FORT BRAGG, N.C. — An Army general who admitted to improper relationships with three subordinates appeared to choke up Monday as he told a judge that he’d failed the female captain who had leveled the most serious accusations against him.
Hours later, she took the stand to testify about how she can’t trust people and fears her superiors are always going to take advantage of her in the aftermath of the three-year affair.
As he pleaded guilty, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair’s voice halted when telling the judge why he was pleading guilty to mistreating her in a deal that included the dropping of sexual assault charges.
“I failed her as a leader and as a mentor and caused harm to her emotional state,” Sinclair said, his voice catching as he read from a statement. He asked the judge for a break and took a long drink of water before continuing to read.
“I created a situation over time that caused her emotional harm,” Sinclair said, seated in his dress blue uniform. It was the first public show of regret or sadness for a 27-year veteran who had betrayed little emotion in court hearings over the past year.
The judge accepted Sinclair’s guilty pleas on several lesser charges in a deal that includes the dropping of sexual assault counts and two others that may have required him to register as a sex offender.
The sentencing hearing for Sinclair, the former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, began Monday afternoon and was expected to last until at least the next day. As many as two-dozen witnesses could be called and Sinclair’s lawyer said he will either give a statement or testify.
Ultimately, the judge will give Sinclair a sentence that can’t exceed terms in the agreement struck between defense lawyers and military attorneys over the weekend, but has not been made public. The legal agreement is likely to require a punishment far less severe than the maximum penalties of 21 ½ years in prison and dismissal from the Army.
Sinclair’s lawyer suggested he might walk out of court a free man, but without a career and perhaps with hundreds of thousands of dollars less in pension benefits.
“I hope he is permitted to retire at a reduced rank and can go home to his family,” defense attorney Richard Scheff said before court started Monday.
Sinclair, 51, had been accused of twice forcing the female captain under his command to perform oral sex during the three-year extramarital affair.