By Kelly Twedell
FORT BRAGG, North Carolina (Reuters) - A judge is expected to announce on Thursday the sentence for a U.S. Army general who admitted he mistreated a captain during an adulterous sexual affair and had inappropriate relationships with other junior female officers.
Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair's punishment for his military crimes could include jail time, dismissal from the service or retirement at a reduced rank.
The married general avoided a possible life sentence in a plea deal that dropped sexual assault charges involving the female captain, who said Sinclair forced her to perform oral sex when she tried to break off their illicit liaison.
Government prosecutors on Wednesday asked the trial judge, Colonel James Pohl, to dismiss Sinclair from the Army for the harm caused by his criminal acts. They said he abused his power to exploit women.
"What did he use his rank to accomplish? Personal gratification," said Major Rebecca DiMuro, a special victims prosecutor.
The rare court-martial of a general has drawn wide attention at a time when the U.S. military faces intense political scrutiny as it works to curb sexual misconduct in the ranks.
A dismissal would mean the one-star general would lose an estimated $830,000 in lifetime pay, plus all retirement and medical benefits.
The defense team said Sinclair should be allowed to retire at a reduced rank given testimony about his otherwise stellar military record and 27 years of service.
They said Sinclair, a father of two boys, accepted responsibility for his misconduct. The general admitted his three-year sexual relationship with the captain 17 years his junior was improper by military standards, but he maintained it was consensual throughout.
"A dismissal would not just be a punishment to General Sinclair, but a punishment to his family," said defense attorney Major Sean Foster.
Sinclair's plea agreement with the government put an undisclosed cap on the potential penalties.
The U.S. Senate this month passed by an overwhelming margin a bill that would reform how the military handles sexual assault charges. The measure, still subject to House approval, would strengthen prosecutors' role in advising commanders on whether to go to court-martial and eliminate the "good soldier" defense, which allowed courts to reduce the sentence of offenders with strong military records.
(Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Scott Malone and Stephen Powell)