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Hearing Officer Investigating General's Charges

A hearing officer has been appointed to investigate charges against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, including forcible sodomy, Fort Bragg officials said Thursday.

Other charges against the one-star general involve fraud, sexual conduct, alcohol and pornography.

The hearing officer's name could not be disclosed as of Thursday afternoon, said Ben Abel, a Fort Bragg spokesman.

The announcement of charges against Sinclair comes the week the Pentagon is emphasizing the prevention of sexual assault. He is the second senior airborne leader this year to be publicly charged with misconduct.

The military legal process calls for an impartial officer to conduct a preliminary hearing to "determine the merits and seriousness" of the charges and whether Sinclair should face a court-martial, said Col. Kevin V. Arata, a Fort Bragg spokesman.

"In this case, the investigating officer will be senior to the accused," Abel said.

The officer could be a one-star general who was promoted to his current rank before Sinclair or an officer of a higher rank.

A date for the Article 32 hearing has not been set, Abel said. Fort Bragg officials said they will announce the date, and the hearing will be open to the public.

The investigating officer is from within U.S. Army Forces Command, Abel said. The four-star Forscom headquarters at Fort Bragg oversees most conventional combat forces based in the continental United States.

"There is no requirement for a military judge to be senior to an accused," Abel said. Rules for court-martial state "that unless it is unavoidable, panel members will not be junior to the accused," Abel said.

On Wednesday, Fort Bragg officials said Sinclair was charged with multiple violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the legal system for the armed forces. Charges include wrongful sexual conduct, misusing a government travel charge card and possessing alcohol and pornography while deployed, Arata said.

Sinclair also is charged with maltreatment of subordinates and filing fraudulent claims, Arata said.

The news conference about Sinclair's charges came the day after the Pentagon announced expanded efforts to prevent sexual harassment.

The Pentagon stated on Tuesday: "As part of the Department of Defense's efforts to confront the crime of sexual assault in the military, today the department announced improvements to prospective commander and senior enlisted training and a review of the initial military training environment in every service."

Maj. Justin Platt, an Army spokesman, said Sinclair's case has not caused a change of Army standards.

"Our sexual assault and harassment policy applies to all service members, regardless of rank," Platt said.

The Sinclair case comes in the wake of the conviction of Col. James H. Johnson III on multiple counts of fraud, conduct unbecoming an officer, bigamy and other charges related to an alleged long-term extramarital affair he had with a woman he met in Iraq when they both lived in Europe.

Johnson was sentenced to a $300,000 fine and issued a formal reprimand at a court-martial in Germany. He was allowed to retain the rank of colonel.

Many observers perceived that Johnson, a West Point graduate and the son of a former 82nd Airborne Division commander, had received preferential treatment in relation to his offenses. Johnson, who grew up in Fayetteville and at Fort Bragg, commanded the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy.

Sinclair was commissioned through ROTC in December 1985 after graduating from West Virginia University. He was trained as an infantry and field artillery officer and had assignments to the 75th Ranger Regiment and Fort Bragg's Joint Special Operations Command.

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