The Army said Friday that disgraced Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair will retire as a lieutenant colonel, three months after he pleaded guilty to having a three-year romantic affair with a subordinate officer.
The decision could be one of the final chapters in a sordid scandal that rocked the Army. Sinclair, 51 was accused of forcible sodomy, adultery and other charges, but struck a plea deal and avoided jail time. He was issued a reprimand that effectively ended his career and forced to pay a $20,000 fine.
His indiscretions will keep costing him in retirement. Army Secretary John McHugh said in a statement Friday that Sinclair will retire as a lieutenant colonel because he did not serve satisfactorily as a one-star officer or as a colonel, ranks he held while his affair was ongoing. A service member typically retires at the last rank he or she held honorably for three years.
“Sinclair displayed a pattern of inappropriate and at times illegal behavior both while serving as a Brigadier General and a Colonel,” McHugh said. “I therefore decided there was sufficient evidence and cause to deny him those benefits.”
Base pay for a brigadier general with 28 years of service is about $11,599 per month. Base pay for a lieutenant colonel with 28 years is about $8,313. That amounts to a difference of about $40,000 per year.
McHugh’s announcement is likely to take criticism from some, considering that lawmakers on Capitol Hill and others had asked whether Sinclair should get a pension at all. However, federal laws says that if an individual earned a pension because of their years of service, they are entitled to those benefits, McHugh said. He called his decision “legally sustainable.”
Sinclair’s lawyer, Richard Scheff, said his client will continue to serve as a brigadier general for several more weeks before retiring.
“General Sinclair has consistently taken responsibility for his mistakes and agreed to a reduction in retirement benefits,” Scheff said. “He is a highly decorated war hero who made great sacrifices for his country, and it’s right that he be permitted to retire honorably. Other senior military leaders who committed the same indiscretions, and worse, have faced far fewer consequences. But General Sinclair has taken responsibility and is looking forward.”
UPDATE: 3:42 p.m.: This piece was altered to clarify the process by which Sinclair will retire as a lieutenant colonel. It was also updated to include basic pay retirement information relevant to the story.