U.S. Army general pleads not guilty to sexual assault

FORT BRAGG, N.C. A U.S. Army general has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault charges that could send him to prison for life.

The Fayetteville Observer reported Monday Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair told a military judge at Fort Bragg he is not guilty of charges that include forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders and adultery.

Jury selection is set to begin for Sinclair's court martial on Tuesday with the trial scheduled to begin Sept. 30. In the military justice system juries must consist of officers with superior rank to the accused. In Sinclair's case that will requires a panel of generals with two or more stars.

Sinclair is a 27-year Army veteran who commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is accused of twice forcing a female officer to perform oral sex. His defense team has suggested that top Pentagon officials improperly influenced generals to charge and prosecute Sinclair to make an example of him.

The U.S. military has been under considerable fire the past few months for widespread sexual assault. Several officers, including those responsible for sexual harassment programs, have been accused of assaulting women.

In May the Army announced a soldier assigned to coordinate a sexual assault prevention program in Fort Hood, Texas, is under investigationfor "abusive sexual contact." The previous week, an Air Force officer who headed a sexual assault prevention office was arrested on charges of groping a woman in a parking lot.