- Associated Press - Monday, November 5, 2012

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — U.S. Army prosecutors offered the first details of a rare criminal case against a general, alleging in a military hearing Monday that he committed sex-related crimes involving four female officers and a civilian.

A hearing on evidence in the case against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair opened Monday at Fort Bragg, home to the 82nd Airborne Division. Officials said the Article 32 hearing, similar to a grand jury proceeding in civilian court, was expected to last at least two days.

The first witness called was Maj. Gen. James Huggins, the former commander of the 82nd Airborne and Gen. Sinclair’s direct superior during his most recent combat tour to Afghanistan.

Gen. Huggins recounted that on March 19, a female captain came to his office late at night in tears. She reported that she had been involved in a three-year-long sexual affair with Gen. Sinclair, then her direct commander and a married man. Adultery is a crime under the military code of justice.

Gen. Huggins said he knew the female officer to be a good soldier, whom Gen. Sinclair had specifically asked to have transferred under his command.

According to Gen. Huggins, the captain said Gen. Sinclair had once forced her to perform oral sex on him, but that she also had sex willingly with her boss both at Army bases in the United States and on deployments to Germany, Iraq and at the airborne division’s headquarters in Afghanistan.

When she had tried to end the affair, Gen. Sinclair had threatened her and persisted in pushing for sex, according to Gen. Huggins‘ testimony. But she also told Gen. Huggins she finally decided to report Gen. Sinclair after finding emails exchanged with other women in his account.

“She was exceptionally emotional, fearful,” Gen. Huggins recounted Monday. “She stated that she knows this would basically end her career.”

After the conversation, Gen. Huggins initiated a criminal investigation of his deputy commander, whom he described as a personal friend.

Gen. Sinclair now 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.

Gen. Sinclair sat silently at the defense table during the hearing, rarely making eye contact with Gen. Huggins as he testified. Gen. Sinclair had 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.

There have been only two other court-martial cases against Army generals in recent years.

Until Monday, the Army had kept secret all details of the allegations against Gen. Sinclair, refusing to release charging documents filed against him in September. That secrecy is different from other high-profile case where Army prosecutors were 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 fatally shooting 17 Afghan civilians during a massacre in southern Afghanistan. The first Article 32 hearing in Sgt. Bales’ case also began Monday in Washington state at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Seattle.

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