From the New York Times:

A military judge on Thursday morning reprimanded Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair for mistreating his mistress and other charges, but did not sentence him to any jail time and allowed him to remain in the military.

He was also ordered to forfeit $5,000 a month in pay for four months, but will be allowed to keep his pension and other benefits.

The decision by the judge at Fort Bragg, Col. James L. Pohl, was a sweeping victory for the defense, which had earlier agreed with prosecutors to cap any prison time he might face at 18 months.

57 Responses to “Sinclair’s sentence”

  1. Ed says:

    Mr. Tate was acquitted of sexual assault. Not a good day for the government.

  2. phil cave says:

    And don’t forget, Sinclair will retire as a LTC at a much reduced amount per check, per the PTA.

  3. phil cave says:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/18/us-usa-military-sexualassault-idUSBREA2H0OK20140318
    “He said that the day after the party she told a friend, “Last night was crazy. What I did last night, I did it and I wanted to do it.””
    Eerie, this is what happened in an acquittal I had several years ago; a case that didn’t become a rape allegation until public knowledge of the consensual sex and a pending SCM for fraternization and adultery.

  4. Cloudesley Shovell says:

    Mr. Cave:  Can a PTA control retirement grade?  Is that not an administrative decision made by the Army Personnel Command, or whatever they call it?  Or did the PTA or associated documents contain a stipulation that O-5 was the last grade satisfactorily held?
     
    CS

  5. phil cave says:

    Admiral,
    He agreed to waive a board hearing.
    True, they do not have to reduce him to LTC, they could allow him to retire in grade, or as a colonel.
    So true, I probably jumped a couple of steps to get to LTC.  
    Ah, the rocks and shoals of poor navigating.

  6. Lieber says:

    I’ve maintained for years that one of the reasons we should get of adultery as an offense (I can think of a few) is the sheer number of times in the military that is the alleged cause of a false accusation (doesn’t matter whether it is or not, what matters is that it’s a ready-made motive for the defense bar to argue)

  7. DCGoneGalt says:

    Lieber:  I concur.  There are regs that allow charging Art 92, for every instance of adultery that has some sort of connection to military duty.  When it goes to court it is usually as a tack-on charge for the Government to get a conviction on the back end of a baseless sexual assault allegation (you know, one of those pesky 2% of claims) and often used, and abused, by defense counsel to attack a complainant for a motive to fabricate.

  8. 1LT Paco says:

    This sentence seems exceptionally light.  Not wanting to sentence him for the dismissed charges.  At the same time, this was not just an adultery case (i.e., asking a different LT on a date, misusing government credit card, etc.).  I personally saw him chapter soldiers who also had families and who also had served honorably in combat, often at much more physical risk than he faced, for far less.  I would have given him 179 days confinement and a dismissal.  

  9. af_dc says:

    Lieber: a truly excellent point. I would also say that it allows the Government a bs way to make sure the accused still gets some punishment even if he or she is acquitted of the main sexual assault charge.

  10. Mike says:

    Perhaps after Sinclair and Tate the Gov will start acting like DAs and decide to charge based on the evidence. Vegas odds aren’t good though

  11. DCGoneGalt says:

    Mike:  Fat chance on sanity prevailing.  The mantra will likely be something along the lines of “This is yet another example of why we need to remove military judges from the military justice process.”

  12. poeteguerisseur says:

    What was the quantum?

  13. Former AFTDC says:

    According to one article I read, the quantum was an 18 month cap. That same article indicated the government did not argue for confinement.

  14. ArmyTC says:

    The quantum (as reported by the Fayetteville Observer) was to disapprove any confinement in excess of 18 months. All other lawful punishment could be approved.

  15. k fischer says:

    On the flip side of the adultery discussion, having the offense of adultery allows the Commander to get rid of a Soldier on rear D (no pun intended) whose hitting it with all the deployed husband’s wives.  
     
