A US Army general has been brought back from Afghanistan to face court-martial on a series of sexual misconduct charges.
Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair, who served five combat tours, will face trial following a spate of high-profile military sex scandals involving high-ranking officers. He appeared at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on charges that include wrongful sexual conduct, indecent acts and adultery, and will enter his plea at a later date.
The hearing continued with a defence bid to disqualify prosecutors over privileged emails erroneously sent to them by criminal investigators. The messages included exchanges between Sinclair and his lawyers, his wife and with a family friend who is an ordained minister.
The military judge, Army Colonel James Pohl, has set the trial portion of the court-martial for May 13. He did not immediately rule on the defence attempt to disqualify the prosecuting lawyers, all four of whom testified under oath they had not reviewed the emails.
A 27-year Army veteran, Sinclair faces life in prison if convicted of the most serious offences. It is rare for an Army general to face court-martial and there have been only two cases in recent years.
But more commanders have lost their posts over sex - of the 18 generals and admirals fired in recent years, 10 were sacked because of sex-related offences. At a hearing in November, prosecutors presented evidence about Sinclair's conduct with five women who were not his wife, including officers who served under his direct command.
The charges involve activities when he was in Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany and at installations in the United States. Sinclair was deputy commander in charge of logistics and support for the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan before being relieved last May during the criminal investigation.
The female captain at the heart of the case said she carried on a three-year sexual relationship with Sinclair, a father of two. Adultery is a crime under military law, and the admission could end her career. She has testified that she repeatedly tried to break off the affair with Sinclair, who she says threatened to kill her and her family if she told anyone about their frequent sexual liaisons in hotels, headquarters and war zones.
The woman said she usually wanted to have sex with the general, but she claimed on two occasions he exposed himself and physically forced her to perform sex acts. Two female officers who served with Sinclair also testified that they had given the general nude photos at his request.
Sinclair is also accused of possessing alcohol in a war zone and disobeying orders. Sinclair has not yet spoken about the charges against him. At the pre-trial hearing, his defence lawyers conceded the affair with the female captain, while working to paint her as a liar trying to ruin the general's life and military reputation.