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Army General in Sex Case Gets Plea Deal

An army general accused of sexual assault accepted a plea deal in exchange for dismissing many of his serious criminal charges. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair appeared in military court at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on Monday and admitted to lesser charges in exchange for prosecutors dropping counts which included allegations of death threats and forcing a former mistress to perform oral sex, The New York Times reports. How does Sinclair's plea wrap up this ugly case? General to Leave Military Sinclair could have faced the possibility of life in prison under the original charges, but with this new plea bargain, the Times reports that he will be forced out of the military but may avoid jail or prison time. According to Sinclair's defense, this was "one of the first courts-martial of a general in nearly 60 years," reports Reuters. Sinclair's advanced rank may be one of the reasons his case has garnered so much publicity. The military has been plagued with reports of increasing sexual assaults among its ranks, with fears that superior officers and the assault reporting system encouraged victims not to go public with their stories. Many of these assault cases are even dispatched without involving a military court judge. More serious charges, like those in Sinclair's court-martial, are heard by a judge and can even involve the death penalty. In exchange for dropping the sexual assault charges, Sinclair agreed to accept responsibility for having a "three-year extramarital affair" and for "maltreatment of his accuser," reports Reuters. Case Compromised by Chief Accuser The chief witness in the prosecution's case against Sinclair, a female Army captain and Sinclair's former mistress, had her testimony called into question after a pretrial hearing in January. According to the Times, prosecutors concluded that the captain may have perjured herself, jeopardizing her credibility. The witness had testified earlier in March that Sinclair had threatened her and forced her to perform oral sex, but she was never cross-examined. The Times reports that if she is called again to testify during a sentencing hearing, Sinclair's defense may call on the captain to explain contradictions in her testimony. The general still must be sentenced for the counts to which he's agreed to plead guilty, and the defense is arguing for no jail time. The Times reports that Sinclair's defense contends that similar cases have warranted no time behind bars, simply for the officer to step down and pay a fine. Related Resources: Defense: Sex assault charges dropped in brigadier general's court-martial (CNN) Military Sex-Assault Reform Bill Fails in Senate (FindLaw's Blotter) How Does a Military Court-Martial Work? (FindLaw's Blotter) Browse Military Lawyers by Location (FindLaw)
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Military Sex-Assault Reform Bill Fails in Senate

Military sexual assault reform took a major blow Thursday, as the U.S. Senate voted down a bill designed to overhaul the way the military handles sexual assault cases. The bill sought to give power to prosecute military sex assault cases to an independent military prosecutor rather than high ranking officers, but it failed to get the 60 votes necessary to avoid being thrown out, reports Reuters. What else might this bill have changed in military sexual assault cases? Military Sex Crimes Still an Issue The bill, entitled the Military Justice Improvement Act, was intended to address the alarming amount of sexual assault in the military. A May 2013 Pentagon study revealed that approximately 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact went unreported -- with many blaming the current military justice system. Reuters reports that the bill faced staunch opposition from Pentagon leaders, who worried it would weaken the military chain of command. Supporters of the Military Justice Improvement Act pointed to examples of similar reforms in Canada and Australia, where victims' needs were addressed without jeopardizing the command structure. Part of the insidious nature of sexual assaults in the military is the pressure on service men and women not to report the attacks. The New York Times reports that the bill's sponsor, Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York, compares telling superior officers about assault to a girl telling her father that her brother has assaulted her. Still, a separate bill, the McCaskill-Ayott-Fischer Bill which supports civilian review if a commander declines to prosecute a sexual assault case, is proceeding with unanimous support from the Senate. How Are Cases Reported, Processed Now? Currently, those who serve in the military have two options when reporting sexual assault: They can either report the crime anonymously (called "restricted reporting") and receive medical and victim services, or they can come forward and make an unrestricted report. With restricted reporting, no criminal investigation will be required by military or civilian authorities, leaving many assaults potentially unresolved. If an assault is investigated by military authorities, a court-martial can be convened to evaluate the charges against a service member. However, unlike civilian trials, many of these courts-martial are presided over by senior officers. If an officer is convicted of sexual assault under a court-martial, commanding officers may also dismiss that conviction. Seeking justice for military sexual assault is an ongoing battle, and a military law attorney can be a great ally in that fight. Related Resources: Senate Blocks Bill To Overhaul Military Sex Assault Prosecutions (National Public Radio) 5 Common Questions About Courts-Martial (FindLaw's Blotter) New Citadel Sex Abuse Charges Surface (FindLaw's Blotter) FindLaw.com Proudly Deploys New Military Law Section (FindLaw's Insider)
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