    DCD, if we could trust that everybody in the prosecution of sex crime allegations were adults and not susceptible to politics, then Commanders and prosecutors would not take bs consensual adultery “turnt up” to rape charges when it is clear that the complaining witness is fabricating the allegation, so she does not look skankaliscious.
     
    Kudos to Judge Pohl.  I’ve never had any reason to think that he would consider this in his sentencing philosophy, but he just saved DADD and GADD a $hit-ton of work and, as a taxpayer I appreciate this, plenty of the taxpayer’s money.  Clearly, and thankfully, Judge Pohl is not one to succumb to political pressure.  Once again, I’d carry his briefcase to GTMO any day, as long as I got to bring my speargun, mask, snorkle and fins.
     
    Ed, I think this is an outstanding day for the Government.  Two men are not sitting in jail on some bs charges, and maybe those TC’s who have done the Government’s bidding have learned a valuable lesson.  It is a bitter, but necessary, pill to swallow when prosecuting someone you do not feel should be going to jail, and if you are an overzealous prosecutor, you might learn to simmer down now.  
     
    I’ve always held those Prosecutors in the lowest regard who say, “Well, today was not a good day to be a prosecutor” after a case that resulted in a conviction when everyone knows it should have been an acquittal or the accused should not have gone to jail.  Of course, I guess there will always be some politically minded prosecutor willing to pick up the flag, succumb to political pressure, and prosecute a hero based on nothing more than an allegation from a perjurer, so Defense counsel will just have to kick G butt one case at a time and hope that the gatekeepers, i.e. the military judges, have the courage to ensure that all parts of the UCMJ is followed, even by the Government.  It worked in this case.  I wish all judge were cut from the same clothe as COL Pohl.

  16. Mike says:

    Learned two things today
    1 skankilicious (sp?)
    2. Go JA in today’s military

  17. One-time pseudonym says:

    Well, I sure hope that fine and reprimand made it worthwhile screwing over Will Helixon.
     
    (Spoiler alert: No, it was not.)

  18. DCGoneGalt says:

    I feel that the Naval Academy show trial is being given short shrift today. 

  19. stewie says:

    Not second-guessing the TC who argued, I’m just curious as to why you don’t argue for jail time if you have a cap of 18 months in the deal.
     
    I’m sure there’s a great reason, I am curious about it though.

  20. Former SJA says:

    Rep Speier said, “This is another sordid example of how truly broken the military justice system is. This sentence is a mockery of military justice, a slap on the wrist nowhere close to being proportional to Sinclair’s offenses.”  Somebody remind me again how the STOP Act or the MJIA would produce an improved result?  Going to the extreme and throwing out the military justice system entirely, how many civilian prosecutors would have had any interest in even pursuing these ultimate charges?  I miss the connection between this military judge’s sentence and another inflamed indictment of the system writ large.  Once again, it’s clear that no decisions from convening authorities, SJAs, or any other representatives in the MJ system, other than public lynchings of all suspects upon an initial report of a sexual assault, will ever satiate the political appetites of critics and the special interest groups that have some legislators’ rapt attention.  Nor should they!
    If there’s a debate to be had, it seems to me it is whether General Sinclair received rank-based leniency from the military judge.  That question at least focuses attention on whether the system functioned as it should and whether this senior accused received, appropriately or not, a sentencing benefit not available to more junior soldiers.  Based on the government’s PTA quantum and the military judge’s sentence, it is clear there were very different lenses through which these crimes and this accused could be viewed.

  21. DCGoneGalt says:

    Stewie:  Same here, did TC just go all out with a request for a dismissal?

  22. Lieber says:

    WhatI’mhearingisthatStellewentforthedismissal.
     

  23. Defense Hack says:

    Former SJA: My concern is that congress is trying to tinker with the system to guarantee harsher punishments and more convictions. Doesn’t that seem wrong? Shouldn’t the goal be to reduce the incidences of sexual assault? Stacking the deck in favor of the Government only makes the MJ system look worse, and not better. Who wants to volunteer to join an organization where you risk not just being injured or killed by the very nature of the work, but also being subject to the scarlet letter of SOR and incarceration?

