Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair accused of sexual abuse

7:10 PM, Aug 15, 2013   |    comments
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By Chris Lawrence

WASHINGOTN (CNN) - An army general faces a rare court martial after an illicit affair with a junior officer ended in accusations of sexual abuse.

It's a case that could become a symbol of the military's new get-tough policy.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair texts: "You are so ****ing hot. You excite me." And so begins a series of messages from high ranking officer charged now with forcible sodomy on his subordinate.

In one exchange, the accuser writes: "I love you Mr. Sexypants." And the general tells her: "You are my hopeless panda."

The alleged victim is a younger female soldier who had an affair with the general. The case is a black eye for the pentagon, still reeling from its estimate that 26,000 troops were assaulted last year.

"The bottom line is, sexual assault is not tolerated, not condoned," said Jessica Wright, acting undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.

The military unveiled new plans to combat abuse: mandating a lawyer conduct pre-trial hearings, and allowing commanders to transfer accused troops, so they don't come into contact with the victim.

"Unfortunately with one exception these really just tinker with the margins," said Taryn Meeks, former Navy JAG.

Meeks says the pentagon's only significant change is assigning a lawyer to advocate for victims throughout the legal process.

"They fall short of real reform," she said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also issued a new memo to the military: basically ordering them to ignore remarks from President Obama, said those who commit sexual assault should be, "Prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired."

"The comments made by the president did result in an impact in some of the cases that are ongoing," said Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti.

Some judges found the commander-in-chief's comments amounted to unlawful command influence, and dismissed the charges.

"I don't know someone can, in essence, un-ring the bell," said attorney Richard Scheff.

Scheff argues Hagel's memo is too little, too late.

"I'm pretty convinced, it's not effective to simply tell people to ignore it," he said.

A proposed law that calls for stripping commanders of their authority to deal with sexual assault allegations that happen within their commands is popular among many on Capitol Hill.

The idea's supporters say the present system has flaws because alleged victims could be uneasy about filing claims to their superiors.


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