FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP)
An Army captain at the center of a sexual assault case that has scandalized the U.S. 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 court-martial, the woman said the assaults took place in Afghanistan in late 2011 as she grew increasingly despondent over their adulterous relationship.
Both times, she said, they got into arguments that ended with Sinclair unbuttoning his pants and forcing her head into his lap as she cried.
Sinclair, the 51-year-old former deputy commander of the storied 82nd Airborne Division, is believed to be the highest-ranking U.S. military officer ever court-martialed on sexual assault charges. He could get life in prison if found guilty.
The trial is unfolding with the Pentagon under heavy pressure to confront what it has called an epidemic of rape and other sexual misconduct in the ranks. On Thursday, the Senate rejected a bill that would have stripped commanders of authority to decide whether to prosecute serious crimes.
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 the general was just using her for sex.
She said the second assault took place in his office days later after she asked him to move her to another job. She said that after that episode, they never had sex again.
Asked why she did not come forward and report what happened 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 will return to the stand on Monday for cross-examination by the defense, which is expected to attack her credibility. The defense says she lied about when she found a cellphone with text messages between her and the general. They also point out that when she first confided to a colleague about the affair in March 2012, she made no mention of being assaulted.
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.