  24. k fischer says:

    Godspeed, LTC Helixon.  Get back into the good fight.  The Army needs prosecutors in its ranks who have his integrity.

  25. Former SJA says:

    DH: I agree. I certainly don’t agree with the congresswoman that this case is an indictment of the MJ system. In the end, the result that the court reached shouldn’t be unexpected to any MJ practitioner. But I do think the legislative tinkering and withering criticism threaten the system’s integrity, because such pressures inevitably impact the human decisions that are involved. To consider the other side of your point–how much can we rely on convening authorities and JAGs to do what is right when they are constantly subject to the scarlet letter of a “wrong decision” in the eyes of Congress? I’ve heard many put their faith in the capability of panels and judges to rise above the fray, but I’m not entirely convinced they are immune from the white hot spotlight. That said, I don’t see how an alternative system would have done it better.

  26. Neutron73 says:

    This result will just give the politicos a huge blowtorch to cut through the existing system, and I think the Congresscritters will have a field day going after a “system” that allegedly “protected one of their own.”
    Stand by, Folks.  This is going to be an interesting ride!

  27. stewie says:

    One assumes that certain legislation that only got 55 votes last time around might be shopped again in the next month or so with these two cases as Exhibits A and B as to why it should pass this time.  Definitely will be interesting.

  28. C. Waite says:

    Great comments, all. I really enjoy reading them. 
    And….K Fischer, you probably should have brought that guy to GTMO with you the first time!

  29. Zachary D Spilman says:

    stewie-

    After this week, do you really think Congress is going to double down on putting the lawyers in charge?

  30. stewie says:

    I think it a real possibility yes.  I only have to look at all the usual folks who came out after this saying how this is all the more reason why Sen Gillibrand’s legislation should pass.
     
    They aren’t switching to a new horse at this point in the race.

  31. Zeke says:

    These two cases are great points of proof for why lawyers, and not commanders should hold the reins.  In both cases, it was lawyers who found the just outcome – either though adjudging acquittals, making courageous pretrial declarations about the propriety of going forward, and making courageous rulings on pretrial motions.  I know some on the Hill may not see it that way, but these cases are, to me, strong support for a bill that would abolish command authority in all criminal justice matters – well beyond merely dealing with sex assault.

  32. DCGoneGalt says:

    Mr. Spilman:  I agree with Stewie, this will renew the push for Senator Gillibrand’s bill.  While you are correct that it is not a rational fix based on these two cases (or in any other sane world), you are assuming Congress and the media are rational on this topic.  It has become a political shrieking contest where rational thought based on fact is irrelevant.  Check out the comments on major media sites or, if you can stomach the absurd depths of stupidity, the Huffington Post.

  33. Tami says:

    This was a ridiculously low sentence.  Sinclair got the “general officer” discount.  Expecting a dismissal was unrealistic, and I have no clue why the TC (not Stelle) wasted her time arguing for that.  But I expected some jail time, and a hefty fine, more than the colonel with the Iraqi mistress.  Brings new meaning to the phrase “different spanks for different ranks.”
     
    This case also had nothing to do with command authority.  “Command authority” did what it was supposed to do, preferred sexual assault charges, had a hearing, referred them to court, turned down a PTA that didn’t include a guilty plea to a sex offense.  So where did the command authority fail in this case?
     
    The easiest solution is for Congress to STOP MESSING WITH OUR SYSTEM!  STOP TRYING TO STACK THE DECK AGAINST THE ACCUSED!  The outcome of this case is CONGRESS’ FAULT!  I’m glad the Naval Academy case came out the way it did, and I hope the Air Force case ends up the same way, because that is a BS case.
     
