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Fort Bragg hearing focuses on general's travel, relationships

Lawyers for Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair began their case Wednesday afternoon, offering testimony from witnesses to discredit the female captain at the center of the allegations against the one-star general.

Fellow Army officers testified that the woman who came forward and admitted a three-year relationship with Sinclair was flirtatious and often overstepped her bounds with superior officers.

They also described Sinclair, 50, as a disciplined and sometimes stern officer who often took time to mentor promising soldiers.

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But prosecutors highlighted the differences between Sinclair's relationship with men and his relationships with the women who have testified against him.

Prosecutors asked two male soldiers, Capt. Chris Rosser and Maj. Ian Lauer, who testified to having mentor relationships with Sinclair, whether they told the general they loved him, planned to meet him in a hotel or sent him nude photographs of themselves.

Those are the types of actions prosecutors are alleging took place between Sinclair and several women who have testified in the Article 32 hearing at Fort Bragg. They allege Sinclair used his power and position to coerce the women to perform sexual acts or send him photos or video of a sexual nature.

Sinclair's lawyers are fighting the charges but have not denied that an affair took place.

The woman has testified that Sinclair twice forced her to commit sexual acts.

A polygraph taken by Sinclair this month found no deception when the general stated that he did not force the woman or grope her against her will, according to a copy of the test results obtained by The Fayetteville Observer on Wednesday.

The Observer does not name victims of sexual assault.

The hearing, which began Monday, will help decide whether Sinclair will stand trial on charges that include forcible sodomy, fraud and maltreatment of subordinates.

Earlier Wednesday, another female captain who had previously served alongside Sinclair at Fort Bragg in 2003 testified that Sinclair repeatedly asked her to send him nude photos of herself and made repeated attempts to meet her in person.

The captain testified that she and Sinclair did not have a sexual relationship. She said she often told him "what he wanted to hear" in an attempt to preserve their friendship.

She said the pair only met in person three times, all near the start of their friendship nearly a decade ago. They communicated by phone and email, and the woman testified that she made excuses to avoid meeting Sinclair in person because she knew he wanted sex.

The woman said Sinclair's requests for photos made her uncomfortable. She said she eventually downloaded photos from a pornographic website, cropped off the head of the model and sent them to Sinclair while representing that they were photos of her.

"I wasn't proud, sir," the woman told prosecutors. "I just wanted to make him happy."

The captain was investigated for adultery and fraternization but passed a polygraph test in connection with the case. She received a letter of reprimand, which is on hold, and she was ordered to testify. Her lawyer was in the courtroom for her testimony.

She also said the case has harmed her marriage. She said she married a friend of Sinclair's, and her husband feels betrayed by her and the general.

Defense lawyer Lt. Col. Jackie Thompson said it wasn't the photos or emails that hurt her marriage; it was the fact the government showed the items to her husband. The woman agreed with his statement.

Another woman, a major, testified that she sent Sinclair photos of herself from before and after an elective breast surgery, at his request. She also sent him an indecent video, the major testified.

She said that she was not looking for a sexual relationship with the general but only wanted validation.

The pair met when Sinclair was her brigade commander in Germany. They also were stationed at Fort Bragg at the same time several years later.

The major said she did not become friends with Sinclair until after she was out of his chain of command.

She said that the two confided in each other, and that she confronted him in late 2010 about rumors that he was having an affair.

"I'm telling you this situation is not going to end in your favor," she said she told Sinclair.

The major said she had several inappropriate conversations with the general but had no interest in sleeping with him. She "shut down" the conversation when Sinclair made the suggestion, she said.

"He put it out there that if I wanted to do anything beyond the professional, it would happen," she said.

The major also was investigated for adultery and passed a polygraph test. She ultimately received nonjudicial punishment for indecent acts.

Prosecutors called another woman, 1st Lt. Nargis Kabiri, to testify about Sinclair's behavior toward her. Kabiri never had sexual relations with Sinclair. She worked in the division headquarters in Afghanistan until January, then returned to Fort Bragg. When Sinclair returned home on leave, he reached out to her and began mentoring her.

On March 17, Kabiri believed she was going to have brunch with Sinclair in Fayetteville to talk about her career, according to her testimony. Kabiri said she had to cancel because she had duty.

Prosecutors showed an email that Sinclair later sent to Kabiri that indicated he wanted to take her to a horse farm in Raleigh for brunch. In the email, Sinclair described himself as being "smitten'' with Kabiri, but the lieutenant testified that she didn't respond to his comment.

Two days later, Maj. Gen. James L. Huggins, then-commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, learned about some of the allegations against Sinclair. The complaints set in motion an investigation of Sinclair, who was the deputy general for support of the division and Regional Command-South in Afghanistan.

Sinclair was sent home from Afghanistan this spring and assigned as a special assistant to Lt. Gen. Daniel Allyn, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps.

Sinclair also faces charges of violating general orders pertaining to alcohol and pornography and conduct unbecoming an officer.

The Article 32 hearing is similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding. The hearing officer will collect the findings and make a suggestion on whether to proceed with the case to the convening authority, who in this case is Allyn.

If the case proceeds and the charges remain in their current form, Sinclair could be dismissed from the Army and sentenced to life in prison under the toughest punishment.

There is no minimum punishment or sentencing guidelines in the military court system, meaning Sinclair could be convicted but not punished. Experts familiar with the military justice system said it is unlikely Sinclair will receive considerable prison time if convicted.

The hearing is scheduled to resume Thursday morning at 7 a.m.

brooksd@fayobserver.com

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