FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — A general who broke military law repeatedly during a three-year extramarital affair with a subordinate should be thrown out of the Army and lose his benefits, prosecutors said Wednesday during closing arguments at his sentencing.
The defense argued that dismissing Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair from the military would do the most harm to his wife and children, calling them the only innocent people in the case.
After both sides finished, Judge Col. James Pohl adjourned the hearing until Thursday morning — meaning Sinclair will have to wait at least one more day to learn his fate. Sinclair's sentencing comes as the military and Congress grapple with sex crimes in the ranks.
Prosecutor Maj. Rebecca DiMuro disputed the notion promoted by the defense that Sinclair made an uncharacteristic mistake in an otherwise stellar career. The defense had called a host of character witnesses to laud Sinclair as a selfless leader in hopes of getting a lenient punishment.
DiMuro used a slide show to point out decisions by Sinclair over the course of inappropriate relationships with three women under his command.
"It's not just one mistake. Not just one lapse in judgment. It was repeated," she said. "They are not mistakes. We are not in the court of criminal mistakes. These are crimes."
Prosecutors did not ask the judge to send Sinclair to jail, even though the maximum penalty he faces on the charges to which he pleaded is more than 20 years.
The sentence can't exceed terms in a sealed agreement between defense lawyers and military attorneys. The judge will make his own decision before unsealing the document, and Sinclair will receive whichever is the more lenient punishment.
The judge could dismiss Sinclair from the Army, which would likely wipe out his Veterans Administration health care and military retirement benefits. If the judge allows Sinclair to retire from the military instead, a board of Army officers would decide whether to reduce his rank — which could also cost him dearly in benefits.
The general admitted he mistreated a captain under his command during a three-year affair and had improper relationships with two other women. He also pleaded guilty to adultery — a crime in the military — as well as using his government-issued credit card to pay for trips to see his mistress and other conduct unbecoming an officer.
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