    As far as Gilligan’s legislation, oops, I mean Gillibrand’s legislation, it only shifts the focus from commanders to JAGs, who are just as beholden to Congress for promotions as commanders.  “Trained” prosecutors at the O-6 level?  Good luck finding enough of those.  And if you leave it in the prosecutors’ hands, how many of these cases will never see the inside of a courtroom, like Tom Cruise?  Oh wait, let’s let civilian prosecutors take these cases.  Even fewer prosecutions.  Wait, wait, let’s create a special office in DC to handle these cases.  What’s speedy trial?  What about TDYs?  What about sexual assault overseas?
     
    Let’s change the Constitution so that Congress is no longer in charge of making our laws….  Bring back the sanity to how we deal with these cases.

  34. Tami says:

    ArmyTC:  The deal requires the convening authority to endorse Sinclair’s retirement application.  In order to do that, he would have had to disapprove an adjudged dismissal.  They put that on the record.  Not that it matters, since there wasn’t one.  Wonder if MG Chinn will sign the endorsement the same time he signs the reprimand?
     
    The deal also requires Sinclair to pay restitution for the GTC misuse.  Apparently not a problem, Scheff told COL Pohl Sinclair could write a check for it today or tomorrow.  But he has until the CA takes final action to pay it.  And of course, no consequences if he doesn’t. 

  35. RKincaid3 says:

    Outstanding discussion, all.  To all of us as we prepare to weather the inevitable political storm/fallout from thise, change is turmoil, so we are heading into challenging times as the UCMJ evolves into a true justice system.  Growing pains are a bear!   Good night, and good luck, to us all!

  36. DCGoneGalt says:

    Tami:  You’re right, the Wright case will be the Air Force’s time to have a politically motivated show trial exposed for what it is.  From CSAF to the former TJAG to the SVC I hope the facts all come out in public.  I am sure the Alice in Wonderland media will trumpet it as a failure of justice but the truth wins out in the end, or so I hope.

  37. charlie Gittins says:

    I don’t pretent to know where Col Daugherty may rank in the players for the next SJA to CMC, but I am guessing that if he is selected a few years from now, he may have a problem.  That said, he made a courageous decision to follow the law and not the political winds blown out the back end of a bunch of blow hard legislators with no experience and no clue about what it means to actually serve in the military.  Reasonable doubt is the constitutional standard, not “she made the accusation, so it must be true unless the accused disproves it.”  He earned hs Legion of Merit with his courage.

  38. Regular Joe says:

    No one except those in the case file will know for sure, but it’s looking like this whole deal (and the USAF – both in general and regarding its application of military justice) was a circus from the start. It had UCI, a general reading a victim letter with the veiled threat of making Congress angry and using that as all the info needed to make a decision; a process that took way too long; a ridiculous ending; and the dismantling of an esteemed Army JAG’s mental health.
    Did the Army throw Helixon under the bus and run him over a few times? Looks that way.
    If he did have a breakdown, he was either very fragile to begin with or the chain of command chose to motivate him in some unsavory ways.
    A general officer goes to court martial – does he bring Army JAGs with him? No. He hired civilians. Like it or not the Army JAG’s role will be looked at as, ‘copy machine guy’ ‘Starbucks guy’ or similarly trivial roles. What message does that send about confidence in counsel provided by the services? This guy was an ADC, BCT Cdr, BN Cdr, etc, you think he’s seen how the game is played from the other side, rigging the game against the accused? He knew and he got outside help. Looks like money well spent. 
    Sinclair has *U money. Lots of it. He’s been gaming the system for over 20 years. He won’t even blink when he clears that travel card, paying the fine to the Army will be easy, it’s not like he has rent to pay or whatever. 
    The credibility issue with the cell phone should not have derailed the case, the Army’s missteps did that. 
    Also, I’d pay good money to know what was happening behind the scenes. Sinclair still has friends in high places. And, if he’s been saving his pst file on a regular basis (as he should have been doing since his days as a platoon leader), you can rest assured that about the time he hit BN XO and higher, he’s seen some very interesting emails; and I’m sure his friends have managed to grab some others…he’s in a position to drop bombs on the Army and how it does business. Something was said behind closed doors, the Army backed down. 
    The Army had Congress on one side and Sinclair on the other. Sinclair won.
    Army will let this thing quiet down, they’ll hope the air farce screws up again, they’ll get their $5k per month, in August they’ll tell him he’s going to retire, and probably in the interim between Thanksgiving and Christmas with all the short work weeks and distractions, he’ll quietly leave. Beforehand, they’re going to ask him to sign non-disclosures, he’s going to take out his big pile of *U money, and read the offers from book publishers or whatever and tell the Army to get lost. 
     
