FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Brigadier General Jeffrey A. Sinclair offered his first apology to the victims of his sexual misconduct and to the Army on Wednesday afternoon, tearfully saying that he “felt a deep and abiding sense of shame and remorse.”
“I have squandered a fortune of life’s blessings, blessings of family, work, and friendship,” Sinclair said, reading a 366-word statement inside a military courtroom at Fort Bragg before a judge who was expected to begin deciding his sentence by the end of the day.
“I put myself and the Army in this position with my selfish, self-destructive, and hurtful acts,” the general said. “Words cannot express how sorry I am that I created this situation and put so many individuals in harm’s way. I want to take this opportunity to apologize to my family, to the Army, and to all the soldiers I have disappointed.”
He then apologized by name to four female junior officers who were on the receiving end of what he has admitted to be inappropriate behavior or advances. One of the women, who was not in the courtroom, is a 34-year-old Army captain who was his mistress for three years, and who later accused him of forcing her to perform oral sex on him and threatening to kill her and her family if she ever revealed their affair.
The general also begged the military judge not to strip him of his pension and other benefits earned over a 27-year military career, in which he rose to be deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.
“I ask that you permit me to retire at a reduced rank and not punish my family by depriving them of the benefits they have earned serving alongside me all these years,” he said.
His statement, made before the stone-faced judge, Colonel James L. Pohl, came before he was to begin weighing punishment for the general after his guilty pleas to charges including adultery, soliciting explicit pictures from female soldiers, and mistreating the captain.
Sinclair, 51, had been charged with sexual assault based on his former lover’s accusations, but prosecutors dropped those charges on Monday after he agreed to other guilty pleas. Had he been convicted of sexual assault, the general faced the possibility of life in prison and permanent registration as a sex offender; now he is expected to receive a much shorter sentence, the length of which is capped under a deal between his lawyers and prosecutors.
The general’s statement was a stark contrast to his defense team’s aggressive, but successful, strategy, which spared him a trial on the most serious charges. Just Wednesday morning, his lead lawyer, Richard L. Scheff, told reporters that the most serious part of the case “had been built on lies.”
The case began to unravel for the prosecution after military lawyers concluded that the general’s mistress, the only person to accuse him of sexual assault, might have testified untruthfully under oath at a hearing in January.
In the course of his three-day sentencing hearing, Sinclair appeared to lose his composure twice: first, when he read a statement describing in detail how he had lied to, and led on, his mistress for more than a year, and then when he put his head in his hands and wiped his eyes as one of his lawyers read a statement from his wife in which she described being “on the road to forgiveness, but not fully there” about her husband’s infidelity.
Shortly after Sinclair finished his statement, a prosecutor, Major Rebecca DiMuro, began the closing arguments for the military, telling the judge that the general had wrongly used his skill and reputation to further his risky and shameful exploits.