Prosecutors dropped sex charges against a US general on Monday in a plea deal that saw the army officer admit to mistreating a subordinate in an adulterous affair, officials said.
In a rare court martial of a senior commander, Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair admitted to conduct “unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman”, but the court dismissed more serious allegations that he had forced a female captain to perform oral sex against her will.
Sordid details of the allegations drew heavy publicity because of a sexual assault crisis in the military that has alarmed lawmakers.
Sinclair, 51, who served as a top commander of troops in southern Afghanistan, had already entered guilty pleas on March 6 to a number of lesser charges, including adultery, which is prohibited under the military's legal code, according to a statement issued by US Army authorities.
On Monday, Sinclair pleaded guilty to the additional charges of failure to obey an order, cruelty and maltreatment, frauds against the United States and conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman, the army said.
A judge approved the plea agreement and sentencing hearings were due to resume on Tuesday at a base in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The general's defence lawyers had all along admitted that their client was ready to admit his affair, but vowed to fight charges he had committed any kind of assault or threatened violence.
The defence had alleged the Pentagon had exerted political influence over the case, pushing for a trial despite the evidence. Military officials denied the allegation.
Sinclair's accuser was an army captain who is 17 years younger and who served with him in Afghanistan.
While the court martial has been under way, lawmakers in Congress approved reforms to the military justice system designed to bolster protections for victims of sexual assault and help prosecute rapists in the ranks.
The military's case against Sinclair was thrown into doubt before the trial began after the abrupt resignation of the chief prosecutor. He had reportedly confided to defence lawyers that he had serious reservations about the case. - Sapa-AFP