    There may be a lot of hot air in the next six months as a result of this case, but the real impacts will be felt in early to mid 2015. 

  39. A. Dreyfus says:

    Sadly I think we are far from seeing an end to the mishandling of these cases. How many are already in the pipeline? Another one or two at Bragg, if the rumors are true, the Air Force case coming up and undoubtedly many others. I recall safety stand downs from my green tab days.  Our military justice system desperately needs a sex assault prosecution stand down and a common sense (true prosecutorial discretion) stand up. 

  40. Tami says:

    Regular Joe:
     
    The Army lost because Congress was on its side.  That’s the problem.  COL Pohl’s sentence wasn’t just about Sinclair’s conduct, it was also about sending a message to Congress to stop screwing with our system.  Obviously his message fell on deaf ears.  I don’t think the SVC did anything wrong–she was advocating for her client, but COL Pohl made a huge deal of it, again to send a message to Congress.  Now, COL Pohl was called up from retirement, so I doubt he cares what Congress thinks of him, but I don’t think the same could be said about other judges.  I hear COL Ham is going to be retiring soon.  Successful defense attorneys have a harder time getting selected for promotion because they were so good at defending Soldiers, apparently an undesirable trait.  The Army promotes officers like Sinclair, despite having a deeply ingrained character flaw that harms the Army as a whole.  We need more senior officers with moral courage to do the right thing, and I don’t see us getting them anytime soon because the military doesn’t want to make waves with Congress, which will come back to bite the military in the @$$ later on.

  41. DCGoneGalt says:

    Tami:  You are spot-on regarding needing senior officers with moral courage.  However, the time to show that moral courage was when the 2007 and 2012 re-design of Art 120 was FUBAR.  I now fear that the time has passed when that would even matter.  Senior leadership in every service and in the JAG Corps was unable, and publicly appeared unwilling, to fight back with the facts of the military’s gargantuan sexual assault prevention efforts and the investigatory and prosecutorial effort made on cases that the DoJ would, and does, laugh at.  In case after case the military stood by and allowed “victims” and the charlatans who exploit them to attack without getting out the facts of their individual allegations.  It has been especially sad to watch senior JAG leadership continually, through implication, bash their services and their JAGs when they know the truth and those who break themselves day in and day out for the JAG Corps want nothing more than to hear them answer the call and speak the truth. 

  42. Lieber says:

    can we stop the LTC Helixon railroading stuff????  Just stop it.
    He was very close to his father, everyone knew it, his dad was dying right on the eve of trial, then passed away….and you think it’s all about the case?  Sometimes personal reasons really are personal reasons.  fricking A

  43. Lieber says:

    and, yes, I think the sentence was a travesty.

  44. stewie says:

    I won’t speak on LTC Helixon because I’m ignorant of really any facts.  I will say that the level of public revelations at trial seemed a bit more than necessary to win the day from a distance…doesn’t mean it was, and it doesn’t mean anyone tried to do anything other than tell the truth, but I just wonder if there wasn’t a way to get from Point A to Point B that revealed a bit less of his personal life to the public.

