Army commander to plead guilty to sex crimes and other charges

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(CNN) — Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair — once one of the U.S. Army’s top commanders in Afghanistan and accused of “sodomy … by force” and other military crimes — is to set to plead guilty Thursday to some charges but not the most serious levied against him, his lawyer said.

Sinclair will plead guilty on three of the eight charges he’s facing in military court, according to the office of lawyer Richard Scheff. These include “wrongfully engaging in … inappropriate relationships” with three women soldiers from 2009 to 2012 overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany as well as domestically at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Hood, Texas.

He’ll also admit to having requested and possessed “pornographic and sexually explicit photographs and movies,” having “sexually explicit communications with a female Army captain, and trying “to engage in an inappropriate relationship” with another woman. And the brigadier general will plead guilty to impeding the investigation into him by deleting nude photographs and an e-mail account, his lawyer said.

But Sinclair will not admit to the most serious accusations against him, including the sodomy charge and that he threatened “to kill (one of the soldiers) and her family if she told anyone about their relationship, or words to that effect.”

He is also charged with “using his rank and authority to coerce and compel” a woman “subject to his orders … to maintain a sexual relationship with him and prevent her from ending (that) relationship.”

“The government now has a big problem: It took pathetically weak assault charges and put a fancy wrapper around them,” Scheff said. “We just tore the wrapper off. The prosecution team no longer gets to distract us with salacious details about acts that aren’t even criminal in the civilian world.”

Yet Sinclair could still be found guilty on all the charges against him.

It’s up to a military judge to accept the guilty pleas as is, though Scheff’s office indicates that they expect he’ll do so. Moreover, the full trial is still set to proceed as planned with opening arguments kicking off at some point Thursday.

Sinclair was sent to Fort Bragg from Afghanistan in 2012, the same year the last alleged incidents occurred and when he was originally charged. He had been deputy commander of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.

Scheff said Wednesday that his client “has consistently admitted his shortcomings and taken responsibility for them.”

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