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Court martial could set tone for U.S. military sexual assault cases

FORT BRAGG, N.C., Aug. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair's lawyer said he doubts a jury will give a fair verdict because it's under "pressure to change the culture on sexual assault." 

Richard Scheff, one of Sinclair's four civilian lawyers, said the Army "grossly overcharged" his client and acknowledged the case could set a precedent for how the U.S. military handles sexual assault cases, for which President Barack Obama recently demanded a crackdown.

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"They're in the spotlight on this," he said of the five major generals selected to be in the jury last week. "They're under such enormous pressure to change the culture on sexual assault."

Sinclair is facing 25 specifications of eight charges, including forcible sodomy, wrongful sexual conduct, indecent acts, attempting to violate a lawful order, maltreatment, conduct unbecoming an officer, adultery and communicating threats.

Prosecutors allege he mistreated women who worked in his office and forced one women to give him oral sex.

Sinclair has admitted to an extra-marital affair with the woman -- a crime under military law -- but said the relationship was consensual. He pleaded not guilty to all charges, The Washington Post reported.

The court-martial is scheduled to begin Sept. 30, the newspaper said.

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