FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, wearing a dress uniform and jump boots, has been a solemn, solitary figure at the defense table. He has not spoken during his proceedings on sexual misconduct charges except to answer procedural questions from military judges.
But as the general prepares for a court-martial, Sinclair’s supporters have spoken up online. In a website subtitled “The Truth Behind the Case,” they defend Sinclair, accusing the Army of trumping up charges against a one-star general with five deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The Army has tried to make the case worse than it is,” the website, sinclairinnocence.com, declares. The site says the Army has demonized the married father of two boys: “They want you to believe that he’s a porn-addicted, alcoholic rapist.”
It goes on: “Army prosecutors have carefully managed a public relations campaign to try and convict General Sinclair in the public sphere, before he even has his day in court.”
The most serious charges against Sinclair are two counts of forcible sodomy for allegedly compelling a female captain to perform oral sex. The general also is charged with having an affair with the captain (both officers admit it); threatening the captain and her family; pressing female officers to send him nude photos; possessing alcohol and pornography while deployed; and abusing his government charge card.
The Sinclair case has been noteworthy in several respects. It is rare for a general to face a court-martial. It is rare too for a soldier’s defenders to mount a public challenge to the military, especially before a court-martial begins. Sinclair’s is set for May.
Sinclair’s wife has embarked on a media campaign to defend her husband against what she says are false charges. But that has meant focusing on embarrassing details.
“It’s not fun for me to see this material on the Web, but we’re asking people to take a look at the evidence and reach their own conclusions,” Rebecca Sinclair, the general’s wife, said in an email.
The website has publicized texts and emails between Sinclair, 50, and the captain, 33. They are laced with vivid sexual urgings and explicit exchanges.
The general’s wife and supporters hope the messages underscore the consensual nature of the relationship. Sinclair faces up to life in prison if convicted of forced sodomy.
Rebecca Sinclair said the stress of multiple deployments has contributed to infidelity in the military. She said she and her husband were working on their marriage.
“He made some mistakes, and they were painful ones,” she said. “But I know he’s innocent of the assault charges … and I know that he’s a great father to our boys.”
Neither the general, his wife nor lawyers are directly involved in the website, said Carreen Winters of MWW, a New York public relations firm hired by Sinclair’s supporters. Winters says the general’s military attorneys, unlike civilian lawyers, can’t mount a public defense in this very public case.
“The facts are his best friend,” Winters said in an email.
Benjamin Abel, an Army spokesman at Fort Bragg, said it would be inappropriate to comment: “It is imperative that we let the military justice system work as it is designed to do, in court.”
Sinclair is charged with conducting a three-year sexual affair with the captain. He is accused of pressuring two other female junior officers for nude photos. One sent cropped photos from a pornography site, the other images of her breast enhancement.
The captain testified in November that Sinclair threatened to kill her and her family if she revealed the affair. The general is charged with “using his rank and authority” to force the captain to continue the relationship.
The captain testified that Sinclair twice forced her to perform oral sex, and also groped her on a military flight. She said she loved the general, enjoyed sex with him — including oral sex — and did not want him to be charged with sexual assault.
Under cross-examination, the captain could not provide dates for the alleged forced oral sex. She said she stopped having sex with Sinclair afterward.
The defense contends that emails and text messages describe a consensual relationship. In the messages, the captain called Sinclair “papa panda sexy pants” and “you beautiful magnificent man.” She wrote, “I need you and I mean really deeply profusely need you.”
When the Sinclairs first heard the alcohol charge, Rebecca Sinclair said, “we weren’t sure whether to laugh or cry.” She said Sinclair was given a bottle of Scotch by a dignitary and never opened it.
The website contends that pornography sites found on Sinclair’s computer could have been downloaded by others.
The website does not address other charges against Sinclair: Disobeying an order not to contact the captain after she reported the relationship in March. Destroying evidence. Using derogatory terms toward female soldiers. Forcing the captain to publicly state “I’m just a girl” after making a mistake in her duties.