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U.S. Army general pleads not guilty to sexual assault charges

By Marti Maguire

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - A U.S. Army general pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges that he sexually assaulted a subordinate, the latest in a string of sexual misconduct allegations in the U.S. military.

Jury selection in the court martial of U.S. Army officer Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair is due to begin on Tuesday, in a case that got him sent home last year from his post in Afghanistan.

Sinclair, a 27-year Army veteran based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, pleaded not guilty to charges of forcible sodomy, wrongful sexual conduct, possessing pornography while deployed and conduct unbecoming of an officer.

The most serious of the charges against Sinclair stem from accusations that he forced a subordinate with whom he acknowledges having a three-year affair to perform oral sex on two occasions. He is also accused of eliciting nude emails and text messages from other female subordinates. He could be sent to prison for life if convicted of the most serious charge, forcible sodomy.

His trial comes after President Barack Obama said in May that anyone found guilty of such transgressions should be "stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period."

Opening statements in the case have been set for September 30 to give attorneys enough time to pick a jury from a tiny pool of potential panelists, who under military law must be of higher rank than the accused.

(Editing by Karen Brooks, Tom Brown and Lisa Shumaker)

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