Army general Jeffrey Sinclair in tears during final sentencing phase

Sinclair could learn his punishment for pleading guilty to adultery & obstruction of justice charges Thurs.
March 19, 2014 5:42:19 PM PDT
Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair broke down in tears during the final stages of his sentencing hearing Wednesday afternoon.

The Fort Bragg general is the final stages of a court martial in which he has pleaded guilty to adultery, obstruction of justice, maltreatment of a female captain who accused him of sexual assault, and misusing a government credit card.

Reading a statement to the court, Sinclair made several pauses to collect himself.

"I have squandered a fortune of life's blessings, blessings of family, work and friendship," he said. "Before this happened I had a life that any officer would be proud of a wonderful family, and excellent reputation, and the opportunity to mentor and lead the finest people in this country."

"These past two years, I have been in limbo, with no purpose and no ability to be useful to the Army or my country," he continued. "I've been frustrated and angry, but I don't have to look any further than the mirror for someone to blame. I put myself and the Army in this position with my selfish, self-destructive and hurtful acts."

Sinclair went on to apologize to his family, the main accuser, his "magnificent Army," and other women with whom he admitted to having inappropriate relationships.

"It was my responsibility to ensure that these officers were protected and promoted and I failed them as a leader. For this I am absolutely and truly sorry."

He ended his emotional statement by asking the judge to consider his family in sentencing.

"I ask you to retire me at a reduced rank and not punish my family, depriving them of benefits they have earned."


Before Sinclair's emotional address to the court, he broke down during two testimonies. A mentor and Sinclair's wife were among 24 witnesses called to attest to Sinclair's character.

Retired Army Colonel James Townsend met Sinclair and his wife in 1986. The couple was among young, junior officers and spouses that Townsend and his wife were mentoring at Fort Benning, Georgia.

He would soon witness Sinclair's exceptional leadership during duty, and the general would confess his wrongdoings to Townsend ahead of being charged by the military.

"Really there was nothing that I've heard of since that he didn't tell me," said Townsend, a stately, no-nonsense, fatherly figure. "He confessed it to me. I believe he's confessed it to God."

On the stand, Townsend paralleled Sinclair and his sins to David's tryst with Bathsheba in the Bible, his efforts to kill her husband Uriah, and the road to redemption with the prophet Nathan.

"The Bible described David as a man after God's own heart," declared Townsend. "I believe General Sinclair is a man

Sinclair welled up during Townsend's testimony, and doubled over when he heard words from his wife, Rebecca Sinclair.

In a final impact statement, defense attorney Ellen Brotman read a letter written by Mrs. Sinclair to the judge.

"Dear COL. Pohl, My name is Rebecca Sinclair and I have been married to Jeffrey Sinclair for 29 years," she wrote. "I am home today with our two sons, far from the courthouse where all this is taking place. I am sure you understand that this is where I need to be and that my decision to be with our boys should not be viewed as a lack of support or love for my husband."

She goes on to write, "I am not writing to ask the Court for leniency for my husband or to beg the court not to deprive me and my family of the benefits that we have earned through long, hard years of service to our country. I am expecting a sentence that is fair to the Army, to my husband and to my family and I write this in service of that expectation."

After describing the families' challenges with multiple deployments and moves, she wrote: "I do not view these separations or disruptions as an excuse for infidelity, and neither does Jeff. But I alone have been the witness to the depth of his remorse over his conduct. Believe me when I tell you that the public humiliation and vilification he has endured are nothing compared to the private suffering and guilt that he lives with every day. He is racked with guilt over the pain he has caused me, my children and the Army."


In a passionate, fiery closing argument Special Victims prosecutor Major Rebecca DiMuro delivered a near-hour long explanation of why General Sinclair's actions were deliberate and criminal. It followed his emotional address to the court.

"Maybe in the beginning, we were in the world of mistakes," she said, mocking the testimonies of Sinclair's character witnesses. "...Without question, at some point General Sinclair's behavior turned criminal, willful, knowingly, and it escalates."

"Misconduct is supposed to come when you're young and stupid, right?" DiMuro argued. "The Army's used to that, but it isn't the case. This is not honorable service. It's just not."

DiMuro outlined a chronological account of Sinclair's affairs or inappropriate relationships with four female officers and one, civilian childhood friend. She talked about how the general could have ended his affair with the main accuser following an embarrassing 2009 skit. In front of 600 brigade members and German dignitaries,

"He begged for you to consider his family. He did not," DiMuro argued. "He was not considering anybody but himself."

Conversely, military defense counsel Major Sean Foster delivered a much softer closing argument, focusing on the Sinclair's career, his wife's contributions to Army families,  the way their witnesses highlighted Sinclair's exceptional leadership, and the character of the main accuser.

"Adultery. This is what this case is really about," Foster said. "Two people who got in a relationship they shouldn't have."

"This was not a relationship she was trapped in. It's a relationship she chose to be in," he continued. "Look at her journals."

"Your honor her biggest fears, and she says it over and over, is that General Sinclair was not going to leave his wife."


Day three of the sentencing hearing for Sinclair may be the final phase of a two year legal roller coaster.

On Wednesday morning, defense attorneys called a final handful of witnesses to the stand to testify on behalf of the general, who has pleaded guilty to adultery, maltreatment of his accuser, and misuse of a government credit card to facilitate their affair.

Sex assault charges against Sinclair were dropped over the weekend, when his team and the government agreed on a plea deal.

The general's attorneys said the Army's new lead prosecutor, LTC. Robert Stelle, has said privately this week that he also believed the government mischarged the case from the start. It's the same stance they said the former lead prosecutor, LTC. William Helixon, had before he stepped down from the case weeks before trial.

"On one hand they sort of beat the drum of General Sinclair being a sexual predator," defense attorney Richard Scheff said of Stelle's revelation Wednesday morning. "Total non-sense, totally unsupported by the evidence, built on a stack of lies...and that's why we had to take their case apart."

Sinclair faces a maximum sentence of 25 1/2 years in prison, although another max sentence is outlined in the plea deal. He'll receive the lesser of the two sentences, but the terms of the latter have not been made public.

"For General Sinclair to have to spend a day in jail, it would be a travesty," said Scheff.

"And it's not fair. It would be outrageous, and he ought to be able to walk out of this courtroom. He ought to be permitted to retire. He ought to be with his family, and deal with the reputational harm that has been unfairly caused to him and his family for the rest of his life."

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