General Sinclair is a powerful man with powerful connections. As the verdict came in at a much lower penalty than previously expected, no one doubted that the DoD’s judicial system for sexual assault is flawed. Our Sierra Juliet provided her take on Sinclair’s good fortune, and the misfortune of his victims.
General Sinclair: Money, Power, Respect
By Sierra Juliet
If you’ve been paying attention to the news this week, you probably heard that Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair agreed to a plea deal in exchange for a significantly reduced set of charges in a case where he has been on trial for inappropriate relationships with three subordinates. One of the accusers was his mistress of three years, an Army captain, who accused him of sexual assault and threatening her life, and that of her family, if she were to expose their extramarital relationship.
For all the victims of sexual assault in the military, to include myself, and for all of the advocates working on this on-going sexual assault reform that’s currently taking place in congress, we’ve all been seriously let down by this trial. I believe we all knew by Monday March 17, 2014, where this trial was going to lead, and sadly, today March 20, 2014, our dreaded fear has been confirmed. Once again, we’ve been let down and discounted.
It began Monday when military Judge, Col. James L. Pohl, accepted Sinclair’s guilty plea on several lesser charges in exchange for dropping the more serious, sexual assault charges, and two other charges that would have required the Army General to register as a sex offender and fulfill a possible life sentence. Since those charges were dropped, we were hearing from the press that Sinclair’s sentencing would most likely be drastically reduced
Sinclair’s attorney, Richard Scheff, believes that the military court system rushed this case into trial with the intentions of appearing as though the Army was acting swiftly in an attempt to limit military sexual assaults and other misconduct. He further believes that General Sinclair was the victim of wrongful accusations and that he was being used as a scapegoat for a much broader political agenda.
I’m not here to write about the testimony, claims, and accusations of any party involved in this trial. Instead, I would like to focus on the fact that General Sinclair abused his power of authority and his position of trust. Unfortunately, he’s not the first to do this, and he certainly will not be the last. Our military has a long way to go before any kind of real reform is to be seen.
Many of our seemingly trustworthy military leaders, to include commissioned and non-commissioned officers, generals, commanders, drill instructors, military police officers, etc. abuse their “positions of trust” and continue to do so merely unscathed by the military legal system. What’s interesting to me though, is the angle that the media took while covering this story.
It seemed as though the media was focused more on General Sinclair “beating the system” by simply being extremely powerful. Powerful people have friends in high places, and those friends came out to support their general with compelling enough testimonies on his behalf. Those testimonies were the last thing that the jury (a panel of military generals) heard before the judge made his ruling.
What about the victims in this case? What about the main accusers testimony? Why have these women, who brought forth compelling evidence against Sinclair, been dismissed? In fact, his most serious accuser has been called a liar, and her testimony has been severely ridiculed and damn near discounted.
In an article I found online from the Washington Post newspaper, Sinclair said it best himself, and his words prove that our military’s legal system is corrupt and backwards:
“The system worked. I’ve always been proud of my Army,” Sinclair told reporters after the sentence was imposed. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/disgraced-army-general-jeffrey-a-sinclair-receives-fine-no-jail-time/2014/03/20/c555b650-b039-11e3-95e8-39bef8e9a48b_story.html .
The media has been very focused on how General Sinclair was able to cop an amazing plea deal and by doing this, they inadvertently glorified him. Unfortunately, this case is proving more and more disastrous for the military sexual assault reform that is currently underway. General Sinclair was originally facing 25 1/2 years of prison time, a reduction in rank, and one million dollars taken from his retirement pension. Even though it was said that his final sentencing would not be nearly as harsh as those conditions above, todays news really floored me. Today, at the closing of the trial, Judge Pohl slapped General Sinclair on the wrist, told him to pay $20,000.00, and also gave him a get out of jail free card. That’s what being a powerful general buys you.
Countless victims, both men and women, have come forward in the recent years to share their painful testimony in a dire effort to change the way military sexual assaults are handled in the military. Despite the military’s political agenda in this case, the only thing they really accomplished was reinforcement behind the notion that, if you’re not among the powerful in ranks, and don’t have the money for a legal dream team to represent you, your testimony doesn’t really matter. To sum it up, the powerful, wealthy, highly respected and well supported perpetrator wins again. Meanwhile, the victims are once again, betrayed and re-victimized.
When’s it gonna change people? When?