FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — U.S. Army prosecutors offered the first details of a rare criminal case against a general, alleging in a military hearing Monday he committed sex crimes against five women, including four subordinates and a civilian.
An Article 32 hearing on evidence in the case against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair opened Monday at Fort Bragg, a sprawling post that is home to the 82nd Airborne Division. Officials said it was expected to last at least two days.
Sinclair 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. He 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.
Before prosecutors could begin presenting their case Monday, defense lawyer Lt. Col. Jackie Thompson said military investigators had violated Sinclair’s rights by reading confidential emails he had exchanged with his lawyers and wife discussing the accusations against him.
Under questioning from Thompson, the lead investigator in the case acknowledged she had read the confidential e-mails, violating the terms of the subpoena used to obtain them from Sinclair’s service provider. Those e-mails were later turned over to prosecutors, who are barred from seeing Sinclair’s communications with his counsel.
Thompson then asked Criminal Investigative Command Special Agent Leona Mansapit if she had the resources she needed to conduct a proper investigation in Sinclair’s case.
“Probably not, sir,” Mansapit replied. “I wish I had.”
The defense is asking the hearing officer, Maj. Gen. Perry L. Wiggins, to either require all new prosecutors be assigned or have the case thrown out.
Until now, the Army had kept details secret in the rare criminal case against a high-ranking officer. In other high-profile cases, Army prosecutors have been 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 gunning down 17 Afghan civilians in a massacre in southern Afghanistan.
The first Article 32 hearing in Bale’s case also began Monday across the country at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle, Washington.
There have been only two other court-martial cases against Army generals in recent years.
Prosecutors in Sinclair’s case alleged at Monday’s hearing that the crimes occurred between 2007 and 2012 in places including Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany, as well as Fort Bragg and Fort Hood in Texas.
In one case, prosecutors also said that Sinclair threatened one woman’s career, as well as her life and the lives of her relatives, if she told anyone about his actions.
Sinclair’s attorney asked for the charges to be thrown out, arguing that the prosecutors had read confidential emails between the general and his defense. Defense attorney Lt. Col. Jackie Thompson said this violated his client’s rights and asked that new prosecutors be brought in to try the case.
The hearing officer called a recess until early Monday afternoon to give a legal adviser time to review the documents.