No jail time. Early retirement with no demotion. Full military benefits. Well, this sounds like a pretty sweet deal for the highest-ranking military general ever court-martialed on sexual assault charges. Via The New York Times:
A military judge on Thursday morning reprimanded Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair for mistreating his mistress and other charges, but did not sentence him to any jail time and allowed him to remain in the military.
General Sinclair was also ordered to forfeit $5,000 a month in pay for four months, but will be allowed to keep his pension and other benefits.
The decision by the judge at Fort Bragg, Col. James L. Pohl, was a sweeping victory for the defense, which had earlier agreed with prosecutors to cap any prison time he might face at 18 months.
…Though the judge allowed him to remain in the military and denied prosecutors’ request to dismiss him from the service, his chief defense lawyer, Richard L. Scheff, said after the sentencing that the general “will be putting in his retirement papers.”
The punishment was far less severe than what he had potentially faced when the case began: a possible life sentence on charges of sexually assaulting an Army captain who had been his lover for three years.
Earlier this week, lawyers negotiated a deal in which Sinclair pled guilty to the other charges if the sexual assault charge was dropped. The Army captain who accused Sinclair said she was satisfied with the plea deal and ready to move on with her life, but stands by her claim that he forced her to perform oral sex multiple times and threatened to kill her and her family if she reported their affair.
Frankly, I can’t believe Sinclair got off so easy — I mean, the judge even ruled he could remain in the military if he wanted to! – based solely on what he copped to. He admitted to harming his mistress, saying, “I failed her as a leader and as a mentor and caused harm to her emotional state.” He admitted to having improper relationships with multiple other female officers. Again, in his own words: “It was my responsibility to ensure that these officers were protected and promoted and I failed them as a leader.”
And he clearly created a hostile environment. During testimony, a lieutenant recounted a party where soldiers in Sinclair’s unit mocked the affair in a raunchy skit where a character who was clearly supposed to be his mistress offered Sinclair’s character oral sex. There’s a reason that having a relationship with a subordinate is considered to be a grave abuse of power in the military — though you wouldn’t really know it from this outcome. As the captain’s lawyer said, Sinclair not only hurt her and her career but “did great harm to his unit’s good order and discipline, morale, and cohesion.”
You’ll recall that a couple weeks ago, Senator Gillibrand’s legislation that would have moved the decision to prosecute cases of sexual assault from the chain of command to an independent prosecutor was fillibustered. Senators claimed that they’d done enough on this whole military rape epidemic and the Pentagon could handle it. This case was seen as a litmus test for that — and frankly I’m unconvinced.
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.