A high-profile court martial at Fort Bragg opened Friday with dramatic testimony from an Army captain who is accusing her commander of sexually assaulting her.
51-year-old Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair is accused of sexually assaulting and threatening a 34-year-old captain under his command. Prosecutors say Sinclair used his authority to coerce a junior officer into having sex. (Via CBS)
During a procedural meeting Thursday, Sinclair confessed to some of the less serious charges leveled against him, including adultery and possessing pornography. He could face up to 15 years in jail as a result of those charges. (Via WRAL)
The general is still fighting the most severe allegations, which include forcing his accuser to perform oral sex and threatening her with death if she revealed the relationship. If convicted, Sinclair could face life imprisonment.
The prosecution opened with testimony from Sinclair's accuser. According to The Fayetteville Observer, the accuser told the court she began an illicit affair with Sinclair while deployed in Iraq in 2009. Their relationship lasted for three years.
But the affair allegedly turned sour after the captain told Sinclair she wanted to meet his wife. The New York Times quotes her as saying, "He told me that if I ever said anything to her or anyone else about he and I, he would kill me. ... I didn't know how I could tell him I didn't want to be with him anymore. I was scared to death of how that would go."
Sinclair's defense has repeatedly questioned the credibility of his accuser. They plan to present journal pages and personal messages from the captain, which they say prove she was never forcibly assaulted by Sinclair.
"It reflects what was in her mind at the time. It spans a two year period, and it tells the story. And it's a completely different story from what you see in the charge sheet." (Via WTVD)
Sinclair's court martial has drawn particular attention thanks to a renewed focus on sexual assault in the military. A controversial bill taking sexual assault cases out of the chain of command was recently defeated in the Senate. (Via C-SPAN)
Sinclair is being tried by a panel of five two-star general according to military procedure. The case had been scheduled to run through Mar. 28, but Sinclair's partial confession could considerably shorten the length of the trial.