Rep. Speier on the Sinclair Sentence

[Content Note: Rape culture; sexual violence.]

Last week, I wrote about Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, who struck a plea deal after a captain who served under him in Afghanistan alleged he forced her to perform oral sex and threatened to kill her. Sinclair was sentenced to pay $24,100 in fines and restitution, but was not sentenced to any jail time nor demoted.

Yesterday, Democratic US Representative from California Jackie Speier, who has long been working on the issue of reforming the way sexual assault is handled by the US military, took to the House floor to address the garbage sentencing in Sinclair's case, and note that the military is making reformers' point for them. Let 'em have it, Rep. Speier.

Transcript as prepared for delivery. There are minor deviations from the actual delivery in the above video.

Last week, as the world watched in disbelief, the trial of Brigadier General concluded much how it began, flawed and unjust.

Even with the world watching, along with countless survivors watching and reliving their similar experience, the military once again demonstrated its OUTRIGHT incompetence at administering justice.

Brig. Gen. Sinclair walked out of the court a free man even though he had pleaded guilty to these charges:

• Inappropriate relationship with his accuser

• Inappropriate relationship with another female Army captain

• Inappropriate relationship with a female Army major

• Possessing and displaying pornographic images and videos on his computer in Afghanistan

• Using a government-issued travel card for personal purposes for a trip to Tucson, Arizona and trip to Fort Hood, Texas, to see his accuser

• Attempting to start an inappropriate relationship with an Army lieutenant

• Sexually explicit communications with a female major Requesting and receiving nude photos and a sexually explicit video of her

• Vulgar language to describe female staff officers

• Impeding an investigation; and

• Adultery with his accuser

These aren't the charges that the judge found Sinclair innocent of, but all the charges he pled guilty to.

His punishment? No demotion in rank. No forced retirement. No jail time.

Instead, a small fine that he will pay with his generous taxpayer funded pension and a potent message of those that are thinking of coming forward: you will be dragged through the mud and punished, not the perpetrator.

I would like to say that I was shocked by this ridiculous decision, but after working on this issue for years I have learned that this pattern is the rule, not the exception.

Whether the Army intended it or not, this was a high profile test case for whether the military can hold its highest officers accountable for committing serious offenses. And it failed.

A civilian would have been fired. The misuse of government funds and gross misconduct Sinclair pleaded guilty to should have been more than enough to fire General Sinclair.

The military seems to be determined to make our point for us – the current military justice system is incapable of meting out justice in an impartial and effective way.

When Sinclair was challenged by his staff for his conduct and remarks towards women, the General replied: "I'm a General, I'll say whatever the (expletive) I want."

You know what, he was right.

Until these cases are taken out of the chain of command, the reality and perception will continue to be that the military justice system is tainted by undue command influence and is inherently unjust. The American people look at how this case was handled and see that a commanding officer without legal expertise and a built-in conflict of interest and are not competent to prosecute serious crimes.

It should now be clear to everyone in congress that the military is incapable of holding perpetrators accountable. It is our duty to reform this system which we created in the first place and let legal experts make legal decisions, not commanders with a built-in conflict.

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