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Sobbing on the witness stand, the Army captain whose sexual assault accusations triggered the court-martial of a general testified Friday that they had a three-year affair and that he threatened to kill her and her family — and "do it in a way no one would ever know" — if she ever told anyone.
The testimony came on the opening day of the trial of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, believed to be the highest-ranking U.S. military officer ever court-martialed on sexual assault charges.
Asked by a prosecutor to identify her abuser, the woman looked quickly in Sinclair's direction at the defense table and pointed at the man with whom she admits violating military law by having an affair.
Her testimony was expected to continue through Friday afternoon.
She did not immediately address the explosive central allegation — that Sinclair twice ended arguments about their relationship by unbuttoning his pants and forcing her head into his lap to perform oral sex.
The trial is unfolding with the Pentagon under heavy pressure to confront rape and other sexual misconduct in the ranks that even the military has called epidemic.
On Thursday, the Senate rejected a bill that would have stripped military commanders of the authority to decide whether to prosecute rapes and other serious crimes.
In opening statements Friday, lead prosecutor Lt. Col. Robert Stelle painted Sinclair, 51, as a man who used his authority to intimidate and coerce a female officer nearly 20 years his junior into sex.
Sinclair could be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty.
Defense lawyers portrayed Sinclair as the victim of a desperately infatuated woman and overzealous prosecutors under political pressure to make an example of him.