FORT BRAGG: Trial begins for general facing sex charges - WNCN: News, Weather

Judge: Charges against Jeffrey Sinclair will not be dropped

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Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair was charged in 2012 with criminal counts that include twice physically forcing a woman to perform oral sex. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair was charged in 2012 with criminal counts that include twice physically forcing a woman to perform oral sex.
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -

The judge in a case against a U.S. Army general facing court martial on sexual assault charges denied the defense's request to drop the most serious charges.

Defense lawyers for Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair asked the judge to dismiss the most serious of the charges against him, alleging top brass at the Pentagon unlawfully interfered with prosecutorial decisions in the case.

Sinclair' lawyers said Tuesday that that the former lead prosecutor in the case, Lt. Col. William Helixon, stepped down last month because he felt the case was being pursued for "political reasons," adding that Helixon felt the case was pushed as a way to prove the Army is serious about sex assault.

The staff judge advocate, Lt. Col. Jarrett Dunlap Jr., however, said there was no pressure to pursue the case in order to advance the Army's new aggressive stance against sex assault.

Scheff said Helixon wanted the most serious charges against Sinclair dropped after he became convinced the accuser had lied.

Sinclair, who was the deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne, faces criminal charges that include physically forcing a female captain under his command to perform oral sex.

Sinclair's defense lawyers suggest it is the general who is the victim, both of a jealous ex-lover and of overzealous prosecutors facing intense pressure from top military and political leaders to send a message that sexual misconduct will not be tolerated.

Helixon was removed from the case last month after a superior officer, Brigadier Gen. Paul Wilson, visited him in a Washington hotel room on Feb. 8.

Wilson testified Tuesday that Helixon appeared drunk and suicidal. Wilson said Helixon didn't want to pursue the case, but thought it was of strategic importance to the military's crackdown on sexual assaults.

"He was in the midst of a personal crisis. He was crying. He was illogical," Wilson said. "I truly believed if he could have stepped in front of a bus at the time, I think he would have."

Sinclair, 51, has pleaded not guilty to eight criminal charges including forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders, and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.

Believed to be the most senior member of the U.S. military ever to face trial for sexual assault, Sinclair's case comes as the Pentagon is already grappling with a troubling string of revelations involving rape and sexual misconduct within the ranks.

In pretrial hearings, prosecutors have painted Sinclair as a sexual predator who abused his position of authority to prey on a subordinate trained to follow his orders. They also say he threatened to kill her and her family if she told anyone of their relationship.

Once a rising star among the U.S. Army's top battle commanders, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair is now fighting sexual assault charges that could land him life in a military prison if convicted.

The trial is on the docket through March 28. The case will continue on Wednesday and opening statements are expected to begin Thursday.

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