Yesterday, Jackie Speier appeared on Face the Nation and claimed that commanding officers shouldn't have the final say on whether to bring sexual assault charges. As exhibit A, she dropped a bombshell--an Army general is himself being court-martialed for sexual assault. That general is Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair, who is only the third general in half a century to face a court martial. I briefly mentioned the case yesterday. But after doing some more digging, I thought it merited a diary by itself.
In May 2012, Sinclair was relieved of his post as deputy support commander of the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan and sent back to Fort Bragg several months ahead of the rest of the division. Last September, the reason was revealed--he was facing multiple charges of sexual assault. He was formally arraigned last week.
The full charge sheet is available here. Sinclair is charged with engaging in a three-year affair with a female captain 17 years his junior, even though he's married with two kids. The affair continued when they were both stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was an open secret for some time, but no one reported it even though any relationship between a commanding officer and a subordinate is verboten.
It only burst into the open in March 2012, when the captain was snooping through Sinclair's email and discovered love notes to his wife and another female officer. She immediately told the 82nd Airborne's commander, James L. Higgins. During the ensuing investigation, the captain claimed Sinclair had forced her to perform oral sex twice in Afghanistan. Higgins reportedly ordered Sinclair not to contact the woman again, but Sinclair reportedly sent at least one text to her afterward. Sinclair is also charged with having inappropriate relationships with three other female officers. They found steamy emails from at least two of them, but there was no evidence he ever had sex with them.
Sinclair claims the captain is lying in order to keep from being drummed out of the Army herself for adultery. He also claims that the military is making him a scapegoat in response to demands from Washington to get tough on sexual assault. In an unusual move, Sinclair has hired a public relations firm to make his case. They've even gone as far as to create a Website to argue their side.
Yesterday, Speier said that "the heart of the system is not working properly" when a commanding officer is being brought up on sexual assault charges. Reading this case, it's hard not to agree.