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FORT BRAGG, North Carolina — A U.S. Army general who admitted he mistreated a female captain during one of several improper relationships with junior officers earned loyalty from soldiers by empowering and inspiring them, supporters testified on Tuesday during a sentencing hearing.

Defense witnesses said they still thought highly of Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair despite him being at the center of a court-martial that has focused attention on sexual misconduct in the U.S. military and could lead to jail time for the airborne infantry officer who served five combat tours.

"I believe pretty heavily in redemption," testified retired Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Gough, a defense witness who said he served with Sinclair in Germany and Iraq. "I understand he made a big mistake here, but he is an inspirational leader."

Sinclair, 51, a married father of two, avoided a possible life term in prison through a plea deal accepted on Monday that dismissed sexual assault charges he faced after a female Army captain under his command said he forced her to perform oral sex when she tried to end their adulterous sexual affair.

Charges that he had sex with her in a parking lot in Germany and on a hotel balcony in Arizona, and that he threatened to kill her if she exposed the illicit relationship, also were dropped during the court proceedings at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The 27-year Army veteran has pleaded guilty to asking junior female officers for nude photos, possessing pornography on his laptop while deployed in Afghanistan, misusing his government credit card to pursue the affair and referring to female officers with demeaning names.

Sinclair's defense called 15 character witnesses and planned to present more on Wednesday as they make their case against him being put behind bars.

Sinclair was stripped of command in southern Afghanistan in May 2012 as a result of the accusations.

— Reuters