Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair Fined $20,000, Won't Go to Prison or Lose Military Benefits (Update)

As Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair's sentencing for adultery looms, a witness for the prosecution recalled a 2010 party in Germany where soldiers in Sinclair's unit performed a raunchy skit.

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As Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair's sentencing for adultery looms, a witness for the prosecution testified this week that Sinclair's adulterous affair disrupted good order. Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Bigelow recalled a 2010 party in Germany where soldiers in Sinclair's unit performed a raunchy skit where a character in a wig offered Sinclair's character oral sex.

Sinclair will be sentenced this week (perhaps today) for committing the military crimes of adultery, mistreating his mistress, having improper relationships with two other women, and abusing a government credit card. Which makes Bigelow's testimony about the party particularly significant. The witness said it was obvious the soldiers performing in the skit were referring to Sinclair's relationship with his mistress, who would later accuse him of forcing her to perform oral sex twice during their three-year affair. Bigelow also testified that Sinclair's wife was at the party, and that she was "clearly shocked, angered and dismayed."

Update, Thursday 10:30 am: Sinclair was sentenced Thursday morning. He has been fined $20,000 and will not go to prison. He will get early retirement (retaining his full military benefits) with no demotion.

Original: Sinclair's 34-year-old accuser maintains that he forced her to perform oral sex, but the sexual assault charges against him were dropped as part of a plea bargain. Sinclair faces up to 21 and 1/2 years in prison for his crimes, but it's unlikely he'll get that many years. In fact, he may avoid jail time all together. The judge, Colonel James Pohl, could release his ruling as early as today.

Sinclair's case has dragged on for two years while a debate on how the military should handle sex crimes plays out in Congress. He is thought to be the highest-ranking general to ever be tried for sexual assault. But the case against him unraveled when his accuser possibly perjured herself in a pretrial hearing about the existence of a cell phone earlier this year. The lead prosecutor quit the case, and then the judge dismissed the jury after evidence of political influence on the prosecution was presented.

Now, for purposes of sentencing, the prosecution is merely trying to prove that Sinclair's affair with his accuser disrupted proper order and created a hostile work environment. Bigelow's testimony seems to indicate that was the case. Sinclair admits that he comforted his accuser after the skit was performed. He said Monday, "I failed her as a leader and as a mentor and caused harm to her emotional state."

Sinclair's wife, Rebecca, has defended him since his accuser first made her allegations. Referring to her sons, ages 10 and 12, she asked Pohl this week for a sentence that "doesn't punish us any further." She also maintained that Sinclair's accuser is lying and being protected by the military. (His accuser was not charged with adultery in exchange for her testimony.) Sinclair's lawyers think the raunchy skit proves nothing. Ellen Brotman told The New York Times,

This case has been built up as a huge case for the military, and basically the testimony was, ‘This was bad for the Army because somebody at a roast had a skit about it,’ and that didn’t even have anything to do with General Sinclair.

Sinclair's accuser briefly testified at his court-martial on Monday. She said she's been emotionally harmed, but she's ready to move on from the trial and with her life. "I’m very guarded now," she said, holding back tears. "I have a hard time trusting people. I have a very hard time feeling safe."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.