RALEIGH — The court-martial of a U.S. Army general facing assault charges has been postponed for a second time.
The trial of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair had been scheduled to begin at Fort Bragg next Monday. It was announced Tuesday that military Judge Col. James Pohl rescheduled the trial for Jan. 7 after a request from Sinclair's defense team.
Sinclair's chief civilian lawyer, Rich Scheff, said the delay was over several issues that are still unresolved, including an appeal of Pohl's denial of pretrial motions seeking to have the bulk of the case thrown out. The defense claims that President Barack Obama's public promises to pursue and punish sexual predators in the military put unlawful pressure on the Pentagon to bring criminal charges against Sinclair, despite what they contend is the weakness of the prosecution's case.
"There are a number of procedural issues that we are grappling with that resulted in the delay of the trial," Scheff said. "The government agreed with our assessment. Separately, we have sought appellate review of the denial of our UCI motions and that is working its way through the system as well."
The delay marks the second time the trial has been postponed. The court-martial had previously been set to get underway in July.
A 27-year Army veteran and married father of two, Sinclair has pleaded not guilty to eight criminal charges including forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders and adultery. Most of the charges come from a three-year affair with a female captain who says Sinclair twice forced her to perform oral sex while she served under his command in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sinclair was deputy commander in charge of logistics and support for the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan before being relieved of command last year and sent back to Fort Bragg. He faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious offenses.
The captain later testified at the evidentiary hearing last year that she repeatedly tried to break off the affair with Sinclair, who she says threatened to kill her and her family if she told anyone about their frequent sexual liaisons in hotels, headquarters and war zones. Though she testified she usually wanted to have sex with the general, she said that on two occasions after they had argued he exposed himself and physically forced her to perform oral sex, even as she sobbed.
The Associated Press does not publically identify alleged victims of sexual assaults.
With the absence of physical evidence or any other witnesses, whether Sinclair is convicted on the sexual assault charges is likely to come down to whether the jury believes the account of his primary accuser.
The defense portrays the captain as a jilted lover lying to exact revenge on Sinclair for not leaving his wife and over his flirtations with other women. Two other female officers who served with Sinclair also testified that they had given the general nude photos at his request.