In a rare Army court-martial last year, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair was accused of forcible sodomy, adultery, and inappropriate communications with female officers, among other charges. Now Sinclair is fighting sexual assault charges that could put him in military prison for life, The Associated Press reports.
Sinclair, an Army Ranger and paratrooper once described as “a rising star among the US Army’s top battle commanders,” was accused last year of sleeping with a subordinate officer, an affair that reportedly turned violent on two occasions. He is also accused of having inappropriate communications with three other female officers.
The details of Sinclair’s sordid and illicit affair came at an inopportune time for the US military. Over the past few years there have been multiple cases of military sexual assault highlighted in the media. The epidemic was addressed last year by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel as well as President Obama, who, last December, ordered the US military to reform and make progress on the rampant problem or face tougher reforms.
Sinclair, who is married with two children, carried on a three-year affair with a junior officer during two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is believed to be the most senior member of the military to ever face trial for sexual assault.
Prosecutors have accused Sinclair of physically forcing a subordinate female officer to perform oral sex and said that Sinclair threatened to kill the officer and her family if she told anyone about their affair. He has pleaded not guilty to eight criminal charges including “forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders, and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.”
The Pentagon has faced numerous public scandals involving rape and sexual assault in multiple branches of the military. Cases that have come to light during the past year show an environment of fear in which victims are blamed and often threatened if they come forward to report an assault.
Obama has said that the military has “an urgent obligation” to address the problem and protect victims of sexual assault. It is estimated that approximately 19,000 cases of sexual assault occur each year throughout all branches of the military, though the actual number of sexual assault complaints filed each year is much lower.
Last year, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered all branches to more thoroughly vet service members applying for “positions of trust,” such as sexual assault counselors, recruiters, and drill sergeants. As a result, the Army disqualified 588 soldiers; however, other branches of the military reported few, if any, disqualifications after conducting screenings last summer.