A US general has received a reprimand from a judge, but no jail time and no discharge from the army after he pleaded guilty to mistreating a subordinate in an adulterous affair.
Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair at one point had faced serious sexual assault allegations in the closely watched court-martial, but the prosecution’s case collapsed and the charges were dropped under a plea agreement.
Instead, Sinclair, 51, admitted to having an affair with a female captain 17 years his junior, mistreating her, using a government credit card for expenses related to the affair and other misconduct.
In a court room in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the military judge, Colonel James Pohl, ordered Sinclair to forfeit $US5000 ($A5542) a month in pay for four months, but he will be permitted to keep his pension and other benefits, officials said.
The outcome was an embarrassment for the army after questions arose about testimony from Sinclair’s accuser and after the judge ruled that political factors may have influenced the prosecution’s handling of the case.
While Sinclair expressed relief at the sentence, lawyers for his accuser and advocates for sex-crime victims voiced disappointment and disgust.
One lawmaker who has pushed for reforms for sexual assault cases, Jackie Speier of California, called the sentence “a laughable punishment”.
The case grabbed headlines as it coincided with a surge in sexual assault cases in the military that top commanders have called a crisis.
A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment directly on the sentence but said tackling the problem is a top priority for the department.
“We take the crime of sexual assault very, very seriously. And we know that we need to get better,” Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters.
“And our focus is on making sure that victims have the confidence to report, and that those who are proven guilty of the crime are held accountable,” Kirby said.