Army general sex assault trial: Judge won't dismiss charges

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair leaves the courthouse with his lawyers Richard Scheff, left, and Ellen C. Brotman, following a day of motions Tuesday, March 4, 2014, at Fort Bragg, N.C.
AP Photo/The Fayetteville Observer, James Robinson

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- A military judge has declined to dismiss sexual assault charges against an Army general.

Judge Col. James Pohl on Monday offered the defense team to let a different commanding general and prosecutors consider a plea deal that was previously rejected. The defense has until Tuesday morning to decide between that option or allow the trial to proceed.

Before the trial, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair had offered to plead guilty to some of the lesser charges in exchange for the Army dropping the sexual assault charges. The plea deal was ultimately rejected.

On Monday, Pohl reviewed newly disclosed emails and said he found evidence that the decision to reject the plea deal was influenced by political considerations.

Under military code of justice, the decision was supposed to be decided solely based on evidence in the case - and not its broader political implications.

The latest twist in the case comes at a time when the Pentagon and Congress are grappling with the problem of sexual assaults within the military ranks. On Thursday, the Senate rejected a bill that would have stripped commanders of the authority to decide whether to prosecute rapes and other serious crimes.

On Friday, the Army captain who says she was sexually assaulted by Sinclair sobbed as she testified that they had a three-year affair and that he threatened to kill her and her family - and "do it in a way no one would ever know" - if she ever told anyone.

Last week, Sinclair pleaded guilty to three lesser charges involving adultery with the captain and improper relationships with two female Army officers. Adultery is a crime in the military.

A trial then began on the remaining sexual assault charges.


CBS This Morning" national correspondent Jan Crawford reported that, prior to the trial, the case has already had some highly unusual developments. Most notably, the lead prosecutor abruptly quit and had to be replaced. Sinclair's lawyer said it was because he simply disagreed with the case.

President Obama ordered a review after a Department of Defense report estimated that instances of unwanted sexual contact jumped 37 percent between 2011 and 2012, Crawford reported.