Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, a U.S. Army general, was reprimanded by a trial judge and fined $20,000 after he admitted to adultery and other improper relationships with junior female officers, triggering criticism about the sentencing, which has been viewed as too lenient, given the nature of the crimes.
Sinclair, a 27-year Army veteran, was spared jail time and a dismissal from service Thursday by trial judge Colonel James Pohl after a plea deal in a rare court-martial of a high-ranking officer that exonerated him of sexual-assault charges. A female captain who was 17 years junior to Sinclair reportedly said that the two had a three-year affair, during which Sinclair threatened to kill her if she exposed the relationship.
"The system has worked," Sinclair reportedly said after court in Fort Bragg, N.C. "All I want to do now is hug my kids and be with my wife."
The sentence sparked a debate whether Sinclair had received a lenient verdict. According to Associated Press, Retired Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett, a partner with a law firm that represented one of Sinclair's accusers, said in a statement Thursday that the sentence was a "slap on the wrist" and called for congressional action to change the military's justice system.
Advocates of military judgment reforms stated that the case, which had drawn political and national attention, proved that the nation's armed forces still tolerate sexual misconduct. Earlier this month, Pohl had reportedly ordered a plea bargain to be reached in the case because of the possibility of command interference in the case.
“This is another sordid example of how truly broken the military justice system is,” Rep. Jackie Speier, (D-Calif.), who described the general’s sentence as “laughable,” reportedly said.
Greg Rinckey, a former Army Judge Advocate General's Corps attorney, told The Washington Times that Sinclair received what some in the military will see as an “officer discount” in the case.