders, threatening to kill her and her family if she told anyone of their relationship, the report says.
In court, Sinclair's defense lawyers suggested he was the victim, both of a jealous ex-lover and overzealous prosecutors facing intense pressure from top military and political leaders to send a message that sexual misconduct will not be tolerated. They said the evidence against Sinclair was weak.