New hearing set Monday in Army general's sex case

Mar. 15, 2014 @ 10:14 PM

RALEIGH — The case of an Army general accused of sexually assaulting a female captain under his command is set to return to a Fort Bragg courtroom less than a week after proceedings were postponed to allow time for a possible plea agreement.

Officials at the North Carolina Army base said the trial of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair suddenly postponed last week will resume Monday.

There haven't been any major developments since the trial judge on Tuesday sent the jury of five two-star generals back to their duty stations around the world, Sinclair spokesman Josh Zeitz said. Unless a plea agreement is reached by Monday, the hearing is expected to deal only with procedural issues like whether the judge should designate someone other than Fort Bragg's base commander with the authority to accept a plea agreement, Zeitz said.

The trial was postponed to give plea negotiations a second chance after emails surfaced showing the base commander, Lt. Gen. James Anderson, may have weighed the broader implications on the Army if he accepted a deal. The military code of justice requires the decision to be based solely on the evidence in the case.

The Pentagon has been under heavy pressure from Congress to combat rape and other sex crimes in the military. The Senate on Monday unanimously approved a bill making big changes in the military justice system to deal with sexual assault.

Sinclair, 51 and the former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, is accused of twice forcing a female captain to perform oral sex on him in Afghanistan in 2011 during a three-year extramarital affair. He has admitted to adultery, which is a crime in the military, but denied assaulting the woman. He could get life in prison if convicted.

The defense has portrayed the woman as a liar who concocted the allegations after she saw emails between Sinclair and another woman.

If no plea deal is reached, testimony in Sinclair's trial could not resume until the jury of generals returned to Fort Bragg from their posts as far away as Korea and Alaska.

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Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio.