FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- U.S. Army generals denied they were pressured to charge and prosecute a colleague who faces a court-martial on several charges that include forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders and adultery.
The case comes as the U.S. military takes a high-profile stance against sexual assault within its ranks. In Washington on Tuesday, senators criticized senior Pentagon officials for the military's handling of sexual assault allegations, calling past efforts to curb such abuse woefully inadequate.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair's trial is to begin next month.
Gen. Dan Allyn and Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Colt on Tuesday denied they were pressured to charge and prosecute Sinclair, whose defense team has suggested that top Defense Department officials may have improperly influenced them to make an example of him.
Defense lawyer Richard Scheff challenged Allyn and Colt to explain emails showing that then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and others were receiving updates last year on the Sinclair investigation.
In the military justice system, it is improper for senior commanders to pressure subordinates charged with making decisions about whether a case merits criminal prosecution. Both Allyn and Colt testified they kept the Pentagon apprised of progress in the case but insisted they used their own judgment to make independent decisions about what to do with Sinclair.
"I wanted to make sure the seriousness of these charges was relayed to the Army's senior leadership before there was publicity," said Allyn, who recently was put in command of all Army troops in the U.S.
Sinclair's lawyers contend he is the victim of selective prosecution, facing prison time over an extramarital dalliance where other officers were allowed to quietly retire.
The 27-year Army veteran and married father was deputy commander in charge of logistics and support for the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan last year before being relieved of command when a female aide reported she had carried on a three year-sexual relationship with him.
The woman, who served on Sinclair's personal staff, said she had repeatedly tried to end the relationship but that Sinclair had threatened to kill her and twice ended arguments by physically forcing her to perform oral sex.
The Associated Press does not publicly identify victims of alleged sexual assaults.
Sinclair's defense lawyers have suggested that the woman fabricated the abuse claim only after meeting with lawyers and seeking immunity from prosecution for admitting her role in the affair. Adultery is a crime in the military.
Two other female officers who served with Sinclair testified in November that they had given the general nude photos at his request. Investigators also reportedly found thousands of pornographic photos on his personal laptop, in apparent violation of a standing order prohibiting troops from possessing such material while serving in the conservative Muslim nation.