By Colleen Jenkins
WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) - A U.S. Army general has been ordered to stand trial on allegations that he used his rank to force female subordinates into improper sexual relationships, military officials said on Tuesday.
Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair was sent home from his post as a deputy commanding general in Afghanistan this year after being accused of inappropriate behavior involving four female subordinates and a civilian over the last five years.
One of the women, a captain who Sinclair had requested be assigned to his unit in Afghanistan, said they had a three-year affair, during which she said he made her perform oral sex and threatened her career if she ended the relationship.
Sinclair, a married, 27-year Army veteran, denied forcing any sex acts. The relationship was consensual, his defense team argued during a hearing this fall at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where Sinclair serves as the special assistant to the 18th Airborne Corps commander, Lieutenant General Daniel Allyn.
Sinclair is accused of 26 violations of military law, including forcible sodomy, wrongful sexual conduct, possessing alcohol and pornography while deployed, mistreating subordinates and conduct unbecoming of an officer.
Sinclair's lead defense attorney said on Tuesday he was disappointed by Allyn's decision to refer the case to a court-martial given the evidence.
"We are disappointed by the decision but confident that General Sinclair will be exonerated of sexual assault at trial," said the lawyer, Lieutenant Colonel Jackie L. Thompson Jr.
Hundreds of texts and journal entries establish the consensual nature of Sinclair's relationship with the captain, Thompson said.
"His accuser admitted under oath that she never wanted these charges be leveled, yet the government moved forward irrespective of the wishes of the alleged victim," Thompson said in a statement.
An arraignment is set for January 22 at Fort Bragg. Prosecutors said the alleged sexual contacts took place in Afghanistan, Iraq and Germany, as well as at military bases in the United States. (Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Steve Orlofsky)