The court-martial of 51-year-old Brigadier General Jeffery Sinclair had its opening arguments on Friday, March 7. The married man has been accused of sexual assault of a female Army captain, which allegedly occurred in 2011 in Afghanistan during their three-year affair.
Trigger Warning: Some of the content of this article may prove traumatic for survivors of sexual assault.
Here is what you need to know about Sinclair and the alleged crimes:
1. He Is Accused Physically Forcing a Captain to Perform Oral Sex
According to the New York Times, the unnamed captain claims Sinclair sexually assaulted her many times during their prolonged relationship, beginning a few months into their relationship.
And on at least two occasions in Afghanistan, she claims Sinclair physically forced her to perform oral sex.
Both times, she said, they got into arguments that ended with Sinclair unbuttoning his pants and forcing her head into his lap as she cried.
Sinclair is also accused of touching her inappropriately and against her wishes on a crowded transport plane.
2. He Allegedly Told Her He’d Kill Her if She Told Anyone
Despite her disturbing allegations, the victim acknowledges an ongoing affair with the married general.
Their relationship allegedly began in Iraq when she delivered DVDs to his living quarters, reports the New York Times. According to Sinclair, the intimate contact began when the captain removed her top. The two reportedly saw each other for three years and in four different countries.
He claims to two exchanged emails, notes, pictures, and videos of a sexually explicit nature. Lawyers collected around 8,500 images and 600 videos from his computers.
Sinclair allegedly told the captain he would kill her if she ever told anyone about the affair, according to the victim’s testimony:
He told me that if I ever told her or anyone else about he and I, he would kill me and then he would kill my family. And he would do it in a way no one would ever know.
She said that he used his rank, power, and intimidation to make her fear for her safety and career.
4. He Has Already Pleaded Guilty to Adultery & Porn Possession
According to the AP, the married Sinclair pleaded guilty to three lesser charges including adultery and behavior unbecoming of an officer for his possession of pornography. Adultery is a crime in the military justice system.
For these crimes he could serve up to 15 years in prison.
However, if he is found guilty of sexual assault, the general could be spending life in prison.
4. He Is the Highest Ranked U.S. Officer Ever Prosecuted for Sexual Assault
According to the New York Times, Sinclair joined the Army in 1985 and was able to work his way up to the deputy commander of “both the 82nd Airborne Division and of American forces in southern Afghanistan.”
He was considered a rising star among military officers. The AP reports he is believed to be the highest-ranking officer to be court-martialed in relation to sexual violence.
5. Sexual Assaults in the U.S. Military Are Out of Control
A study about sexual assault in the military found that between 2012 to 2013, there were 3,553 reported sexual assaults, a 46 percent increase of the amount reported the previous year.
The problem has inspired a number of pieces of legislation including more protective measures for victims of sexual assault and a circumvention of an officer’s ability to overturn a conviction.