FORT BRAGG — An Army captain at the center of a sexual assault case that has rocked the military testified Friday that a general twice forced her to perform oral sex on him during their three-year, illicit affair.
Taking the stand on the first day of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair's courtmartial, the woman said the assaults took place in Afghanistan in late 2011 as she grew increasingly despondent over their adulterous relationship.
Sinclair, the 51-year-old former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, is believed to be the highest-ranking U.S. military officer ever courtmartialed on sexual assault charges. He could get life in prison if found guilty.
Sinclair's accuser testified that the first assault took place in her office in Kandahar when she told him how she hated her life, hated working for him and believed that he was just using her for sex.
"It felt disgusting" she said of the alleged assualt. "It felt like I had no control over my body."
She said the second assault took place in his office days later after she asked him to move her to another job.
Asked why she did not come forward and report the two episodes until March 2012, she said: "I knew if I said anything, it would be my word against his and no one would believe me. I had no way out."
She is expected to return to the stand on Monday for cross-examination by the defense, which is expected to attack her credibility.
Earlier Friday, she testified in detail about how the affair developed, and said that Sinclair once threatened to kill her and her family — and "do it in a way no one would ever know" — if she ever told anyone about their relationship.
She was given immunity in exchange for her testimony. Adultery is a crime under military law.
In opening statements, prosecutor Lt. Col. Robert Stelle painted Sinclair as a man who used his authority to intimidate and coerce a female officer nearly 20 years his junior into sex.
Defense attorneys portrayed Sinclair as the victim of a desperately infatuated woman who became angry when she discovered that another woman had sent him an email that closed with "I love you."
The defense also contends that Sinclair is the target of overzealous prosecutors under political pressure to make an example of him, despite weak evidence and an accuser with a history of telling lies.
Defense attorney Ellen C. Brotman began her opening statement by reading the jury — composed of five two-star generals — excerpts from the woman's diary, written during the affair.
Even after he was alleged to have threatened to kill her loved ones, she wrote of her desire for him, Brotman said, and the only fear she expressed was that he might still love his wife.
The woman and Sinclair exchanged thousands of text messages, often sexually explicit, according to the defense, and she sent messages even after he tried to break it off.
Their relationship began in Iraq in 2009. He was her direct commander. She was a young intelligence officer and Arabic linguist, assigned to accompany him on trips to meet Iraqi leaders.
On Thursday, Sinclair pleaded guilty to adultery and other charges that could send him to prison for up to 15 years.
His attorneys are hoping the plea will limit some of the salacious evidence and reduce the case to his word against hers.