  45. Contract Lawyer says:

    The sentence seems on the low end of the range, but in the range.  The travel card is a bogus issue.  Personnel are personally liable for their travel card charges and this is just an Article 92 violation for violating the guidelines, really.  The adultery is worth a reprimand.  The serious offense was that he had an affair with an officer under his command.  I do not believe he should have gotten a dismissal for this, but some confinement of around 30 days may have been in order.  The problem is that this accused stood accused for over a year of a serious offense that carried a maximum of life in prison.  The Govt committed UCIs and pressed forward with serious charges it should have known could not be proven.  Considering the Govt’s conduct here, I understand the sentence.  The conviction is also punishment.  Considering that the graveman of the charges was proven to be no more than consensual sexual activity, this is not an outrageous sentence.  It is only outrageous if you believe he got away with rape and want him punished for crimes he was not convicted of.  He has a federal conviction, he probably will not be able to get a job, he stood under a cloud for two years, and he will be busted to LTC upon retirement.  I definitely understand the sentence.  This is not an unjust sentence even if it is just to the lighter side of the appropriate range. 

  46. stewie says:

    I suspect someone of his stature will actually be able to find a job.  Certainly not the job he could have retired into had he kept it in his pants but a decent one nevertheless. 

  47. Joe says:

    I can’t belive they let him off with a slap on  the wrist.  If he were enlisted or a minority they would have thrown the book at him.   

  48. Lieber says:

    Joe,
    that’s crap and you know it.  Junior enlisted get an Article 15 for this set of charges…

  49. ResIpsaLoquitur says:

    Speier’s got an op-ed posted on CNN.  The content suggests to me that she didn’t pay attention at all to the trial as it unfolded, but wrote this in a hurry based on hearing the verdict.  http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/20/opinion/speier-military-prosecution/index.html?hpt=op_t1 
    I’ll give her a smidgen of credit for her throwaway line that “Well, the victim may have been lying…”

  50. DCGoneGalt says:

    Yes, there is always the chance the complainant was one of the 2%.  Which, if you consider the amount of false sexual assault allegations that actually result in disciplinary action to the false complainant, to the DoD means her lying is only slightly more likely than someone riding a unicorn into the Magical Gumdrop Forest to go to battle against the Leprechaun Prince.

  51. stewie says:

    Zach, I point to the linked article by Congressperson Speier as Exhibit A of my argument.

  52. Some Army Guy says:

    @ContractLawyer — It was a 132 for the government travel card.  Those charges were paid by the Army because Sinclair was on official orders when he traveled to see CPT Mistress.  That is essentially larceny.  He’s going to pay it back — now, after he’s been caught.

  53. Some Army Guy says:

    Lieber — It’s not crap.  I’ve seen BCDs and confinement for enlisted for adultery convictions only.  A couple incidents, not a three-year affair.

  54. stewie says:

    SAG, you may have, but in my experience such a result is unheard of unless that adultery was tried together with some other (usually sexual assault) offenses (which is the only way I’ve ever seen adultery charged at trial).  I’ve never seen or heard of it tried by itself, and I’ve been doing this a little bit.  I’ve only seen it dealt with as an A15, or usually, a GOMOR.

  55. 1LT Paco says:

    And it is not just the charge card (agree with Some Army Guy — charged as 132 and could have been a false official statement as well) and adultery, it is the abuse of power with other subordinates, such as asking one subordinate to send him naked pictures of herself.  That’s not sex assault, but neither is that just an adultery case that typically results in a reprimand.  I find the pattern of misconduct, the arrogance and entitlement, and his utter disregard for his soldiers and organization’s mission deeply offensive.  As such, the sentence is also offensive.  He should not have been smiling after announcement of sentence.

  56. Ed says:

    There is a very big difference between Sinclair and Tate. Paco is correct that Sinclair’s conduct was of such a nature  that the punishment should have been more severe. Sinclair benefited from the offensive conduct of the Army. Tate on the other hand never should have been prosecuted.

  57. DCGoneGalt says:

    I concur with Ed.  Sinclair got a judges “The Army Has Gone Too Far” discount on his sentence.  While the Art 120 allegation against Sinclair certainly appears to be a trumped-up farce, Tate’s trial was entirely based on laughable allegations and should have been handled accordingly.