FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — U.S. Army prosecutors offered the first details of a rare criminal case against a general, alleging in a military hearing Monday he committed sex crimes against five women, including four subordinates and a civilian.
An Article 32 hearing on evidence in the case against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair opened Monday at Fort Bragg, a sprawling post that is home to the 82nd Airborne Division. Officials said the hearing was expected to last at least two days.
Gen. Sinclair faces possible courts-martial on charges including forcible sodomy, wrongful sexual conduct, violating orders, engaging in inappropriate relationships, misusing a government travel charge card, and possessing pornography and alcohol while deployed. He served as deputy commander in charge of logistics and support for the division’s troops in Afghanistan from July 2010 until he was sent home in May because of the allegations.
Before prosecutors could begin presenting their case Monday, Lt. Col. Jackie Thompson, a defense lawyer, said military investigators had violated Gen. Sinclair’s rights by reading confidential emails he had exchanged with his lawyers and wife discussing the accusations against him.
Under questioning from Col. Thompson, the lead investigator in the case acknowledged she had read the confidential emails, violating the terms of the subpoena used to obtain them from Gen. Sinclair’s service provider. Those emails later were turned over to prosecutors, who are barred from seeing Gen. Sinclair’s communications with his counsel.
“Probably not, sir,” Ms. Mansapit replied. “I wish I had.”
The defense is asking the hearing officer, Maj. Gen. Perry L. Wiggins, to either require all new prosecutors be assigned or have the case thrown out.
Until now, the Army had kept details secret in the rare criminal case against a high-ranking officer. In other high-profile cases, Army prosecutors have been quick to release charging documents.
In March, the Army quickly released charge sheets laying out evidence against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the soldier accused of gunning down 17 Afghan civilians in a massacre in southern Afghanistan.
The first Article 32 hearing in Sgt. Bale’s case also began Monday across the country at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Seattle.
There have been only two other courts-martial against Army generals in recent years.
Prosecutors in Gen. Sinclair’s case alleged at Monday’s hearing that the crimes occurred between 2007 and 2012 in places including Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany, as well as Fort Bragg and Fort Hood in Texas.
In one case, prosecutors also said that Gen. Sinclair threatened one woman’s career, as well as her life and the lives of her relatives, if she told anyone about his actions.
The hearing officer called a recess until early Monday afternoon to give a legal adviser time to review the documents at the heart of the defense’s request to have different prosecutors appointed or to have the case thrown out.