Sinclair Plea Bargain; Can Military Try Sex-Assault Cases Fairly?


The case against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair was shaping up to be one of the most closely watched military trials in recent history and only the third court martial that the U.S. Army had conducted of a general in more than half a century. It was widely viewed as a litmus test for the Pentagon's handling of sexual assault cases, says the Christian Science Monitor. When the Army announced it was dropping sexual assault charges against Sinclair in a plea-bargain deal, it led many advocacy groups to question whether the military is capable of prosecuting such crimes fairly. While he denied the assault, Sinclair admitted to having an affair with a soldier under his command, which under military law is considered a grave abuse of power.

In exchange for dropping the sexual assault charges, which could have carried a military-prison sentence, Sinclair pleaded guilty to conducting a three-year affair with the captain and to pressuring junior soldiers into texting him nude photos of themselves. Advocacy groups say the outcome is another reason why military commanders should not have the authority to decide whether the prosecution of sexual assault cases should move forward. Such authority would have been stripped from commanders under a bill sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), but it was filibustered and prevented from coming to a vote this month.

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