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Judge Allows Army Brigadier General To Enter New Plea In Assault Case

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair leaves the courthouse for the day Wednesday at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C.
Ellen Ozier
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair leaves the courthouse for the day Wednesday at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C.

The judge presiding over the court-martial of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair gave him the opportunity to enter a new plea in the assault case.

As The New York Times reports, Col. James L. Poh said the Army may have improperly influenced the senior officer who rejected Sinclair's plea. As we reported, Sinclair, 51, a former deputy commander with the 82nd Airborne Division, offered to plea guilty to lesser charges.

The Times adds:

"Colonel Pohl said he would give General Sinclair the opportunity, until Tuesday morning, to file a new plea offer. If the general makes a new offer, the judge said a senior Army officer not currently involved in the case would be named to decide whether to accept it.

"But if General Sinclair decides not to file a new plea, the trial will proceed on Tuesday, the judge said. Defense lawyers had asked him to dismiss the most serious charges, including forcible sodomy and maltreatment. But Colonel Pohl said he would not do that, saying that would 'not be appropriate.'

"In ruling that 'unlawful command influence' had occurred, Colonel Pohl found in particular that a letter by Capt. Cassie Fowler, a lawyer representing the accuser, may have affected the thinking of Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the commanding general of Fort Bragg's XVIII Airborne Corps and the ultimate authority over the court-martial. That letter, sent in December, said the accuser was opposed to a plea deal, and it invoked the potential political consequences of an agreement on the Army's efforts to combat sexual assault."

WTVD-TV reportsthat in the letter, the lawyer representing the accuser "invoked Congress' efforts to take these types of prosecutions away from the Army." If you accept the plea, the lawyer is said to have written, "Congress is going to come away and take our Army's ability to prosecute these cases."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.