Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif. / Paul Sakuma, AP
WASHINGTON - Under questioning from lawmakers Tuesday, Army Secretary John McHugh said he could not comment on the rank at which Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair will retire, saying the case is technically still open.
Sinclair, who pleaded guilty last week to a variety of sexual misconduct charges, was fined $20,000 and reprimanded, a sentence that has drawn criticism from lawmakers and advocates of military justice reform.
Lawmakers called the sentence a slap on the wrist. "This is a sexual predator," said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who pressed McHugh on the retirement issue.
Sinclair has indicated he will leave the Army, shifting focus to the rank at which he will be allowed to retire.
McHugh said the usual process is to convene a "grade determination" panel to make a recommendation. McHugh would then make the final decision.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice a case remains open for a time, even after a conviction, since the accused and victims can still make appeals to the convening authority. McHugh said he was limited in what he could say, so as not to prejudice the legal process.
"I am not at liberty to‚?¶comment on what I may or may not do," McHugh said at a House Armed Services Committee meeting.
Sinclair's attorney, Richard Scheff, calculated that the difference between his client retiring as a lieutenant colonel and a brigadier general would amount to $832,000 if he would retire today and live to age 82.
Scheff has said it is still possible that Sinclair could retire at his current rank. But legal officials consider that a long shot.
The regulations state that the review board makes the determination based on the last year the soldier served "satisfactorily."
The crimes Sinclair pleaded guilty to began when he was a colonel, so the board could conclude that the last rank he served honorably was as a lieutenant colonel.
Follow @jimmichaels on Twitter.
Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com
Read the original story: Lawmakers press Army on disgraced general's retirement