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An army general accused of sexual assault accepted a plea deal in exchange for dismissing many of his serious criminal charges.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair appeared in military court at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on Monday and admitted to lesser charges in exchange for prosecutors dropping counts which included allegations of death threats and forcing a former mistress to perform oral sex, The New York Times reports.
How does Sinclair's plea wrap up this ugly case?
Sinclair could have faced the possibility of life in prison under the original charges, but with this new plea bargain, the Times reports that he will be forced out of the military but may avoid jail or prison time. According to Sinclair's defense, this was "one of the first courts-martial of a general in nearly 60 years," reports Reuters.
Sinclair's advanced rank may be one of the reasons his case has garnered so much publicity. The military has been plagued with reports of increasing sexual assaults among its ranks, with fears that superior officers and the assault reporting system encouraged victims not to go public with their stories.
Many of these assault cases are even dispatched without involving a military court judge. More serious charges, like those in Sinclair's court-martial, are heard by a judge and can even involve the death penalty. In exchange for dropping the sexual assault charges, Sinclair agreed to accept responsibility for having a "three-year extramarital affair" and for "maltreatment of his accuser," reports Reuters.
The chief witness in the prosecution's case against Sinclair, a female Army captain and Sinclair's former mistress, had her testimony called into question after a pretrial hearing in January. According to the Times, prosecutors concluded that the captain may have perjured herself, jeopardizing her credibility.
The witness had testified earlier in March that Sinclair had threatened her and forced her to perform oral sex, but she was never cross-examined. The Times reports that if she is called again to testify during a sentencing hearing, Sinclair's defense may call on the captain to explain contradictions in her testimony.
The general still must be sentenced for the counts to which he's agreed to plead guilty, and the defense is arguing for no jail time. The Times reports that Sinclair's defense contends that similar cases have warranted no time behind bars, simply for the officer to step down and pay a fine.
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